A very interesting question

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine if you typed a search request into Google – say for information about the coronavirus or bushfires or the best phone to buy – and the results that came back to you included none from traditional media companies.

No news reports written by journalists, no independent reviews by technology reporters, no professional compilations of the latest on a crisis.

How useful would Google be to you then?

And if the answer were “Just as useful as it is now” then what’s the point of all those grievance studies graduates doing the typing?

29 thoughts on “A very interesting question”

  1. BlokeInNormandyFromTejas


    I buy hifi equipment as and when I want. I can’t go see and play with some of these in stores any more (too many products for any one place to stock everything).

    So I rely on reviews for first-pass filtering. Stereophile and Absolute Sound for hifi. These are real print magazines (so far) with an online presence. Do these count as traditional media companies?

    If so, I’d be screwed for that usage.

    I also look for cunning technical information. How the heck to use SwiftUI to build an app with an interface “like” XCode (or BBEdit)? Ain’t no mainstream media doing that.

    Or info on companies like Kalray. Go direct to their site. Or info I’ve read on the websites of El Reg, or EETimes – are they mainstream media?

    I think the classification of ‘journalists’ is befuddling. If the folk who write for (eg) the NYT are journalists (of whatever calibre), what are the people at HuffPo? Or Occupy Democrats, etc?

    I would certainly not want to only get hits from the likes of HuffPo or some idiot leftwing online presence…

    Thus, I’m at a loss to answer the question.

  2. No news reports written by journalists, no independent reviews by technology reporters, no professional compilations of the latest on a crisis.

    Is the writer suggesting these thing are only available in the traditional media? Not a good move to start your defence with an obviously untrue statement.

  3. ‘but their dominance of the advertising market threatens to kill the source of their trustworthy content’

    Guardian? Trustworthy content?

    Good to see they have a sense of humour.

    ‘A Google spokesperson did not respond on Monday to questions about whether Google would pull news content’

    Philosophers want to know, “If they didn’t respond, how can they be a spokesperson?”

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    Who relies or even consults the MSM when buying something?

    If they come up in my searches I ignore them.

  5. Well, I outsource my opinion on some things to the MSM.

    For example, if I want to buy a hard disk, or a flat screen monitor, or a printer, I don’t have the time or the expertise to do a lab test of half a dozen different ones.

    So my normal action has been to look at the reviews in PC Pro magazine, read the reviews for the top 2 or 3, and pick one.

  6. Without trusted media professionals, how will we know that Islam is a religion of peace, women can have penises, and the world will end in 12 years unless we obey a retarded Swedish child? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  7. Er… why should Google provide free advertising for mainstream media sites by linking to them in search results?

  8. BiND,

    “Who relies or even consults the MSM when buying something?”

    Over time, less and less. Jancis Robinson in the FT is still useful.

    But in general, the valuable review stuff is either experts who know their stuff, like hardware guys who know how to really test a phone. Or it’s the combined review sites. Like, Tripadvisor. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but find restaurants with an average of 4-4.5 and you’ll rarely get a bad meal. A single review can get all sorts of problems.

    And then there’s bias of various sorts in reviews, like video game magazines are notorious for giving good reviews to companies that spend a lot on ads. Or people reviewing their mate’s restaurant in Clerkenwell. Or people who give glowing reviews to Star Wars movies because they got an early screening (and they all know that if they don’t, they won’t be getting asked back). Movie criticism has improved with blogs and YouTube because it’s people who have no connection with the industry and are buying their own tickets.

  9. I don’t class PC Pro as mainstream; I also use them.

    I stopped using them specifically because they couldn’t keep their mainstream political opinions to themselves. Especially that pontificating bearded twat with the hat who thinks Polly Toynbee is a font of wisdom. Some months ago I picked one up off the shelf for consideration and it was the same. Then I saw Jon Honeyball had a husband. FFS and back it went.

    There’s loads of YouTubers doing equipment reviews and some of them are pretty good. There are also websites that do really thorough tests of monitors and TVs, etc. And you can look at them on the bog, too. No need for the dinosaurs.

  10. BoM4 – Movie criticism has improved with blogs

    Disagree. Movie criticism is dead, the best thing we’ve got to replace it is Mike and Jay sharing their breezily entertaining but shallow thoughts on YouTube.

    But that’s OK, because movies are dead. They’re theme park rides now, soulless corporate products assembled on a production line of focus-group-tested, diversity-box-ticking CGI effluent. A river of digital sludge gushing endlessly for the consumption of fat-arsed Western manchildren and hordes of inscrutable, fungible Chinamen with the aesthetic tastes and mature sensibilities of a hyperactive toddler on a candy floss binge.

    Bring back the cantankerous elitist misanthrope critics of yesteryear, such as the incomparable John Simon:

    (Barbra Streisand’s nose) “cleaves the giant screen from east to west, bisects it from north to south. It zigzags across our horizon like a bolt of fleshy lightning”

    Pure, poisonous poetry. Bravo!

  11. Steve: Agree about modern movies. There are occasional pearls on Film4 but there’s a lot of dross there too. The last film I went to see at the cinema was Apollo 11 last July, though I did watch the one about Elton John and the one about Dick Cheney on long plane trips last autumn.

    Hollywood has a complete lack of imagination but it doesn’t affect their bottom line as it seems any old Marvel/DC crap will draw in the punters.

  12. Gamecock:

    The Guardian is indeed “Trustworthy content”. It is my go-to source for amusing lies, dishonesty, socialist incompetence, and the latest, greatest fads for stupid and/or evil people.

    There is no better preview for the next scheme for theft by takers and fakers from makers, the Guardian beats even the New York Times.

  13. I find Tripadvisor very useful. There’s a bit of an art to parsing reviews, but generally if 500 people say something is good, it is.

    I’m with Steve on modern films, especially the superhero comics wank. Which sometimes seems to be all there is. Naturally the reviews are crap, the best you can hope for is someone mocking the idiocy, like the CinemaSins videos on Youtube.

    PC Pro is owned by Dennis Publishing, a traditional publishing company.

  14. I’m not sure where you draw the line on mainstream vs all the other sites that have sprung up that might only represent one person or a few collaborators, some of whom seem to have genuine expertise and many are flakes. I bought a camera recently after reading various camera reviews, some on sites such as CNET and others from people who were apparently enthusiastic users and seemed to be pretty knowledgeable in their discussions. I recently took a long bike ride along a back road I’d never have thought to take but for reviews on someone’s site about roads he liked to ride. I’ve never been a gardener, but with the shutdown and a nice California spring starting, I’ve read a few articles and have planted some vegetables relying heavily on what I’ve read online – some from the local San Francisco paper. I’ve been learning about fly fishing, sometimes reading or viewing what’s on the web sites of mainstream outdoor magazines, found through Google or DuckDuckGo. These are pretty useful.

  15. I gave up on TV 50 years ago, I don’t even switch it on in hotel rooms now. Newspapers were thing to read on a train, I don’t bother now. The radio broke four years ago and as reception in the kitchen is poor I never replaced it. I gave up on the BBC website for the election and haven’t gone back since.
    ‘No news reports written by journalists’, I tried the Reuters website on the basis that none of the newspapers do anything but rephrase agency reports. It seems they don’t even do that, so that’s Reuters un-bookmarked.
    “no independent reviews by technology reporters”, I go to youtube: bigclivedotcom,
    Techmoan, …
    “no professional compilations of the latest on a crisis” I can read the numbers myself and there is more sense contributed on sites like these than any written by a journalist.

    So get your MSM off my search results, it will save me scrolling down or to the next page for something more useful.

  16. Tractor Gent @ 1.52. Watched ‘Blazing Saddles’ on Air Chinada when flying from Heathrow to Calgary in October last. Stunned there were no cuts or bleeps. Magnificent. Would not get made today.
    Most modern movies seem to be woke versions of work done earlier and better.

  17. What a sly and lovely conflation of wildly politicised news reporting with technical reviews of products. Apparently if we lose the lies, spin and fake news from the media then all the useful stuff also goes with it!

    Would love to hear exactly how this would happen.

  18. The spins and lies are often the main section of newspapers or magazines that have other sections that might be pretty useful. The San Francisco Chronicle (aka Comical) is a pretty awful newspaper, but in addition to the outright nonsense it has a sports section, sometimes gardening articles, technology articles and reviews, and suggestions for sights to see. There’s some good stuff there, though presumably some of the good stuff could find another home.

  19. Addolff: Yes! One of my all-time favourite movies. Mel Brooks came up with some amazing stuff when he was on form. ‘The Producers’ is excellent too.

  20. How useful would Google be to you then?

    Probably *more* useful.

    The closest thing to an MSM outlet that I use is The Weather Channel. Local news comes from a Facebook page run by some volunteers. Coronavirus news comes straight from my county’s public health agency. The reporting by the MSM has been for places that are utterly alien to my little town, a long way away, and distorted all to hell in order to drum up clicks for advertising dollars – and, of course, orange man bad.

    And if I really wanted to, I could just go straight to one of the tv/newspaper websites for channels covering Tucson or Phoenix. If its ‘important’ it’ll be on the front page.

    The only thing I’d be using Google for is to look up *commentary* on these news stories, not the stories themselves. Because I’ve seen the quality that modern day journalists put out. Its not good.

  21. I never read msm by Google search, but I do read a lot of blogs that refer to the msm. Hard to say really.

    I think Google should just stop showing msm that demand it. See who wins.

    And Facebook should merely stop.

  22. Bloke in North Dorset said:
    “Who relies or even consults the MSM when buying something?”

    Indeed. The thought of reading something by “traditional media companies” on “the best phone to buy” is bizarre. I wouldn’t even expect them to come up in the search.

    I just tried it – searched Google for “the best phone to buy” – not a single “traditional media company” on the first page of Google. That itself shows the problem of the “traditional media” – one of his three examples is incorrect, it was ridiculously easy to check whether or not it was correct, but he couldn’t be bothered doing so.

    I also tried “coronavirus” – traditional media were there, but 8th & 9th on the list – government, NHS and WHO were much higher. However “bushfires” did come up with traditional media results, probably because they’re much further away so we don’t know so well what other sources to use. I’d get data from the government’s page – after all, the only thing the journalists are doing is giving their opinions on that same data, so I might as well go to the source.

  23. Showed my teen child Blazing Saddles the other day, once they got past the casual use of the N word they loved it, but first 15mins was ‘but they can’t say/do that’

  24. @PJF

    I stopped buying PC Pro circa 2014 when they “updated” and morphed into Computer Gossip Magazine, then El Reg binned too when they went PC SJW Woke

    El Reg on Monday: had a look thinking they’d be all over Ferguson’s models – nothing

    For buying I search:
    – product review
    – product forum

    Here, TCW, Fox, DM Columnists, Spectator, Spiked, ARRSE…

    MSM is dominated by click bait gossip and ignored

  25. Bloke in Rock Ridge

    Showed my teen child Blazing Saddles the other day, once they got past the casual use of the N word they loved it, but first 15mins was ‘but they can’t say/do that’

    Did you tell them that most of the dialog for the film was written by a black bloke? (Richard Pryor, if you didn’t know).

  26. @TD

    “ I’ve been learning about fly fishing, sometimes reading or viewing what’s on the web sites of mainstream outdoor magazines”

    If you want to know about fly fishing, there’s only one book you need to read. It’s by JR Hartley, and you have to use the Yellow Pages to find it…

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