blog Fascinating video above by Jim Stewart from our favourite Aussie search engine optimisation firm StewArtMedia. In the video, Stewart dissects how news aggregator Google News treated reporting of yesterday’s speech by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
As many of us noted with frustration yesterday afternoon, the mainstream media’s obsessive interest in the fact that Conroy very briefly swore on live television dominated discussion of the speech; despite the fact that the Minister delivered a very polished rebuttal of the Coalition’s rival National Broadband Network policy, making some very sound policy points. The reader discussion of that issue is on fire this morning. And Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already responded.
Stewart points out that early in Google News’ coverage of the event, articles reporting the content of Conroy’s speech were popular, but as the afternoon wore on, they dropped out of the system as coverage of Conroy’s swearword took precedence — presumably because more links were flooding in about Conroy’s F-bomb, generating more popular interest and so on.
Now, to my mind, this is just another example of the dumbing down of Australia’s political debate. A Minister makes a substantive policy speech in a national forum and drives a national debate forward, but all that most media outlets report is the fact that he accidentally used the F-word when passionately answering a question from a reporter? Give me a break. What happened yesterday truly was a sideshow.
What responsibility does Google News bear? Not much. To be honest, the site’s mathematical ranking algorithm correctly highlighted the fact that the media was going batshit crazy about Conroy’s minor swearword infraction. Because there were so many links going everywhere about that issue, that’s what Google focused on. Google News reflects the best of journalism when it’s popular, and the worst of journalism when it’s popular — but it always reflects what’s popular.