Last night Google slipped out an interesting new experimental feature for Google News in the US. Most news sites have opened up their stories so that readers can comment: on Google News, however, it is only people who are actually written about in the stories who will be able to comment.
From Google’s blog post on the subject:
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.
As John Murrell points out, this will not go down well with the news organisations. Their pact with Google was to let brief takes of their news get picked up by the search engine in return for the traffic this would generate. By starting to build its own user-generated editorial content around someone else’s professional output, Google is bidding to keep eyeballs on its own websites for longer.
This is the direction Google has been heading since its acquisition of YouTube last year, of course. Eric Schmidt has been working hard this year to try to convince the established media industry that Google is a worthy long-term partner, but experiments like this send the clear message that his company is building a rival audience of its own – and it isn’t shy about piggy-backing on somebody else’s content to do it.