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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

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Monday, March 31st, 2008

Is Google hijacking newspaper website traffic with new search?

Posted by Kevin Anderson

From the Twittersphere, Robert Andrews pointed me in the direction of this post by Martin Belam, Google hijacks traffic from newspaper site search. Martin as always makes some good arguments on why this might be a threat to newspapers.

Whilst Google has dressed this up as being for the benefit of users, it does have some significant implications for the newspapers involved, and has the potential to dent their revenue. … By allowing people to do site searches whilst still on, Google is potentially reducing the number of page, and therefore advert, impressions that these newspapers may be getting. In fact, not only that, but Google is effectively hijacking the advertising that can be displayed by newspapers against search queries on their own site.

I agree that this might negatively impact newspapers’ revenue both in terms of display adverts and also when the newspapers themselves (including the folks that pay my wage, the Guardian) insert text adverts alongside their search results.

Where I might disagree is Martin’s argument that it negatively impacts user experience. He says that Google’s position is that they can provide search better than the news sites. Well, the sad truth is that whether it’s information architecture or search, most news organisations have been very slow to improve these parts of their services. Some news and media organisations have forced their users to use Google because their own search is unusable. They still are making the unmissable, unfindable.

I also see a number of newspapers forcing their users to follow a print paradigm that their drive-by readers may not be familar with. I guess it’s useful for newspapers to allow people to filter their knowledge based on authors, section and branding. It’s useful for those people who are familiar with those things, but increasingly, I believe that many people coming to a site from some random link on the internet aren’t familiar with those things and wouldn’t find that type of filtering useful and may find site architecture based on those considerations baffling. It’s sad that in 2008, we’re still building news sites for us and not our audiences. News editors can’t see the forest from the dead trees and build sites based on their print reading behaviours and their intimate knowledge of their desk structure instead of information needs of their audiences. When you look at online audiences for national or international titles, the great majority are not going to have any familiarity with your print product. Using print product paradigms as a basis for site architecture is a mistake.

Hey maybe I’m an edge case. Or maybe not. (Go to about 2:35 in the discussion of The State of the News Media 2008 by On the Media.) I only read physical newspapers when I fly. I rarely buy newspapers, and my news consumption is a lot more promiscuous. I don’t believe that any news source provides me with the complete picture so I fill in the blanks on my own.

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3 Responses to “Is Google hijacking newspaper website traffic with new search?”

  1. Lloyd Says:

    But Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, what about the sites that *have* implemented good site search, at large expense both in terms of time and effort. Like, for instance, your employer’s? Who can offer search by date, by subject, or by relevance? Who can promote relevant content to their users? Aren’t they offering a better experience than Google’s?

  2. Kevin Anderson Says:

    Lloyd, I didn’t mention my employer, and this being my personal opinion as opposed to an official Guardian blog, I was speaking about my observations about the industry and my experience both as a user and as a journalist.

    I think you’re right to point out that the situation is getting better and that the news industry is finally waking up to the fact that search has to be part of their service.

    However, as for promoting relevant content to users, we’ve got to get the users to the site first. Internal search and information architecture is important, but facilitating discovery is part of a growth strategy.

  3. deepak Says:

    i think you r not right to point out that the situation is not getting batter