The Democratisation of the Right of Reply?

Tuesday’s announcement by Google that organisations or individuals who are “participants” in a story carried on Google News can now post their comments on that story on Google News changes things again. Stories on Google News often get more readers than the original version (which I guess is why so many news organisations are so upset about this aspect of Google). So now if our clients are part of a story we can, apparently, go to Google for re-dress, re-buttal or just context – – even if the original journalist or sub-editor didn’t bother to include us or spiked what we had to say first time.

Google say: “We’ll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question. 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.”

It’s not clear how they will make the call on what stories get this treatment (other than they are starting with the US) and I guess the editorial decision-making is limited in that, other than story choice, participants in the process are probably defined simply by those that are named. That being said, this does take Google one step away from being a pure news aggregator and I can see them hosting conversations that, say, the New York Times or The Washington Post might think should be hosted on their sites. They now have one big foot on the pitch it seems to me.

Hat tip Steve Rubel.

Note: Microsoft is an Edelman client

[tags] Google News [/tags]

David Brain


  1. Two points. Sometimes if quacks it is not necessarily a duck. Google are not actually editorialising but merely extending the right to a conversation through their technology. While this move clearly takes google in another direction and readers away from the hallowed arbitrators of news I don’t think they are yet manufacturing news merely hosting it. But I do sense there is a battle for the conversation. The success of myTelegraph in evolving the news format and attracting older readers suggests that the old world is not going to let the new run away owning conversations. As the two worlds mesh it certainly raises the question of what is a media? what is a media owner? who owns the IP behind the conversation and what new legal and moral responsibilities does this impose on organisations that orginated as a technology businesses? Not sure of the answers.

    Secondly and rather parochially I think this development poses a dilemna for the PR profession should they encourage clients to post a reply that is spurious or just over sensitive to an editorial judgement?

  2. It may not be a duck, but it is also now not just a news aggregator. And the conversations it is hosting are based on someone elses journalism. So if not a duck, maybe a cuckoo?

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