Back before cable television, before web reporting and ever-quickening newsfeeds, scoops could be easily heralded — the story either was printed in your daily edition or it wasn’t. If another newspaper beat you on a story, the proof landed on your doorstep in the morning.
A rival newspaper could always do a second-day story, showcasing that it, too, was on top of an issue.
But as our dissemination of news quickened, the second-day story quickly became the second-hour story. And the second-hour story quickly has become the second-second story. (It’s complicated, I know.) So it’s getting tougher to decide who got there first, right?
Well Google today introduced a system that it hopes will stop squabbling about who got there first.
What Google proposes, in part, is for authors to impose on themselves an invisible-to-readers-but-very-visible-to-search-engines metatag that says that they’re either the first or not-the-first publication to have information. These should, apparently, be self-inflicted.
In a post — aptly called Credit Where Credit is Due — the aggregation giant calls for reporters and others to use metatags they’re calling “original-source” and “syndication-source.”
Over at the Nieman Journalism Lab, Megan Garber makes the point that the tags are now just for data analysis purposes and that these “tags, for any would-be Google Gamers out there, won’t affect articles’ ranking in Google News — at least not yet.”
To its credit, Google notes the toughness of determining who got there first:
We encourage publishers to use this
metatag to give credit to the source that
broke the story. We recognize that this can sometimes be tough to determine. But the
intent of this tag is to reward hard work and journalistic enterprise.
Here’s what one of these meta tags might look like in HTML:
<meta name=”original-source” content=”http://www.example.com/
At least with the “Burglary at Watergate” example, we know who got there first.