How the Google Top Stories Algorithm Change Is Killing Small Publishers

Have you looked at the Alexa rankings for a variety of sites in the past year? If so, you've probably noticed that large news and entertainment sites such as The New York Times or Us Magazine online have captured a majority of traffic and in doing so, have managed to take away the captive audiences that small publishers used to have.

But how did this happen? SEO experts will tell you that your content isn't good enough and that you need to meet certain "quality" standards to get into the "top stories" carousel.

But this just isn't true and simply isn't supported by the facts of the case.

The History of The Google Top Stories Algorithm

Let's go back in time to understand what really happened and why the changes to the Google top stories algorithm were made with the section "In the News" carousel, now being called "Top Stories" and burgeoning publishers being kept from gaining traffic.

Last year, a major, highly controversial election took place. Trump unexpectedly won the election for US president. But more importantly, on winning the election, an article was somehow picked up by "In the News" from a rogue site noting that Trump had won the popular vote.

Interestingly, it was Clinton's folks who first touted the idea of "fake news" and used this particular event as a prime example of their claim that the media was biasing its output toward Trump.

However, the event was soon blasted all over the internet and Google quickly came under fire. In fact, Google soon became known as the purveyor of "fake news."

Now, in reality, Google News had been handpicking its publishers and ensuring that those who were featured in the "In the News" section have been meeting certain quality standards and guidelines.

The entire process was overseen by people rather than the Google top stories algorithm.

The Google Top Stories Algorithm Reaction to Bad Press

However, reacting to the bad press it was getting, Google overhauled their "In the News" carousel to produce the "Top Stories section." Now, paradoxically, the change has actually led to worsening of the situation.

That's because "Top Stories" is no longer overseen by people and instead utilizes a computer based algorithm to showcase any comment, site or article across the internet.

But that means that a random remark made on Reddit or possibly "fake news" can actually make it back into "Top Stories." The recent 4chan controversy, in which the site spread a hoax that the Las Vegas shooter was a member of Antifa is a case in point.

Another notable trend from the shakeup with the Google top stories algorithm is that Google is particularly prone to featuring only the top authority sites in its "Too Stories" carousel, in order to suppress further possibility of "fake news" propagation. But a huge fallout of such censoring methodology is the death of small publishers.

And let's not forget, although the New York Times has always been a major publisher, sites such as "Mashable" or "Jezebel" which produce extremely high-quality content didn't begin as the New York Times, they began as small publishers.

Another problem with favoring only large sites, is that they often sample the up-to-date reporting that small publishers are more easily able to execute, thereby taking credit for what the little guy is doing.

Additionally, this tendency discredits the idea that large publishers have authority since they get their information from around the internet anyway.

The reality is that in the past few years, especially now with the changes with the Google top stories algorithm, Google has morphed from its "Do No Evil" mantra into a "Big Brother"-type institution that has been monopolizing the internet. And even though their original claim to credibility was a search algorithm that featured a wide variety of sites organized in an easy to use format, their current methodology is biasing internet users toward viewing content from just 2 or 3 publishers.

The Google top stories algorithm is effectively killing the internet.

Have you noticed the change yourself? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Alexa