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Google News to Let Subjects of Stories Comment

UPDATED

From the Google News blog comes news of a new initiative “Perspectives about the news from people in the news.”

We’ll 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. Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we’ll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as “comments” so readers know it’s the individual’s perspective, rather than part of a journalist’s report.

How will this work? How will Google verify that the people commenting on what’s been written about them are actually the people in question? What kind of data-gathering will this lead to on Google’s part?

The fact that Google is trying this is, in one sense, testament to an abject failure on the part of traditional news operations. With the Net, they could have given people the chance to comment in this way — above and beyond the standard comment published as part of a story or a letter to the editor. They didn’t, and left this opening.

If Google pulls this off, it will be a huge boost for one company — Google — because people looking for responses to news articles will head to the search site, not just to the site of the original story.

It’s a fascinating initiative, no matter what. And it’s not too late for news organizations to get their acts together and give the people they write about a convenient platform of their own — Dave Winer suggests blogs (“Let the readers sort it out”) — to reply.

9 Comments on “Google News to Let Subjects of Stories Comment”

  1. #1 Tish Grier
    on Aug 8th, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Dan…I’m not sure exactly how much Google *can* pull this off, and to what effect (if not why they want to.) Google News is mostly an aggregator–so if people who are featured in a story that’s aggregated on Google news don’t like the story, they’ll write in to Google News with a correction? I’m not sure how that’s going to be of benefit to anyone–except maybe to Google getting some unique free content to beef up their stuff…

    Guess it’s better than adding IntelliTXT ads into AP stories–something FoxNews is doing to create more income for itself.

  2. #2 Paul Andrews
    on Aug 8th, 2007 at 10:03 am

    I think verification needs to be done, as Dan points out, but then that’s the whole mission of the Web these days anyway. This very blog has pretty good verification, and yes, I am the real Paul Andrews ;^)

    Dave Winer has been suggesting a similar mechanism for years: Newspapers (organizations) giving each source a blog, with comments presumably linked to the originating story. If The New York Times had done this back when Dave first put it to them, I’d agree with Dan, it would have been another way to loyalize (not a word) its readership. Just like if, as some of us oldtimers remember, newspapers had heeded our suggestion to start giving away classifieds when Craiglist first began gaining traction. Sigh…

  3. #3 Scripting News for 8/8/07 « Scripting News Annex
    on Aug 8th, 2007 at 10:04 am

    [...] Dan Gillmor discusses a new Google News feature that’s on the right track, but not the right implementation. Google should just buy Technorati, and get it reliable, and use it in place of this new human-instense feature. Let the people discussed in news articles get blogs, Google can even host them. Let the readers sort it out. Much better than depending on employees. [...]

  4. #4 Burningbird » Commenting on Aggregated Items
    on Aug 8th, 2007 at 10:07 am

    [...] Media wrote on [...]

  5. #5 What? No “Anonymous Cowards”? | Digital Daily | John Paczkowski | AllThingsD
    on Aug 8th, 2007 at 10:26 am

    [...] is, in one sense, testament to an abject failure on the part of traditional news operations,” says Dan Gillmor, Director of the Center for Citizen Media. With the Net, they could have given people the chance to comment in this way — above and beyond [...]

  6. #6 Delia
    on Aug 8th, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Dan,

    I’m wondering if they are doing this for *legal* reasons and not journalistic ones — it looks like it might be a way to get around having to pay for merely aggregating other peoples’ content.

    Would the piece that appears on Google + comments constitute a “critique” of some sort and thus be protected against copyright infringement claims? It seems like that’s what the subjects of a report would be doing as far as comments go…

    Delia

    P.S. Jay had a somewhat related article a while back and I was wondering back then (http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2007/06/04/currmudgeon_nh.html#comment48119) if Google has considered coming up with a critique of some sort (instead of merely aggregating stuff) and thus be within their rights as far as copyright is concerned. This might be it… D.

  7. #7 Delia
    on Aug 8th, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Paul: Well, I don’t know if I got special treatment or not but Dan had the decency NOT to make me verify my identity… (it would have been a deal breaker…) D.

  8. #8 sabadashus
    on Aug 9th, 2007 at 10:52 am

    What about THIS news: “Google News to Let Subjects of Stories Comment”?.

    Can Dan Gilmore comment on it? Can I?

    sabadashus

  9. #9 Jon Garfunkel
    on Aug 9th, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    “With the Net, they could have given people the chance to comment in this way…”

    Hmm. I seem to recall over the last several years a *heavy* emphasis on just getting newspapers to blog, without any particular focus on what I would call “constructive” uses, such as this use case here (allowing sources to respond.) Naturally I endorse Google’s announcement of the effort.