In case you haven’t heard about it, blogs will figure prominently in Yahoo! News search.
Some 750,000 blogs and other user-generated content will soon show up on Yahoo! News search pages, presented right alongside news from mainstream media. But is Yahoo! taking another big step in the blurring of lines between professional media and grassroots journalism?
The company is testing a new search tool that includes results from thousands of mainstream media outlets and a separate results column for blogs, its new My Web social search and pictures posted to the company’s Flickr photo service.
“Traditional media don’t have the time or resources to cover all stories,” says Joff Redfern, a director in Yahoo! Search. “We want to offer an alternative perspective on news outside of what the mainstream media has to offer.”
In a prepared statement, Neil Budde, general manager of Yahoo! News, says the company wants to fuse professional journalism with so-called citizen journalism to provide a fuller spectrum of content to its members. Still, Yahoo! is clearly sensitive to the dangers of blurring the lines between professional and amateur journalism.
Results from 6,500 of Yahoo!’s content partners (mainstream media) will be displayed on the left side of the page. On the right side, clearly demarcated, will be relevant blog-search results. Below that, MyWeb and Flickr results will be listed.
“We will make sure there is enough differentiation and demarcate where the [content] is coming from,” says Redfern. “Part of the goal here is to learn from consumers and publishers, he added, noting that blogs aren’t necessarily cannibalizing mainstream media. “Sometimes this stuff gets positioned as a zero-sum game, but it’s not.”
How will Yahoo! determine which search results to display in its blogs column? That’s a closely guarded secret. Yahoo! is loath to give content providers the tools that might help them game the system for better visibility. The company won’t discuss specifics but says that blog-search results are based in part on the popularity of the blogs within MyYahoo, as measured by a computer algorithm.
“If we’ve got more people subscribed to a blog, there is presumably more credibility to its reputation,” says Redfern.
That might be true, yet consider the Drudge Report’s huge numbers of readers but spotty accuracy.
Redfern says there is no human vetting of blogs, nor is there a specific minimum, in terms of page views or readers, that will admit a blog into Yahoo!’s index.
Initially, only blogs registered with the MyYahoo! RSS directory—there are about 750,000 today—will be searchable. Bloggers will soon be able to apply to Yahoo! Search to add their blog to its index, even if it’s outside the MyYahoo! universe.
Yahoo! has long been an aggregator of news content but has kept industry watchers and content partners guessing about its own ambitions since it hired Budde, a founding editor of the Wall Street Journal Online, to run Yahoo! News last November. Is the company planning to use its considerable resources to build its own news-gathering team?
For now, Yahoo! seems content to continue aggregating content from as many corners as possible. For example, it is also examining ways to search for podcasts and video.
Redfern would not discuss how the company plans to create revenue from its expanded search functions. But a bigger index of more diverse media types, regardless of their origin, inevitably means more ad dollars.
At the end of the day, ad revenue, not content, is what it’s all about.
News report by Lisa DiCarlo, extracted from forbes.com.