Where is the best place to hide a body? Page 2 of the Google search results. No one ever goes beyond the first page of the search results. Most people don't even get beyond the featured results. Google execs know this, which is why the results of new study are even more telling and disturbing.
Before we delve into that study, one of the undeniable truths of life is that every hard news story you read, watch,, or listen to is biased. Traditional print and broadcast media have limited space or time. Even a reporter with good intentions must decide which facts to omit or include in the story. We already know that many 'reporters' will also write stories with a specific intention or goal in mind and it is not to accurately inform the consumer. Which is why outlets such as our own Grant County Beat are so important, those traditional space limitations don't apply here.
But back to Google: researchers at Northwestern University analyzed more than 200 news related questions posed to Google everyday for the month of November 2017. What they found is that the featured responses were from left-leaning news sources 86% of the time and came from only 20 news sources. CNN, the NY Times, and the Washington Post were featured 23% of the time. Fox News by comparison was featured only 3% of the time and no other right-leaning news source made the top results list more than .5% of the time.
The researchers admit they cannot draw solid conclusions as to why those sources dominate the results because Google is not very transparent with their algorithms. Maybe it's monetary; are those outlets paying Google to be featured outside of the sponsored results box? The more clicks their websites obtain, the more they can charge advertisers. Google won't say.
What they did say is that they cannot detect political leanings. Their algorithm is designed to detect relevance, timing, and authoritativeness. I can see that recent results are more desirable and relevance could be a function of matching more key words. But how do you detect authoritativeness? And there lies the rub.
Detecting authoritativeness is a subjective process.Is it viewership? Clearly not, since CNN is the top broadcast media outlet in Google's search results and their viewership has slipped to about 300,000 people at any given time while Fox News viewership is around 3 times as large. The NY Times is losing readers faster than the Titanic took on water. Any number of online news sources outpace the Gray Lady's customer base.
Clearly the execs at Google have made a conscious decision, for whatever reason, to push left-leaning news sources to the top of the list. Whether their reasoning is philosophical, monetary, or something else, Which is why we should all be looking for the 'dead bodies' on page 2 or page 1,000 since the typical search response claims to have found over a million results in .28 seconds.