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August 8, 2007

Google News Adds Comments

Google News is useful if you want to read all the related articles in a single view and to get an unbiased overview of the most important stories, but it lacks interactivity and user participation. To change this, the news site will allow comments, but only from people involved in a story.
We'll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question. Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we'll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as "comments" so readers know it's the individual's perspective, rather than part of a journalist's report.

While the idea is interesting, it's very hard to materialize it. The participants in a story have to:

1) read Google News
2) read the story that involves them
3) mail the comment to:
4) prove their identity (this could be tricky)

The problem is that all of these take time and the reaction might come too late, when the story is no longer important. Besides, journalists already try to include the positions of every party involved in a story. Here's a quote from Reuters' handbook of journalism:
As Reuters journalists, we never identify with any side in an issue, a conflict or a dispute. Our text and visual stories need to reflect all sides, not just one. This leads to better journalism because it requires us to stop at each stage of newsgathering and ask ourselves "What do I know?" and "What do I need to know?" In reporting a takeover bid, for example, it should be obvious that the target company must be given an opportunity to state their position. Similarly in a political dispute or military conflict, there are always at least two sides to consider and we risk being perceived as biased if we fail to give adequate space to the various parties.

The difference between a Google News comment and a quote from a news story is that the comment is unedited and complete. "News articles (...) often include quotes and statements, but all this information is usually edited to fit together in one cohesive article."

Google hopes to "enhance the news experience for readers, testing the hypothesis that - whether they're penguin researchers or presidential candidates - a personal view can sometimes add a whole new dimension to the story." That's true, but you can also read interesting perspectives from people that aren't mentioned in a news story. Or from people that witnessed a news.

Google's dilemma is that it wants to include interesting comments, but without deciding what comments to publish.

"We want to make the full spectrum of views and information on a story available to all Google News users, and we think this feature will help us to do that without sacrificing quality of our coverage. Each comment will provide you with additional insight because it comes from individuals with information related to a story, who otherwise might not have an outlet to present it. As a result, each story will only display a few comments."

Google will start to test this new feature in the US edition of Google News, but I think the success will be very limited unless they allow more people to participate. Google has all the tools necessary for citizen journalism (mobile video upload in YouTube, mobile photo upload for Blogger, personalized Google Maps), but it doesn't use them.


  1. I'm not worried about the de-balancing of the piece of news achieved via the comments of the involved people. Internet content is somehow built on the idea that classic media is sometimes filtering the participants' views and other things on criteria other than professional.

    Besides, comments don't usually change the facts the way they were presented - so the news remains basically the same.

    However, I wonder which would be the 'mechanism' that makes people in the news get involved into the comments mechanism. If the announce didn't belong to Google, I wouldn't take it seriously.

  2. Here's the mechanism:


    If you have been mentioned in a story and you would like to submit a comment to Google News, you can do so by sending an email to The email should contain:

    * Your comment
    * A link to the story you are commenting on
    * Your contact details: your name, title, and organization
    * How we can verify your email address.

    For example, if the Tooth Fairy wanted to comment on a recent story about dental hygiene, she might sign her comment:

    "Sincerely, Tooth Fairy.

    Verify my identity by losing a tooth and placing it under your pillow. I will leave you a business card along with a small payment for your tooth. Alternately you can call 1-800-TEETH-4-ME and speak to my assistant, The Tooth Mouse, who can confirm my email address and comment."

    It is important that we are able to verify your identity, so please include clear instructions with your comment. If further information is needed, we will follow-up over email.


    ( from Google News Help )

  3. I don't see it being that useful of a feature. It's something that could have been developed ten years ago, it won't be used very often, and it will further tick off journalists and press outlets that are already unhappy about Google News.

  4. Easily solved - use Google Reader to parse Google News

  5. So if a news outlet runs a heavily-sourced story revealing corporate wrongdoing (for example), the CEO could deny it up and down and have those comments posted alongside the story on Google News? Even if the denial is a total lie?

  6. So what if the denial is a lie? Let the public decide that. In fact, that's the whole philosophy behind Google News: aggregate different perspectives on a subject so you can see the whole picture and decide who's right and who's wrong.

  7. From a WSJ article:


    Google's Mr. Cohen said the company will not accept comments from Google employees or about the company and markets where it competes, in order to avoid any controversy about that. He also said that since Google will not edit the comments, that "bypasses any concerns that [Google's] legal department might have" about the company's legal liability for them.

    Vic Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico, said Google asked him by email to comment on an Associated Press article about a fast-food study in which he'd been quoted. Dr. Strasburger submitted a comment expanding on what he was cited as saying in the article. "I'll do a 15- to 20-minute interview, and two sentences will appear about what I've said," he said in an interview. "So the Google feature is really a chance to flesh out those two sentences and to include some more of what I ordinarily talk about in a 15- to 20-minute interview."


  8. Five days later, you can't find any comment on the homepage or in one of Google News' sections.

  9. Well, I think that Google is limiting themselves. If everybody can comment on a story, it would be more powerful and democratic a measure. Not editing the comments is really a cool step, but what if some comments were simply full of hatred or mere self-promotion for one corporation or another. We would then expect that corporations would hire people to post comments.

  10. Hello dear ladies and gentlemen!
    I would like inform you that Scarlett Johansson (actress) actually is a clone from original person, which has nothing with acting career. That clone was created illegally by using stolen biological material. Original person is very nice (not damn sexy), most important - CHRISTIAN young lady!
    I'll tell you guys more, that clones (it's not only one) made in GERMANY - world leader manufacturer of humans clones, it is in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, North Bavaria, Mr. Helmut Kohl home town. You can not even imaging the scale of the cloning activity. But warning! Helmut Kohl clone staff 100% controlling all their clones spreading around the world, they are very accurate with that, some of them are still NAZI type disciplined and mind controlled clones, so be careful get close with clones you will be controlled as well. Think wise..
    Apparently those clones is very actively shown on your website . This is just a warning, because original person is not happy about those images and video, rumors and etc., in that way it would be really nice if you try slow down that ''actress'' career development on your website, original Scarlett's parents will really appreciated that. Please do that, do not wait until FBI agent give you a call with questions. Please remember that original family did not authorize any activity with stolen biological materials, no matter what form it was created, it all need to be return back to original family control to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
    Original Scarlett is not engage!
    Her close friend Serg J.-G.
    H.R. 534, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on February 5, 2003. After discussion, it was passed on February 27 by a vote of 241-155. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration. This bill makes it unlawful for any person or entity to perform or participate in human cloning, or to ship or receive embryos produced by human cloning. The penalties are imprisonment of up to 10 years and fines of $1 million or more.
    These now join other nations as diverse as Norway, Australia, and Germany, which had already added cloning for any purpose to their criminal code. And in Germany where it carries a penalty of five years imprisonment they know a thing or two about unethical science.

  11. Isn't Google Stopping its News to enter in the 7th Age of Computing by imposing such restrictions?

  12. Since Google insists on promoting immorality, that is homosexuality, we will no longer use Google.

  13. I use rss screensaver to read news instead of google online reader currently. fullscreen and funny.

    some free tools: aol rss screensaver, msn rss scrensaver, 2flyer rss screensaver (