Adam Penenberg in Wired notes that “the paper of record” is anything but in cyberspace.
How can the mighty New York Times, which considers itself America’s paper of record, be the paper of record in cyberspace when its articles barely show up on Google?
This has to be more than just a slight irritation to the Times, because search engines play a key role: They collate information, and on the Internet there’s a whole lot of that, often too much. (Hence the term data smog.) In essence, they act as informational portals. So if you’re trying to get the dope on your favorite author, hip-hop MC or representative, or learn more about an important issue dominating the news, your first stop may very well be Google.
But recently, when I googled the terms “Iraq torture prison Abu Ghraib” — certainly one of the most intensively covered news stories of the year — the first New York Times article was the 295th search result, trailing the New Yorker, Guardian, ABC and CBS News, New York Post, MSNBC, Slate, CNN, Sydney Morning Herald, Denver Post, USA Today, Bill O’Reilly on FoxNews and a host of others news sites.
What’s more, tons of other non-traditional news sources came ahead of the Times, including a number of blogs and low-budget rabble-rousers like Antiwar.com, CounterPunch, truthout and Beliefnet (a site dedicated to spirituality). So did Al-Jazeera (twice). But the Times still ranked low, even after it plastered an Abu Ghraib story on its front page for 32 straight days between May and June. And Google isn’t the only one to shun the Times: I got similar results from other search engines (AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo).If The Times, WSJ, and Washington Post want to wall off their content, I for one will not feel in the least bit sorry that their stories are so poorly ranked in the search algorithms. I avoid links to those three sources (and other mandatory registration sites) and much as possible because of their policies. Any time they want to improve their standing they can: change their registration requirements; make archive links durable and free; and encourage others to link to their content. Once they do that they may be able to beat the blogs.
Given the accuracy in the Times maybe it belongs where it is showing up?