Speaking at a conference for newspapers Eric Schmidt said:
"We've been careful not to bias it using our own judgment of trust because we're never sure if we get it right. So we use complicated ranking signals, as they're called, to determine rank and relevance. And we change them periodically, which drives everybody crazy, as or algorithms get better. ... The usual problem is you've got somebody who really is very trustworthy, but they're not as well-known and they compete against people who are better known, and they don't 'in their view' get high enough ranking. We have not come up with a way to algorithmically handle that in a coherent way."
So the big flaw in the algorithm there is "to be well known." SEOs have exploited that since Google first got on the web - buying, trading, borrowing, and stealing links as needed. Arianna Huffington claims that to succeed today you need to work in the links based economy
But what won't work -- what can't work -- is to act like the last 15 years never happened, that we are still operating in the old content economy as opposed to the new link economy, and that the survival of the industry will be found by "protecting" content behind walled gardens.
But the problem with that line of thinking is that the link based economy is quietly disappearing. Links are not flowing as well as they once would have. Take for example, this post - it covers a currently hot topic, is 8 pages long, contains multiple custom images, is easy to consume, and is published on a blog with over 30,000 RSS subscribers. The reward for such work? Less than 30 links so far, and maybe a total of 5 links if you back out the temporal social media links. (And some of those 5 links are on sites that routinely link back and forth).
Would you be willing to write for 4 or 5 hours to only get 5 links to a fairly non-commercial page of a site that already has over 1 million inbound links? No way...totally not worth the effort if we were operating in a "links-based economy."
A couple days ago I talked with a friend who works for some news companies, and they wanted to use rel=nofollow on their editorial selected links because they were afraid of leaking PageRank. To say that we are entering a links based economy is to ignore the corruption of nofollow and how "social" media is pulling editorial links away from those who earned it. But the web changes, and so must we, lest we become the mainstream media writing our own obituary each dawn.
We have moved past the links-based economy into a passion based economy.
In Someone Can Charge for News Content, but Who? John Andrews reminds us of today's most popular news programs:
Today Bill O’Reilly reports the news, and Jon Stewart reports the news. Very popular news shows, right? Think about it.
If the links are not counting in the algorithms then you need to get paid another way to make creating in depth high value content worthwhile. To do that, you need to publish content that is aligned with a particular passion, niche, and/or bias.
Trying to maintain a false appearance of objectivity (as the media does) simply can't compete with deep rooted biases founded in passion, experience, and expertise. I would rather trust a known bias than fake objective with hidden agendas I later need to figure out.
- The mainstream media sites can profitably build businesses if they focus on high value niches and create stand alone brands for each that are worth charging for access to.
- The mainstream media sites can profitably arbitrage Google's organic search results by filling their sites up with eHow-like junk content that costs less than $5 per page to produce.
- But doing what they doing, half-assed generic publishing while slowly trimming costs off huge inefficient organizations guarantees bankruptcies & consolidation. Their current strategy gives them neither passion driven content nor cost efficiency...they are wounded animals mindlessly roaming awaiting their death - the one topic they cover with passion.
Ironically, some of the best content online comes in the form of walled garden paid membership websites. But, it turns out, we don't need the media to figure out who shares our passions.
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