Google to Address Ad Heavy Web Sites

i-dddcd2b7795c78c696e9b86b2f8a7fd0-220px-Googlelogo.pngPeople look at Fox News and wonder how the heck it manages to be taken seriously. Most of what is done on that station is not news, and it isn’t even commentary by any reasonable journalistic standards. Fox News is much of the time a mouthpiece for the Right Wing and the Republican Party. The rest of the timt, Fox News, astonishingly, seems to be giving the Right Wing and the Republican Party its marching orders. It seems to me that we can have news agencies that range across the liberal-conservative spectrum that also carry out their activities in a professional manner. In the old days, the FCC and various other agencies and organizations seemed to have some influence, even control, in these manners. Years ago I was the editor of a newspaper, and I remember learning that newspapers were classified into different categories based on percentage of advertising vs. content. In order to have credentials (i.e., your reporters get press passes, etc.) you had to be for real. If you were a rag with all ads, or a real estate handout or the pennysaver (or the newspaper I edited!) you were not for real, and you could not get press passes, or other things real journalistic enterprises get.

But that does not seem to be true any more. You can be Fox News and have a chair in the White House press room. This is preposterous.

Google has made an announcement that bears on this in an interesting way. According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, web sites will be penalized in the Google Search Algorithm if they have too many ads.

If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.

We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page. This new algorithmic improvement tends to impact sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads.

This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally.

The entire memo to the webmasters is here.

Now, if only we could get Google to not count Fox outlets in the “News” category in searches. Perhaps they can add a new category for entities like fox. “Clown” would work.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. #1 Lyle
    January 23, 2012

    What you suggest flys in the face of the plain language of the first amendment, congress shall make no law… If you pick and choose who can get credentials, then you are restricting the freedom of the press by picking winners and loosers in terms of access. Its just like the issue of who is a journalist, in particular is a blogger entitled to the protections accorded journalists?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    January 24, 2012

    Lyle, not at all. The white house can decide who gets a chair in the press room, and the FCC can decide which TV show is really a news show and which is a comedy show or a home shopping show, if they want to, without violating the first amendment. And, professional organizations can (and do) maintain a standard of membership which can then be used as guidelines for issuing press passes.

    This is not a problem free area. There are all sorts of difficulties and pitfalls with determining who gets to do what, and there are no easy answers and it is hard to be fair. But the first amendment does not apply to professional accreditation.

  3. #3 Joel
    January 24, 2012

    Correction: web sites will not be penalized in the Google Search Algorithm if they have too many ads above the fold.

    Which, imo, is perfectly reasonable – as is your extension to propaganda outlets.

  4. #4 Charles Sullivan
    January 24, 2012

    Thanks, Joel. I can put up with Greg’s frequent typos, but the ‘not’ here really threw me off. It seems to mean the opposite. That’s a harder typo to digest when it does that. C’mon Greg.

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    January 24, 2012

    Yes and no. Local Fox outlets often have perfectly reasonable coverage, and even the national coverage of some topics (e.g. cruise ship wrecks) are no worse than other outlets.

    Unfortunately, there’s a baby/bathwater issue here. To pick a perhaps more apt metaphor, one has to decide whether it’s worth picking through the horseshit for an occasional grain of truth.

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    January 24, 2012

    The journalistic standards Greg mentions in the post were officially buried when Fox News went to court to protect their First Amendment right to lie to people, and won. I don’t doubt that some Fox affiliates are the best in their markets for local news, as DCS says. That, however, is a low bar to clear. Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” is an even more accurate description of TV news today than it was when he wrote the song three decades ago.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    January 24, 2012

    Charles, how can you possibly characterize the word “not” in this instance as a “typo”???? It was an error. Probably not a conceptual one because otherwise why would I have written this post to begin with? Personally, I attribute it to several days of intense activity and lack of sleep followed by frenetic blogging.

    Anyway, thanks for your “tolerance.”

    Regarding local outlets, they are very different from Fox national news, partly because they were not created by fox in many instances, but rather, bought up by them then modified a little. Locally here in the twin cities, the local news was seemingly forced to become a bit more towards sensationalism, and they have a palpable right wing bias in their opinion pieces and “debates” and such.

  8. #8 Charles Sullivan
    January 24, 2012

    Sorry for making a mountain out of a molehill, Greg.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    January 24, 2012

    Well, by calling an error a typo you actually made a molehill out of a mountain. I mean, the entire word should not have been there!

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