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August 09 2010

09:45

June 03 2010

21:59

February 02 2010

17:00

CNET and Gizmodo are sharing content, and they don’t seem worried about a “duplicate penalty”

CNET and Gizmodo have been sharing content for the last couple months. I confirmed that a partnership exists, but requests for additional information from either party were not fruitful.

Frankly, the most intriguing aspect of this partnership is already in plain view: The sites are posting the same articles. Take a look at this Gizmodo story then click over to the CNET version. Headlines change and there are subtle formatting differences, but the body copy is essentially the same.

Why is this relevant? If you’ve spent any time in the SEO world, you’ve probably heard of the semi-mythical duplication rule. As far as I can tell, CNET and Gizmodo are in duplication’s gray area.

The duplication penalty, or lack thereof

The cautionary tale of duplication generally goes like this: Google wants its search results to give precedence to the most popular/legitimate/relevant pages, and it’s tough to pull that off if the same articles appear on different domains. So Google uses filters to push copycats to the margins. Some people call this the “duplicate penalty,” but that’s a misnomer. Google isn’t slapping hands.

Here’s how Google describes its policy on cross-site duplication:

If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.

The noindex meta tag doesn’t appear in the source code of these sample stories from Gizmodo and CNET. However, CNET’s version does link back to Gizmodo’s original. Gizmodo returns the favor when it’s hosting CNET content. (Both show up in a Google search for one of the article’s sentences: Gizmodo’s version is No. 1, CNET’s No. 4.)

Since the noindex tag represents the outer limits of my search engine understanding, I dropped a line to Brent Payne, the Tribune Co.’s head of SEO, to get his take on this type of content share.

Payne said variation between two similar articles could help both pieces rank well in search engines. But achieving this variation requires each story to have its own inbound links, as well as feature different title tags, different headlines, and altered HTML and body text. CNET and Gizmodo customize titles and headlines. The body copy doesn’t really change.

Payne noted that Google supports a “canonical” feature that signals the original version of a story (or the version that’s supposed to get the most attention). The canonical tool doesn’t appear to be in use by CNET or Gizmodo.

Payne also brought up an interesting point about Google News, which doesn’t share its big brother’s hang-ups about duplicate content. He said a duplicate article that cites the original — something CNET and Gizmodo both do — could give the original “extra weight” in Google News.

Why are they sharing?

All of this inside-SEO stuff is interesting, but it doesn’t really answer the big question: What’s the upside to duplication?

I’ve got a couple guesses:

Marketing: It used to be you’d visit a publisher’s site to see their latest content, but readers now discover material in a variety of ways — Twitter, Facebook, Digg, RSS, etc. One analytics firm estimates on-site engagement dropped 50 percent between 2007-2009. Smart publishers are already addressing this by pushing content beyond their own sites. Toward that end, Gawker Media (owner of Gizmodo) could be using the CNET partnership to “find the next million people.”

Money (obviously): An influx of content can theoretically generate page views, unique visitors, and better user-session times. Good metrics lead to better ad rates and more revenue.

Again, these are just guesses. I’m sure we’ve got SEO and marketing wizards in the audience, so please post a comment if you see clearer explanations.

December 16 2009

17:10

KNC 2010: NewsGraf wants to slap a search box on journalists’ brains

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Knight News Challenge closed submissions for the 2010 awards last night at midnight, which means that another batch of great ideas, interesting concepts, and harebrained schemes gave their chance to convince the Knight Foundation they deserve funding. (Trust us — great, interesting, and harebrained are all well represented at this stage each year.) We've been picking through the applications available for public inspection the past few weeks, and over the next few days Mac is going to highlight some of the ideas that struck us as worthy of a closer look — starting today with NewsGraf, below.

But we also want your help. Do you know of a really interesting News Challenge application? Did you submit one yourself? Let us know about it. Either leave a comment on this post or email Mac Slocum. In either case, keep your remarks brief — 200 words or less. We'll run some of the ones you think are noteworthy in a post later this week. —Josh]

The most eye-catching thing about the NewsGraf’s proposal is its price tag; $950,000 over two years. That stands out in a sea of $50,000 and $100,000 requests.

But if you spend a little time digging into the intricacies of NewsGraf, that big price becomes downright reasonable. Cheap even. That’s because with NewsGraf, Mike Aldax and John Marshall want to digitally duplicate the knowledge, connections and synapses of a veteran journalist. That kind of audacity doesn’t come cheap.

Technologically speaking, NewsGraf ventures into the murky world of semantic tagging and social graphs. Unless you’ve got a computer science degree, it’s hard to get a handle on exactly what NewsGraf is. It’s a database, it’s a search engine, but it’s also a connectivity machine.

It’s easier to compare NewsGraf to a person — think of it as a veteran reporter. Someone who carries around a vast collection of interviews, research, and general knowledge gleaned from years working a beat. All this info is tucked neatly into her memory, and she taps this personal database whenever she’s assembling a story. It searches for red flags, patterns, and relationships. It’s an editorial sixth sense.

But there’s a big problem with this brain-based model: It disappears when the brain — and its associated owner — get laid off. With news organizations already running smaller and faster, how can they possibly overcome this growing knowledge gap?

Enter NewsGraf. The project is still on the drawing board, but the idea is to capture all that connective information in a format that’s accessible to anyone with a web browser. A visitor can enter the name of a local newsmaker and see the threads that bind that person to others in the community. It’s like Facebook, as designed by a beat reporter.

Data will come from government databases, local newspapers, blogs, and other sources. After running a query, a user can click through to the originating stories for deeper information. NewsGraf is merely the conduit here; Marshall said they want to send users to the information, not keep them locked within NewsGraf’s walls. As the application puts it:

As newspapers find it increasingly difficult to send reporters to monitor local politics and public discourse, communities will need alternative mechanisms to ensure transparency and good government. Local journalists and citizens will be able to draw upon NewsGraf’s data as a starting point for further investigation, uncovering important relationships that may be influencing decisions being made in their community.

The team behind the idea combines journalism (Aldax covers city hall for The San Francisco Examiner) and tech (Marshall is a software developer and a former VP at AOL). NewsGraf will focus on San Francisco and the Bay Area if it wins a News Challenge grant. But if funding doesn’t come through, Aldax hopes someone else runs with the idea. “We just want to see this happen,” he said.

December 07 2009

19:00

November 30 2009

15:00
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