Today, Google News will begin offering articles from several major wire services and news agencies hosted on its own site, rather than sending readers away from Google. The move is part of licensing agreements that have been stuck over the past year. Google News is also promising better duplicate story detection, so that the original source of a news article should be more likely to get visitors and readers get a better experience by not stumbling over the same story hosted by different publications.
Google made a much publicized content deal with the Associated Press last year in the wake of the agency threatening legal action because of Google News indexing. A similar deal with Agence France-Presse was made this year, settling the AFP’s lawsuit against Google. AFP & Google Settle Over Google News Copyright Case covers both agreements. Not publicized were two other licensing deals made over the past year with the UK’s Press Association and Canadian Press. All are part of today’s announcement. Google also has a known agreement with some Belgian news groups, and other deals have been rumored but not come out — but not of those are mentioned as part of today’s move.
With the AP and AFP, Google said the deals were not made to resolve news search indexing issues, which it steadfastly maintained fell into fair use, but rather would cover "new" and more extensive uses of news content beyond fair use. Still, the only visible benefit for Google to date had been to resolve legal threats and actions.
Now that changes. Hosting news articles on Google itself was one of the most likely benefits of these deals, as I explained more in that AFP & Google settle article that I mentioned earlier.
When the changes go live today (they should be visible within the next few hours), people finding articles from AP, AFP, the PA or CP won’t have to leave Google to read them. Instead, the articles will be shown within Google itself.
This is a big benefit for Google News readers. These wire agencies don’t generally show many or any of their own articles on their own web sites. Instead, articles are distributed to a variety of member publications.
For example. here’s an AP article hosted on Forbes that I found on Google News in a search for nbc itunes. The same article can also be found in many other places, as you can see shown in this special search on Google News. Which one should get the benefit of Google’s traffic? And are users OK with an experience that constantly changes?
With the change, no particular member publication of these agencies gets an advantage over the others, and the experience stays consistent. It’s an approach that Yahoo News has long used, as you can see with this article about the NBC-iTunes spat. As part of the hosted pages, Google will also show stories related to the news articles in the left-hand column, as well as the duplicates of the story hosted off Google.
One disadvantage to the system at both Google and Yahoo is that after a set period of time, these articles disappear. Usually, this is after around 30 days. The wire agencies license the content to appear that long, then the story is pulled down.
This instability is a chief reason why I almost never point readers to content at Yahoo News. I don’t want complaints from readers that a URL is no longer working. The same for me will hold true with Google News.
Even more irritating is that the articles will NOT disappear from some member publications. For example, I can almost always find some AP member hosting stories that are months old long after they’ve expired from Yahoo News. For instance, here’s an AP article from last December still live and happy at USA Today. Nor does this happen in violation of a member agreement — some publications may simply be licensed to keep the content up indefinitely.
This problem is more an issue for the wire agencies than Google News or Yahoo News, of course. They need to license the content to stay out indefinitely, understanding that by doing so, people will be more likely to link to their content in these places. For Google’s part, it said that it hopes the Google News Archive Search will grow to have more of this content. FYI, if an article does expire on Google News, you’ll get a message saying it has expired, similar to what happens with Yahoo News.
Google’s going beyond just hosted news articles as part of this release. The company also says it will be doing a better job of duplicate detection overall, so that if there’s the same article from wire agencies it doesn’t have agreements with, such as Reuters, it should be more likely to point to the Reuters site than someone running Reuters material.
As a result, those doing searches and news browsing should bring get a greater variety of sources and opinions, something Google saw as more important to today’s release than the hosted articles feature.
"That’s the main part of this, that we’re doing better duplicate detection across the board," said Google News business product manager Josh Cohen.
Finally — what about ads? Google News famously remains one of the few Google services where ads have yet to come. Many have long supposed this is because Google fears putting up ads will cause some publishers to view the company as further "leeching" off their content. With agreements in place for hosted articles, why not get ads up on them as well?
"Our main focus is making sure the service is as good as possible for the service, so at this time we’re not looking at ads," said Cohen said.
I joked with Josh about this. Google News is five years old now – out of beta for nearly two years — surely it’s good enough for users to let the ads come in!