Google search has been in the news lately.

Charlie Warzel wrote a fascinating article in the Atlantic that makes the case that Google search isn’t what it used to be.

While conceding Google is a modern miracle that changed the world, he argues:
a) Google has little competition so there’s been no pressure to improve
b) Search results are cluttered with ads
c) Some results are distorted by AI algorithms
d) A crack down on fake posts has made results less interesting

Warzel writes: “Google search might be worse now because, like much of the internet, it has matured and has been ruthlessly commercialized. In an attempt to avoid regulation and be corporate-friendly, parts of it might be less wild. But some of what feels dead or dying about Google might be our own nostalgia for a smaller, less mature internet.”

Warzel’s article focuses on searches for products and general information.

Searching for news on companies, as investors do, is also sometimes less than ideal. In many cases results could be improved with small tweaks in the algorithms.

Three weeks ago I was searching for news on Tesla. The first three stories were about Musk complaining that Bill Gates had a large short position in Tesla.

The headlines were from Yahoo, Bloomberg and Fortune.

Drilling into the stories showed the stories were word for word the same.

That’s because Yahoo and Fortune were also carrying the Bloomberg article. Presumably, they have a syndication deal to do so.

This also happens with stories in newspapers that are being carried from Reuters or the Associated Press. The algo seems to detect the media source, not the content source.

In the Tesla example, the time stamps showed Yahoo ran the article 16 hours earlier, while it was on Bloomberg 19 hours prior and Fortune three hours before.

Presumably the algo should favor the older (original) post or the newer (possibly updated) information. Picking the story in the middle is strange.

Also, the Bloomberg article was behind a paywall, while the versions on Yahoo and Fortune were not. That’s a conundrum. It makes sense to prioritize the original source, but it would be a better customer experience to provide the version more people can access.

A few ways it could be better:
–Display three thematically different stories
–Suppress or downplay stories when they are identical.
–Prioritize the original source
–Consider how to handle paywall vs free versions

Read the original Atlantic article here: