I find the competition between blogs and news outlets fascinating as here at TMC we have dozens of reporters and a number of bloggers as well. Today I was reading Workbench by Rogers Cadenhead and I learned of the following contest:
In 2002, blogging evangelist Dave Winer made a long bet with New York Times executive Martin Nisenholtz: "In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times’ Web site."
Since the AP recently released its top stories of 2007 the contest could officially begin.
To avoid suspense – the winner was blogs by a 3-2 margin.
It seems to me that this bet is unfair as the New York Times is but a single news source and blogs of course are everywhere. There are millions of them.
But what is not surprising is the fact that Wikipedia beat both and The New York Times on every story.
It is tough to express dismay over this issue in a more eloquent manner than Cadenhead who said:
Winer predicted a news environment "changed so thoroughly that informed people will look to amateurs they trust for the information they want." Nisenholtz expected the professional media to remain the authoritative source for "unbiased, accurate, and coherent" information.Instead, our most trusted source on the biggest news stories of 2007 is a horde of nameless, faceless amateurs who are not required to prove expertise in the subjects they cover.
So there you have it… Wikipedia has become the most highly-ranked site on important news stories – and just about everything else. As Google rolls out Knol, one wonders if its primary advantage over Wikipedia will be that the contributors will all be known. At this point it seems the public and the search engines don’t seem to care that Wikipedia is primarily anonymous.
I would imagine in 2008 we will see an uproar on the web regarding Google favoring its own Knol pages over Wikipedia.
If you think Knol pages ranking higher than Wikipedia is a far-fetched idea, consider the search giant has applied for a patent — WO 2005/029368 which focuses on determining search quality. According to the New Scientist:
The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of the bureaux cited, along with how long they have been in business. Google’s database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site.
So you can see the company weighs the quality of individual writers in its news algorithms. It makes sense they should do the same for all search results.
So it is possible Knol pages will soon be trumping Wikipedia entries – but I am sure they will likely both be ranked higher than blogs or the New York Times. So if you are a betting person, that’s how I would play it.