Is Google News Trying To Control Your News?
We developed a valuable news service for the Broadway industry but Google News has rejected it 14 times as a news source.
Being in the regular Google search index is absolutely essential to the success of every online business. Thus, being part of Google News has the same value to every online news department or organization. If you are a news department and you are not in Google News then you aren't really news after all - you lack the credibility that your industry demands and there isn't much you can do about it.
With Google's radio silence into what the problem is, what's going on here?
Our Broadway show news service, that has over 1500 stories to date (yes over one thousand, five hundred stories), is provided at no charge to the Broadway industry and is located at: www.nytix.com/news/
Please take a look and decide if you think it should be included Google News.
We have assumed that Google News has taken a peek at our site many times and they have decided fourteen times that it doesn't past their muster. Problem is, no one is quite sure what "passing muster" for them really is. So, after trying for years to be included into Google News, it has now become a ridiculous goal to attain- the primary reason why we penned this article.
It would be much easier if Google News would tell you why you are rejected, but they have a policy of not telling you where the problem lies. This means you have to pore through all the Google News requirements line by line, trying to figure out what on earth you are doing wrong. Adding further complication, Google News requires a gap of at least sixty days between requests, so after getting rejected, you make a change and then wait another sixty days and to reapply again. In the meantime, you keep plugging away keeping the news fresh and delivering original news content - but still guessing about what the problem really is. This process clearly lacks accountability and can mess with businesses for years. It genuinely starts to feel like you are dealing with the Mafia, never quite sure what will make them happy, moving targets, no communication and certainly no accountability.
News acting like an online version of the infamous 1970's New York City disco, Studio 54, that was notorious for never letting in the masses or the hoi-polloi? To garner free marketing, on some nights at Studio 54 they wouldn't let anyone in, creating a huge mob scene outside, making the New York papers the next day. This really doesn't sound like Google's style at all, but clearly something is going on and we can't put our finger on it.
We may never know exactly why Google hates us, but clearly they do - as we can show 14 separate rejection letters that all read the same thing, all delivered with their robotic tone and identical content - they very thing they say you can never do:
Google News Sends The Standard Rejection Message:
Thank you for your note.
We appreciate your interest in sharing your content with us. However, when we reviewed your site, we found that we cannot include it in Google News at this time. We have certain guidelines in place regarding the quality of sites which are included in Google News. Please feel free to review these guidelines at the following link:
We know it can be frustrating to not have more information about this but we appreciate your efforts and understanding. We will log your site for future consideration. Please keep in mind that we will be unlikely to review your site for at least 60 days following this email.
Thanks for your understanding and your continued interest in Google News.
The Google News Team
Google News is absolutely right, it is very frustrating, even more frustrating than they could imagine! Those 14 attempts spun out into over 400 man hours trying to figure out why Google dislikes our news format, content or both, while it embraces less-than-original content from our competitors, it really does create a bitter taste in our mouths. It's one thing being rejected so many times, but quite another to see a competitor gaming the system for their own benefit. It sends the wrong message that if we aren't gaming the system and we get rejected and our competitor is gaming the system and gets accepted, then shouldn't we start playing dirty too? It sets an awful precedent for Google News.
So lets discuss the official requirements to be included into Google News and how we think why we meet or exceed every sectional requirement:
1.0 News General Guidelines
1.1 News Content.
The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Sites included in Google News should offer timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience. We generally do not include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data.
Our Broadway news service is written by Broadway journalists and subject matter experts with vast experience of Broadway. These people live, eat, breathe and sleep Broadway - so I cant think of a more qualified group of people working on a subject matter. We would never carry anything in the news stories that smacks of "how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data." Is Google News crazy? Our content is balanced, fair and objective as well as original, compelling and timely - I think we just answered pretty much every sectional requirement in this one response, but lets go on with the show:
Journalistic Standards. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values. If your site publishes aggregated content, you will need to separate it from your original work, or restrict our access to those aggregated articles via your robots.txt file.
We have great journalistic standards. Our writers are consummate professionals who happen to be subject matter experts in the Broadway business. All our original content is constantly checked by the Wordscape service. We do republish some statistical data that we write an analysis around, but full permission to republish has been granted. This data is Broadway ticket sales data, but we graph it, analyze it and turn it upside down. This reproduction of sales couldn't be the problem that keeps Google News from working with us, surely?
1.3 Authority. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Write what you know! The best news sites exhibit clear authority and expertise.
We know the Broadway industry and that's all we write about. We are not just the authority on the subject matter, but we are the go-to company for many Broadway show producers looking for the inside track on Broadway show events including Broadway openings, closings, reviews and marketing pushes.
We are subject matter experts on Broadway with a total of 50 years experience. We are the authority on Broadway, although we have the word "Tickets" in our company name, we are not ticket brokers, we promote the work of Broadway and we often work with the Broadway show producers. So this clearly isn't the problem, so lets move on.
1.4 Accountability. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Users tell us they value news sites with author biographies and clearly accessible contact information, such as email and physical addresses, and phone numbers.
Lets get this straight: Google News wants our Broadway blog writers to publish all their contact detail, including email, physical addresses, and phone numbers? That's not something that CNN or MSNBC would do, so why would you ask us to do that? Those media outlets don't publish that kind of information because they know that they would be inundated with spam, sales pitches and other time wasting exploits. So if this is really a requirement, then Google News will need to remove CNN and MSNBC and a host of other news organizations.. Let's be realistic about the expectations here: what we do publish about our writers is their bio, an email contact form (where each writer is contactable by the reader, but doesn't see their email address in the clear) and the main phone number and address of our company in New York City. We think that's reasonable, but apparently Google News wants more, a pound of extra flesh more.
It's interesting that Google itself would never publish any information like that about themselves, but it demands that of its news provider organizations. Ironically, Google News won't even tell you who works on your request, but they still have the audacity to ask for a litany of contact requirements from you. Shame, no accountability and unrealistic expectations.
1.5 Readability. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Clearly written articles with correct spelling and grammar make for a much better user experience. Limiting your use of distracting ads and auto-load videos also allows users to more easily focus on your article content.
We have user-friendly,
well-written, fast-loading articles that are spell-checked, that are also grammatically correct (for the most part). Sometimes some "proper" English spelling makes its way in, but that's because some of us on the team don't recognize this colonies' right to bastardize the English language.
2.0 News Technical Requirements:
2.1 Article URL's. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
To make sure we only crawl new articles, please make sure your URL's are unique with at least 3 digits, and are permanent.
This is something that we did early on. It's an easy technical configuration and all our news stories now contain the requisite "more than three digits." We opted for four digits to be on the safe side, knowing that we do publish quite a lot of stories, see:
2.2 Article Links. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
We use HTML links and anchor texts. We tested it: you can crawl our Wordpress site without problem and see the anchor texts.
2.3 Article Formatting. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Our crawler is only able to include HTML articles. This means we cannot crawl PDF's or other non-HTML formats.
Only use HTML.
We only use HTML. No one in their right mind would ever try to publish a PDF in a news feed.
. 2.4 Robots.txt or Metatags. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
In order for your content to be included in Google News, our user-agent must be able to crawl and index your site.
Our website is crawlable. It's easy enough to see it working using Google's webmaster tools. What's next?
2.5 Multimedia Content. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
We currently are unable to include audio files or multimedia content; however, we can sometimes crawl supplementary text on pages with this type of content and do include some videos from YouTube.
The written word in HTML is all we do.
We don’t use multimedia files, so this really shouldn't be a problem. May I have another?
2.6 Google News Sitemap. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
While not required, we highly recommend that you submit a Google News Sitemap through a Webmaster Tools account. Please note that you may receive errors if you submit your sitemap before your site has been reviewed and approved by our team.
Our news sitemap is already in Google Webmaster Tools and is available at http://www.nytix.com/news/sitemap-news.xml
It only promotes posts in the last 48 hours and is waiting for for Google News Editors to approve us as a GN source.
3.0 News Quality Guidelines
3.1 Stick to the News--We Mean It! The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Google News is not a marketing service. We don't want to send users to sites created primarily for promoting a product or organization, or to sites that engage in commerce journalism. If your site mixes news content with other types of content, especially paid advertorials or promotional content, we strongly recommend that you separate non-news types of content. Otherwise, if we find non-news content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.
The "News Quality" section could be what Google News takes exception to. It's not that we have bad news quality, on the contrary, we have excellent original content, that's timely and to the point. It captures the Broadway business to the tee and is well respected in the Broadway community for its insights and advice.
This only leaves questions about Google's unwritten policies concerning news organizations. Perhaps only "old school" news organizations are acceptable?
The google News Forum did respond stating that this may be the section causing the problem. One comment was "Your site's main goal appears to be selling tickets." Well yes, I suppose that is one of the goals. Much like CNN's goal is to make money by selling advertising, Broadway ticket sales are one of the goals of our website, as is promoting Broadway attendance, discussing Broadway shows and helping the general public navigate the often complicated landscape of Broadway show choices. But we are not a ticket broker or seller and we are a not marketing company. We write about Broadway shows, write about the industry, give introspective's into how Broadway shows work and operate - we really are everything Broadway - but none of that is in the news section! Its straight, objective news in the news section, and has always been. To answer the main Google News point, we don't mix news content with any other type of content. on our website.
So, the news section on our website has been straight Broadway news for years and has no co-mingled content with any of the advertising, marketing, ticket sales or guides that we may provide to the general public at large. This News section has and always will stand alone as a news service provided to the Broadway industry. It is Broadway news, straight and clear. To suggest otherwise is plain wrong. The Broadway news section even has its own news sitemap, loaded into Google webmaster tools on a real-time basis, the sitemap data os located at: nytix.com/news/sitemap.xml
If the Google News requirement truly is a complete separation of news and website revenue generator, that a website to be included in Google News must be completely devoid of any promotion of any product or service, then how does CNN or the Huffington Post qualify? They take on huge amounts of advertising and, even worse, advertorials (something we would never do). Does our website have to have a different name from the news name? Is that the problem? If we called ourselves NYTIX NEWS instead of "New York Show Tickets", does that make our news name more palatable to the Google News editors? It sounds ridiculous that they wouldn't like our name, if that's the case, Google News should come out and say it and stop wasting our time. If that is the new standard then the "Christian Science Monitor" will need to change its news name because it promotes their religion "Christian Science." A religion that has some extreme views. They are clearly promoting another product or service. It is starting to look like it's one rule for the established news agencies, but quite another for a newer news source. It appears that the progressive news sources are being held to a higher standard, which seems grossly unfair.
Let's examine a few examples of existing Google News sources for the Broadway industry and what products and services they promote on the side. None of these sources are dedicated to news only, which is in line with most of Google News sources. They are non-news businesses running a news service on the side. What is surprising is how few Broadway news sources there actually are. It's not clear if this is because Google News rejects many requests or whether there just isn't that many Broadway companies requesting to be in the field. We think its a bit of both. So who does Google News approve of?
- Broadway.com - This company makes it appear that it is the go-to place for anything about Broadway, but the reality is that it is an after-market ticket broker - the scourge of the Broadway industry. This company is akin to the ticket scalpers who hang out on the street corner and ask for over $1000 for $150 "Book of Mormon" tickets. Amazingly Google News approved this as a news source, how does that happen? Broadway.com does have a separate news department, but their ultimate goal is to sell after-market Broadway tickets at a higher price than face value. Why they are Google News "approved" is confounding. Google News was hoodwinked by Broadway.com and Google still doesn't realize it.
- Playbill.com - Playbill is a Broadway show website that performs a similar service as we do, but takes on huge amounts of advertising from Broadway show clients. Try reading a news article from Playbill and you will be pitched a slew of other products and services that they offer. What makes it worse, is that their editorial news staff also work for the other areas of the business, so they don't even have a separate news team - a straight conflict of interest, especially when it comes to news content, often skewed to clients that they have an business interest in. Again Google News approved this company to be a source.
- Broadwayworld.com - This website is giant message board with a huge amount of ads running rampant all over the site. This site is a questionable news source for Google News because it lacks objectivity and promotes its own services via its ads, promotions and advertorials. Has a Google News editor ever looked at this site? It has issues regarding its lack of objectivity and overall credibility.
- PRWeb - Some Broadway show entries on PRWEB are just laughable, straight advertorials promoting Broadway shows and tickets. How does PRWEB get away with this?
It definitely appears that Google News is OK with PRWEB promoting advertorials inside Google News like this.
Why do they get so a huge pass? Could it be that they spend a huge amount of money with Google and the Google News team has been tasked on not upsetting the nature of that relationship?
3.2 User-Friendly. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
Follow basic principles of good journalism to make your website unique, valuable, and engaging. For instance, sites should load quickly and use URL redirects rarely, and avoid behavior intended to trick users.
We have spent a great deal of time working on our journalistic format and have provided engaging content our readers. Our site is quick to load and no web tricks are used.
3.3 Proper use of our meta tags. The Google News Inclusion Guidelines State:
If you choose to use our meta tags, such as our keywords tag or standout tag, ensure that you are using these tags correctly.
We use tags correctly across all parts of our website. So where does this leave us?
It's clear that we are satisfying the numerous best practices listed above, as well as those in the webmaster guidelines. But with Google News's track record in rejecting our requests, we must be missing something. Maybe it's something that they are not stating - so if that's the case then we may never know. It's possible that Google News is judging the source of news on undocumented standards, that makes it impossible for a credible news source to react and respond appropriately.
I hope this article is of value to others going through the same process and we wish you better luck than we have had - because it might just be that.