Redditors typically hate when journalists lift Reddit posts and repackage them as “news,” and now it seems they might be getting some vindication. Thanks to a recent algorithm tweak from Google Inc., Reddit posts are now being pulled directly into Google News search results -- without the help of aggregating journalists. It’s all part of what appears to be a broad expansion of the search giant’s definition of “news,” and it affirms once again Google’s dominant position as a sometime-fickle disseminator of information.
In the past, Google News results had mostly included links to articles from traditional news publishers, those that meet a stringent set of journalistic requirements. But recently, Google began including non-news sources into those results -- including blogs, press releases, videos, photos and even social media sites. The change was first noticed by the website Search Engine Land, which reported Monday that Google News search results were now appearing under a new “In the News” box. Reddit, which is not one of the 25,000-plus publishers indexed by Google News, is now appearing under the “In the News” results. It joins countless nontraditional news sources, from blogs to social networks.
A spokesperson for Google confirmed the change to International Business Times, saying the company updated its search features to make it easier for people to find real-time news more quickly. “We’re bringing people closer to the latest news as it’s happening, with fresh content from across the Web,” the spokesperson said.
That’s somewhat of a departure from Google’s stance last year, when the company sent a stern warning to news publishers reminding them that news content hinges upon “longstanding journalistic values,” like credibility and trust. The warning was in response to media companies’ growing appetite for "native ads" -- sponsored posts dressed up to look like real news. In a blog post at the time, Richard Gingras, senior director of news and social products for Google, warned publishers that mixing promotional content with news content could result in a website being yanked from Google News entirely.
The spokesperson said Google still has no plans to included sponsored content in news results. Nevertheless, the new change, depending on how broadly it’s implemented, could have significant implications for traditional news outlets that rely on search engine traffic. Second-guessing Google’s search algorithm has always been a bit of a cat-and-mouse game for media sites, as well as a never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole. (Following a crackdown on so-called content farms in 2011, numerous publishers complained that they were unfairly penalized and lost significant search traffic as a result.)
Now news sites that had previously been adept at landing at the top of Google News search results may find their premium search placement usurped by bloggers -- or Redditors -- with a quicker trigger. This has particularly strong implications for those sites, like Gawker Media and Yahoo News, for example, that often rely on Reddit as a news source. Now Reddit, once a meal ticket, is a competitor.
Yet another reminder that it’s Google’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.