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Google loses its mojo

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Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 3:53 pm

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Google loses its mojo

Three Web pundits are asking: is the quality of the Google’s search product declining?

These are not the defensive gripes of traditional journalists lamenting the demise of the newspaper business model. These are New Media partisans who say the quality of the Google search experience is declining. At a time when Google is making news for its shifting position on net neutrality; its legal combat with Oracle, and its competition with Facebook, its loss of reputation is subtler but perhaps more perilous development for the company.

Scott Rosenberg, co-founder of Salon and author of the book “Say Everything,” noted in Salon that the top-ranked story in a Google News search of “Laura Schlessinger N-word” brought up a story from Yahoo’s Associated Content, an online publishing platform that takes contributions from anyone.

AC describes itself as “the people’s media company.” Rosenberg describes it as “a crappy content farm.” That might be unkind but the Associated Content story did not do much to enlighten a news consumer interested in the controversial talk radio host.

“The Dr. Laura n-word backlash made her quit her radio show. It seems the Dr. Laura n-word controversy has made her pay the price, as the consequences of her brought down her long-running program. But even if it ended her show, it may not end her career. Despite being labeled as a racist, and despite allegedly being tired of radio, the embattled doctor still seems set to fight on after she leaves. In fact, the Dr. Laura n-word scandal has made her more defiant than ever, despite quitting.”

Rosenberg, a longtime booster of the company, is scathing:

“When Google tells me that this drivel is the most relevant result, I can’t help thinking, the game’s up. The Wagner tubas are tuning up for Googledammerung: It’s the twilight of the bots.”

Dan Gillmor, author of the New Media manifesto, “We the Media,” has a similar complaint. He tweets:

“Example of what’s persistently wrong with Google News: Top story right now has Wikileaks’ Assange “wanted in Sweden for rape”

This is more of a traditional complaint: that an algorithm can’t discern a weak story. Prosecutors in Sweden said within hours that Assange was not wanted for rape or anything else.

The common denominator of these complaints is that Google rose by reliably connecting users with the most relevant content. Now Web entrepreneurs have learned how to game the search engine for their own commercial ends, says Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand.

The “Google sewage factory” may be overstatement but it’s not overstatement to say the company’s image problems are multiplying. This clever animated video of Google’s “loss of mojo” has gone viral.

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This post was written by:

Margot Williams

- who has written 49 posts on Inside Google.

Margot Williams has more than two decades of experience in roles as investigative researcher, research editor, database editor, technology trainer and library director at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Gannett newspapers and Time Warner. She was lead researcher on two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams at The Washington Post for reporting on terrorism in 2002 and for an investigation of the use of deadly force by the District of Columbia police in 1999. Margot is the co-author of “Great Scouts! CyberGuides for Subject Searching on the Web” (Cyberage Books, 1999) and contributed to the “Networkings” column in The Washington Post for five years.

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One Response to “Google loses its mojo”

  1. j Says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

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