Google News has announced it will begin including comments on the stories it links to. These won’t be comments from readers or trackbacks in the way we’ve come to define them in the blog world, but limited to the subjects of the story in question. This allows those people to add their additional perspective on a story that might not have been possible through the couple of quotes selected by the writer.
A major move? Absolutely, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons.
Google in the past has positioned News as something that’s just an aggregator. Every time Google has responded to jittery news organizations who say they’re stealing content and subsequent ad revenue Google says “No, we’re actually pointing more people to your site” by just showing a headline and an abstract. And they’ve been right.
But this neatly lifts out the news organization from the user experience. This is something that brings the reader right back to Google or prompts them to never leave in the first place.
It seems to me that this wouldn’t even be an issue if news sites did a little more innovating – and I don’t include adding video as innovation. I mean what if a news site put up a story just like before but then allowed room for participants to add comments right there? Or put up the whole text of an interview online for readers to peruse on their own? Seems like both of those would add to the value of the site and to the engagement (read: time of visit, the all-important ad metric) on that site.
Someone asked what kind of impact this is going to have on us as public relations professionals. I don’t actually think it’s that much of a new thing for PR folks, at least not in and of itself. If we’ve worked with our clients to develop a sensible online strategy, including how to respond to blog postings, problematic Wikipedia entries and such than this is just an extension of that. It’s something else to keep in the back of your mind. Same best practice guidelines exist, at least to my mind.
LATER UPDATE: Seems Google has disallowed spiders from crawling the comments content, setting off a firestorm of charges of hypocrisy. Those are somewhat warranted, especially since Google News is kind of, you know, built on a foundation of spiders. The fact that Google’s first foray into content creation is inaccessible to search engines should not be overlooked by anyone who covers the media space.