Google News, which has always prided itself on being a 100% computer-generated news aggregator with no human intervention, is doing an about-face. The Nieman Journalism Lab reports that a limited test is underway which involves human editors from “partner news organizations” manually choosing certain articles “to be featured on Google News.”
The new Editors’ Picks section appears on the right side of the Google News interface and includes a yellow-shaded box that offers more information about the new feature. The NJL piece says that less than a dozen news outlets are involved in the test program, and they are not paying Google to be featured like this.
Google News, meanwhile, continues to show this disclaimer at the bottom of its pages:
Google has been at odds with many of the big players in the journalism industry in recent years. Rupert Murdoch has accused Google of “stealing” his papers’ stories and has threatened to block Google from crawling News Corp properties. There have even been suggestions that Google should help rescue newspapers from declining revenues. In light of all that background, this seemingly innocuous test on Google News may represent something of an olive branch toward journalists.
There’s more discussion on Techmeme.
Postscript, June 14: A Google spokesperson tells us that the following publishers are involved in this test — Reuters, The Washington Post, Newsday, Slate, BBC News, Computer World, US Magazine, The Atlantic and Fast Company — and says one more may be added soon. Says the Google spokesperson:
The news organizations participating in this limited test decide which of their articles are featured. They can choose up to five links that appears in their Editors’ Picks box. So, for example, if I’m a user in the test and visit the Google News homepage, I might see a Washington Post Editors’ Picks box with up to five links chosen by the Post. Then the next time I visit I might see an Editors’ Picks with BBC News or Reuters or Computer World, etc.