So What's Up With This Google Comment News?

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After a day of intra-office e-mail discussion about this whole Google News-adding-comments hubbub, we're left with more questions than answers. First off, the news in case you didn't crack a newspaper or log onto your interweb machine yesterday. According to the Google blog, it will 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." These comments, labeled as such, will be displayed next to the stories on the Google News home page. Google will work to confirm the identity of the commentators to ensure they are, indeed, the people mentioned in the story. It notes that "a personal view can sometimes add a whole new dimension to the story."

While the philosophy behind this seems admirable, we can't help but wonder: Do they know what they're getting into?

Steve Rubel calls the feature "fraught with risk" and asks whether a PR agency could comment on a source's behalf. The CBS's Public Eye blog predicts the feature is "going to add an unnecessary course to our media diet" and says that "correcting a misquote here or a clarification there will be a great improvement to the process, but when and if the media moves towards becoming a press release service its not a time to celebrate." Tish Grier notes "these days, even the big-time newspapers of record don't hire enough experienced moderators to manage their own flow of comments. So how can we expect a company that's famous for its stunning lack of customer service as well as its pride in automating everything to hire actual humans to perform some kind of editing or moderating?"

This certainly seems to push Google into the territory of publisher. After all, won't they be choosing what comments to publish and not publish? Could it be a prelude, perhaps, into a bigger content play? Google missed analyst expectations last quarter, due in large part, the company said, to overzealous additions to the headcount. Hard not to notice that comes at the same time as Google is getting into less automated, traditional media spaces such as print, radio, and now, perhaps publishing.