We all know that news consumption is no longer passive, whether it’s reader comments on a blog post or news article, or individuals starting a blog to have a voice of their own — the evidence is everywhere.
Less evident is how search has fundamentally changed how we consume news. Instead of passively accepting the information provided by any single news source, search has taught us to be active news consumers, so seek out news from the wealth of sources on the web.
I had a close encounter with the increasing influence of search on news consumption thanks to a spelling error. My post last Sunday about about how news sites were covering the breaking news about the Bear Stearns bailout originally had the misspelling “Bear Sterns”. (Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows about my travails with spelling.)
Well, it turns out a lot of other people don’t know that Stearns has an “a” in it. Overnight, I started getting an avalanche of traffic because the post was ranking for searches with the keyword “Bear Sterns” — after I corrected the error, it started to rank for searches with with correct spelling.
In most cases, my post appeared in Google blog search result cluster, which Google sometimes adds to a search result the same as it does with Google News results (part of Google Universal Search) — this appeared at the bottom of the search result page.
My post was a meta news story, i.e. it didn’t have any real news about Bear Stearns, it just discussed how the story was being covered.
Despite all these limitations — ranking for misspelling, not appearing as a main search result, and having a less than newsy title — I still got thousands of visits.
Imagine how much traffic the top search results got.
The real significance is what this tells us about news consumption on the web. When a news story is of great interest, news consumers are not content just to read what CNN, Yahoo, or NYT have to offer.
Instead, they go to the one place where they know they can get information from many different sources — they go to search.
It’s hard to appreciate the significance of this shift until you’ve seen it from the inside — so let me invite you to take a look. Here’s a partial list of keywords that brought news searchers to my Bear Stearns post:
bear sterns news
bear stearns news
bear stearns story
bear sterns story
news bear sterns
bear stearns collapse
bear stearns crisis
bear sterns collapse
bear sterns, news
jp morgan buys bear sterns
jpmorgan bearn stern
news about bear sterns
news on bear sterns
analysis on bear stearns collapse
bear & sterns
bear sterns crisis
bear sterns melt down hits insurance segment
bear sterns problems
jp morgan and bear sterns
jp morgan bear sterns
jp morgan buys bear stearns
jpmorgan and bear sterns
what is bear stearns
bear sterns”” employees
bear sterns”” j.p. morgan
bear sterns”” jpmorgan
bear & stearns
bear and stearns
bear n stearn
bear stearn , emc, jp morgan
bear stearn news on march the 17th
bear stearnes breaking news
bear stearns and 2008
bear stearns employees
bear stearns in the news
bear stearns jp morgan
bear stearns news 2008
bear stearns the real story
bear stearns’ collapse
bear stern crisis
bear stern investment banking
bear sterns and jp morgan chase
bear sterns bank
bear sterns employee stories
bear sterns employees
bear sterns fire sale
bear sterns green
bear sterns in news
bear sterns is a
bear sterns jp morgan
bear sterns jp morgan recenet news
bear sterns jpmorgan
bear sterns reporting
bear sterns transition
bear sterns, news,
bearn stearns crisis
bearn stern jp morgan
bearn sterns and jpmorgan
bearns and stearns+jp morgan
bears stearns story
breaking news, bear stearns
breaking news about bear stearns co
cnn breaking news bear stearns
does jp morgan has to do anything with bear stearns
emc after bear stearns collapse
emc bear sterns
google bear sterns
google news bear sterns
j p morgan bear scream
jp morgan +bear stearns +summary
jp morgan and bear and stearns news
jp morgan and bear deal closing date
jp morgan and bear stearns don’t understand the deal
jp morgan bear stearns
jp morgan bear sterns deal closing date
jp morgan buys bear stearn
jp morgan buys bear sterms
jp morgan buys bearn stern
jp morgan buys bears stearns
jpmorgan bear sterns 16 march 2008
jpmorgan buys bear sterns
news + bear stearns
news + bear sterns
news about bears sterns and jp morgan
news bearn stearns
news emc bear strens
news jp morgan bear stearns
news with bear sterns
news, bear sterns
ny times on bear stearns
ny times story on jpmorgan and bear stearns
read “”bear stearns”” report “”online video”” monetization 2008
stories of bear stears employees
story of bearsterns
the bear stearn story
the bear stearns story
the collapse of bear sterns
usa buys bearn stears 2008
what about bear stearns
what led to bear stearns collapse
what led to the sale of bear stearns
why bear stearns collapse
wsj bear chronology
how did jp morgan buy bear stearns?
how did the government help sell of bear stearns?
news emc bear sterns
Still not convinced that search is driving a fundamental shift in how people consume news? Still believe that most people are content with their favorite news site’s homepage?
Well, don’t take my word for it — ask news sites about their faith in maintaining and growing direct traffic to their brands.
How about the New York Times? Or Reuters? Here’s the most interesting item I found on the Google search result for “Bear Stearns news“:
Yes, that’s right — those are ADS for news about Bear Stearns on Reuters.com and NYTimes.com.
If you search for news on Google, you’ll find these ads everywhere, e.g.
The Financial Times is advertising its news. Even Yale is advertising its global news blog.
And why? Because these news brands are savvy enough to realize that they have been disintermediated, and that news consumers may turn first to a site like Google that can give them coverage of a news story from EVERY source on the web, not just one.
New York Times killed TimesSelect because they realized more people would discover that content through search than would coming in through the NYT brand front door — and all of those news consumers coming in through search are casting a net as wide as the web.
News brands that only publish their own version of the news will increasingly disappoint news consumers whose expectations have been fundamentally changed by search. Publishing only your own content is increasingly a great way to accelerate the disintermediation of your news brand by other brands that give news consumers more of the wealth of the web.
Increasingly, news consumers will read a news brand’s reporting on a story of interest and say, OK, what else have you got?
If they don’t find anything else, they will go elsewhere — to Google and other aggregators that aren’t biased in favor of one source of content. (There’s a reason why Digg is so popular with its niche — and it has nothing to do with democracy.)
NYTimes.com may have embraced search engine optimization — and search engine marketing — but that doesn’t meant they have capitulated to disintermediation. Here’s what you’ll find on the NYTimes.com Technology section:
So rather than just publish their own technology content, NYTimes.com is aiming to provide news consumers interested in technology with more of what the web has to offer, by publishing links to the best technology news on the web.
Of course, these are links off of the NTY site, but they are simply applying the Google rule of linking on the web — the better job you do sending people away, the more they will come back.