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The Register UK is cheating Google News

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The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/8/13 7:20 AM
I am concerned about a recent development in Google News. As a long time reader of the science page, I have noticed that the Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk) is changing the titles of different articles in order to regain a front page placement.

Take for instance the following article on the Chelyabinsk meteor, which happens to be at the top of the science page: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/06/chelyabinsksized_meteors_impacts_seven_times_more_common_than_first_thought/

It was written yesterday so I wasn't able to collect all of the title changes, but here are five of them:

"ANOTHER DEVASTATING Chelyabinsk METEOR STRIKE '7x as likely' as thought"

"DEVASTATING Chelyabinsk METEOR STRIKES: '7x as likely' as thought"

"A new DEVASTATING Chelyabinsk METEOR STRIKE: '7x as likely' as thought"

New, DEVASTATING Chelyabinsk METEOR STRIKE: '7x as likely' as thought"

"Next DEVASTATING Chelyabinsk METEOR STRIKE '7x as likely' as thought"

The problem with these title changes is that they they aren't changing their title to adjust for a grammatical or spelling mistake, but they appear to be changing their titles in order to "refresh" their article and regain their front page placement on the science page.

And, yes, I am well aware that Google News is dealing with a "refresh" issue, as many forum posts have notice. This, however, is a lot different. For the past several weeks, this site seems to be taking advantage of the "refresh" by manually refreshing their articles via title changes. These title changes have allowed them to dominate a particular topic for hours and hours, sometimes even days. 

Unfortunately, changing titles doesn't leave the same evidence as changing URLs so only a keen observer can actually spot how many times they are changing the title to Google News.

Could somebody please respond to this and tell me why Google News is allowing this to continue? 
(unknown) 11/8/13 11:22 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Neil Reardon 11/8/13 1:23 PM
This has been an undocumented "feature" of GN for many years. I don't suppose that there is a huge amount that the developers / creators of GN can do. Afterall, any editor has the right to amend an article and I suppose that GN sees a responsibility to index the most recent version. Really, in this instance, the onus should, in my opinion, be on ethical journalists and content creators.
(unknown) 11/8/13 1:37 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Neil Reardon 11/8/13 1:49 PM
Hello -

I take your points on board but I suppose it would be almost impossible to automatically police thousands of GN sites for this kind of behaviour.

Nonetheless, perhaps the best way to report this kind of issue is by completing this form here:

https://support.google.com/news/publisher/contact/report_issue_content

This way you can be sure it reaches the right people.

Best regards, Neil.

Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Elisa Elvira 11/9/13 11:23 AM
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Chris_Andrews 11/9/13 8:14 PM
This does seem to be a growing issue though. As Neil said, it would be helpful to report it, but we'll follow up with the GN team as well.

Chris
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/11/13 10:15 AM
And they're still doing it:

This article started out as "India Mars Probe Stutters"


They're gaming Google News, pure and simple. They should be banned. 


Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Neil Reardon 11/11/13 11:13 AM
Did you report it using the link in my previous post? Regards, Neil.
(unknown) 11/11/13 11:53 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Neil Reardon 11/11/13 12:43 PM
I think Google probably has the message loud and clear! :-) I am sure that the GN Team are working on a resolution!

Best regards, Neil.

(unknown) 11/11/13 2:58 PM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/12/13 10:43 AM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/12/13 3:25 PM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/13/13 9:22 AM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/13/13 11:29 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/13/13 2:08 PM
and again. Google, let me know when you guys decide to actually do your job and stop sites from gaming your system, and I'll stop posting title changes. 

(unknown) 11/13/13 7:35 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Interested Observer 11/14/13 1:16 AM
You're evidently from one of a very small number of outfits. You'd probably not relish public discussion of your own methods in this forum.
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Vostori 11/14/13 7:23 AM
While there is evidence that titles are being changed there is no evidence that the actual content of the article remains the same.

They could well be making changes within the article and thus a change to the title is valid.

Remember - keeping a story updated and fresh is an entirely legitimate practice.
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/15/13 8:03 AM
What is the point of that comment, Vostori? Even if the articles was changing (they aren't), how would that justify simple changes to the title? 

Interested Observer: We have had that conversation before. I'm surprised the Register has stooped so low. 

Google, the Register is still gaming Google:


Changed from Boffins break record to show quantum computing isn't too cool for school 

to 

It's a BIT MORE than ONES and ZEROES in the QUANTUM PC - literally


(They are currently at the top of the Google News science page).

They are also changing this one:

from 

Google Earth tech shows world forests losing of area annually in Brazil.

These guys are clearing using title changes to game Google. It would be nice to see G News take some action. It's seems a bit unfair to allow one site to change their title to gain the top spot OVER and OVER, while penalizing other sites for the same thing. 
(unknown) 11/15/13 8:23 AM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/15/13 8:57 AM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/15/13 9:17 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/15/13 10:56 AM
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News im_kramer 11/15/13 3:02 PM

Google Earth bombshell: World's forests down ZERO point ZERO ZERO six a year


big change. Thanks to TCs for doing nothing to remedy this issue.
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Chris_Andrews 11/15/13 3:57 PM
Hi GoogleNewsWonder, 

TC's are Top Contributors on the forums, we don't own Google and can't go in and make changes to Google systems, more info: http://www.google.com/get/topcontributor/ 

We can advocate for changes, and we have done that... often :) 

The Google News team is well aware of what's happening. You, Google_news_refresh, others on the forum, various blogs that keep an eye on Google News, and the TC's, have all brought this up as a concern.

One thing I have learned from being a TC though is that everything Google does, every little change they make, affects something, and often someone, else. 

As Vostori points out, if Google just goes in and makes it so that updated articles are no longer refreshed, a lot of legit updates will remain listed as old news - even if important new information has been added.

There are other ripples too, and any changes would have to be carefully thought out, considered, debated, coded, and tested. 

Whatever they decide to do could affect the way news publishers update their content for years to come. It could set the standard for how updates are done.

So Google is probably not going to jump on this and make quick changes to the system to prevent these refreshes. I have no idea what their timeline is, or what they will do about it, but I do support them thinking through any changes on this carefully. 

Chris

Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Neil Reardon 11/15/13 4:07 PM
+1, chrz
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News David Hollingsworth 11/16/13 12:55 AM
Googlenewswonder, google_news_refresh, whoever you are,

Give it a rest. You're picking on ONE website out of thousands, which makes you look like a paranoid stalker. Did they fire you?

If not, do you know how this publisher actually operates? Are they using A/B headlines? Are they tweaking headlines and copy to fit changes to their web layout, and Google News is indexing it blindly? if you don't know what I'm talking about then I'm stunned that you think you're such an authority here.

Are they changing their headlines and other copy because they've thought of a better word or two? Something shorter, something more punchier? Something that fits a top headline, or a side box or a lower page headline better? Seems so. The web is the web, it's constantly changing. This isn't newsprint. Some editors think of better headlines minutes after hitting publish.

Anyway, why The Register? Again, did they fire you? Do you have a grudge? USA Today, Washington Post and the BBC are republishing every 10 minutes and you're picking on a .co.uk pub that at least is funny half the time?

Are you projecting? One concludes you're the one trying to game Google News and lashing out at others who are just getting space on the Google home page. I look down the list of publishers in Science and I see the usuals: BBC News, BBC News, BBC News, BBC News (seriously), Headline & Global News, LA Times, Reuters, The Register.

Google would be insane to listen to a crackpot like you.

David.

(unknown) 11/17/13 9:33 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Jane Lomas 11/17/13 11:21 PM
Wow. Awkward! You again? Headline looks exactly the same to me... Are you on medication?
(unknown) 11/18/13 7:18 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/18/13 7:44 AM
On a side note (and maybe the TCs can address this):

Some of the responses (David and Jane in particular) seem to be of a low caliber. They are riddled with personal attacks (paranoid stalker, are you on medication). 

The Register is clearly gaming Google News and this seems to be the only forum provided by Google to address this issue. We are trying to document every change they make. David, I have never worked for the Register; If you had read our first post, it is clear that this issue is different from the refresh some other sites are experiencing due to nothing having to do with their own work (the BBC and USA Today are not changing titles, for instance). I would be just as harsh if CNN or another news site was employing the same tactics as the Register, but they aren't.

I'm not asking Google to kick the Register out, but if that is the only solution than they should. Chrz, I understand your points and that's very helpful.. Still it is well known that Google has the ability to rank down sites in the interim or kick sites out of Google News all together. The quality of Google News is significantly undermined by players like the Register who simply seek to drive traffic via changes to article titles. This is far different from news sites changing a title to reflect an update in a news story. The Register is CLEARLY taking advantage of a great feature of Google News to game the system for its advantage. 
(unknown) 11/18/13 9:24 PM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/19/13 7:25 AM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 11/19/13 10:51 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News ScienceObserver 11/20/13 7:31 AM
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/20/13 8:00 AM
Hi Andrew Orlowski. 

Now that we have that out of the way, why don't you stop changing titles and gaming Google News. Google penalized us for it, and we eventually stopped doing it once we realized it was against the guidelines. I am surprised that you and your team, which called us out on it originally, are now employing the same technique. You obviously know it's wrong since you spent so much time coming after us last year. 

I am also surprised Google has yet to take action on this matter. Google seemed to act fairly aggressively (it once shutdown one of our sites within 24 hours for the exact same technique employed by the Register), however, it seems to have let the Register game its system for two entire weeks. 

Seems like shifting goal posts to me.

By the way, for anyone jumping in on this, let me just say this. I have personal experience with this issue (hence the frustration). We gamed Google last year and were (rightly) called out on it. The same person (Orlowski) is now using that exact same method to game the system and Google has done nothing to stop it. I know from personal experience that Google has the power to derank a site and stop those techniques from working. 

That said, this is not about gaining some advantage over the Register. If Google can find a way to make them stop changing titles to dominate stories without kicking them out, fine. Or (which we would prefer) the Register crew would voluntarily stop changing their titles to game the system, that would also be a solution. We simply feel Google News should be a place where each news sources (to some degree) has the same opportunity to reach an audience. If a news sites (be it us, the Register, or anyone else) games the system, there should be consequences. 
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Chris_Andrews 11/20/13 10:15 AM
The reason we got rid of the 'quality reports' section is that publishers were using it to attack each other. 

After many months of relative quietness, that practice seems to have returned. 

This is a help forum. I'm fine with feedback/complaints, fair or not, against Google. That all goes into the constructive feedback category.

What isn't appropriate is attacks on publishers. It doesn't matter who thinks who is cheating - this is a help forum, not an attack-a-publisher-and-try-to-get-them-punished forum.

If you feel like the quality of the new index is being affected by a site, the appropriate way to provide feedback to Google about that is through the feedback link on the bottom of any search results page. If the current results page is displaying the problem that's all that much better because you can easily send Google a screenshot.

If you want to provide complaints/feedback to the publisher, you can do that through the publisher's website.

We'll be discussing ways to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future and you may see some new policies in affect shortly. 

Chris



Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/20/13 11:43 AM
Chris, we are simply interested in getting some clarification on whether the guidelines for Google News have changed. It is our understanding, based on past experience, that changing titles in a news story (in the manner employed by the Register per our examples) is an unacceptable practice. 

Is repeatedly changing titles to regain a top story in Google News acceptable practice? Yes or no.
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Chris_Andrews 11/20/13 3:20 PM

Obviously not, in my opinion. 

That's why I have championed your cause as to something needing to be done to address this problem.

What I can't support is tit-for-tat attacks on publishers here on the help forums, 

I also can't support beating a dead horse over this issue. The point has been made. Examples have been provided to Google, Now it's up to them. 

Chris
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News Robert Gunnells 11/20/13 4:15 PM
@All,
I agree with Chris here that this is just beating a dead horse and adding nothing to a valid discussion. Examples have been given to the team and Chris has posted to the team many times asking about this issue.

Complaints have a specific way to be handled and the news Team looks at every one of them. As a TC, I cannot force them to do anything and sometimes never get any explanation as to why a decision was made.

We have seen a refreshing problem and this matter come up in the last few months and the team is working on them. Adding more examples each day to this thread is wasting a lot of time. Both time you as a publisher could be using to work on your site and time of the volunteers here that have to keep responding to more examples.

We eliminated the quality section of the forum because it had turned into nothing more than people reporting sites for personal reasons and a few legitimate complaints added in the mix.

We are here to help people with problems in Google News and appreciate anyone bringing our attention to a potential problem. We forward those on to the team and it is then up to Google from then on. We provide updates on situations when we do get responses on particular problems from the news team.

Constantly posting examples of the same problem in the forum takes away from our purpose to help others. If you wish to add to this complaint, please use the form and fill it out as many times as you wish. Trust me, the teams takes these things seriously and looks at every one.
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/22/13 11:39 AM
Bobby, this has nothing to do with the refresh issue -- we made that clear in our first post. If Google News actually took action to remedy this issue, we would be happy to stop posting examples. Part of the issue is Google News doesn't seem to be responding in any shape or form, as this has been allowed to go on for three weeks now. Chris, if that is the case, we look forward to seeing some action taken in the near future as this is obviously a clear violation of Google News guidelines.

I should note (as the point seems to have been lost) that this is not a personal attack on the Register or anyone involved with that operation. Any site, including ours, should adhere to the guidelines of the Google News community. If a site does not adhere to those guidelines, we expect (which I think is reasonable) that Google News will take action in a timely manner. Pointing out examples where a site is clearly not doing so, should not be construed as an "attack," and the multiple posting is simply a reflection of just how pervasive the Register is in its title changing. 
Re: The Register UK is cheating Google News google_news_refresh 11/28/13 7:59 PM
Was on Google News today and saw this (see attached).
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