Does Google Need Digg?

If Google were to buy Digg or gain access to Digg's intellectual property or the data that it has on its community, it would only be a shortcut to getting something done fast, says Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. But he's hesitant to read too much into the rumors, and he believes that Google is capable of improving on its own. "Even though I don't think they've done that well with Google News so far...it's not like they're out of this," says Gillmor.

And while the speed at which news stories are posted matters, another important challenge for online news aggregators is disambiguating stories that are high quality from those that are merely popular. Neither Digg nor Google News does this consistently well, says Gillmor. "Google should be working on ways to combine reputation, but not just reputation of some editorial product: reputation with popularity," he says. "Everyone in this field should be doing that." Gillmor adds that there's enormous possibility out there for the company that gets that right, but "we're a long way from seeing it sorted out."

Google's Cohen claims not to be interested in data from Digg that highlights how it spotlights and promotes stories. But he does say that engineers are constantly trying to improve Google News by looking at different types of data, including the type of news links that people click on. "There's a whole host of signals that you can use," he says, including community voting signals. "It's a question of what you want to get out of it."

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