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BBC invests in Google
January 27, 2004 7:16 AM   Subscribe

The BBC is buying up search terms for 'Hutton Inquiry' and 'Hutton Report' through Google's Adwords service. I see this almost as the online journalistic equivalent of a government sexing up dossiers, and a first for any news organisation, according to the Guardian. Regardless of your (or Hutton's) opinion of the BBC's role in the Kelly affair, I don't see how they can possibly justify trying to control where people get their news from, especially as Hutton is almost certain to find the corporation (well, Andrew Gilligan anyway) to be a contributing factor in Kelly's suicide.
posted by cbrody (13 comments total)

 
Kelly's suicide

He commited suicide? Are you sure?

/dons tin foil hat.
posted by twine42 at 7:24 AM on January 27, 2004


Regarding the google thing - it's just advertising, and news organisations do it all the time. The Guardian's report is unrepresentative, and is little more scaremongering (as is much of their media reporting).

Of course, the BBC could perhaps have picked a better story to start this trial on..
posted by ascullion at 7:29 AM on January 27, 2004


[via blogdex - sorry]

I know the story of the report is about to break big-time, and I don't want to pre-empt any discussion of the findings after they're released tomorrow, but I thought this attempt by the BBC at what looks like a transparent damage-limitation excercise was worthy of discussion on its own merits.

Interestingly enough, when I do the same searches I can't actually see the paid-for links that the Guardian reports. Perhaps they've changed their collective mind?

On preview, good point twine42. I wrote "death" to begin with but thought at least that "suicide" was something all parties could agree on (except for Kelly himself of course). I now regret second-guessing the report!
posted by cbrody at 7:29 AM on January 27, 2004


from the Guardian:
"Despite being one of the main players in the drama, anyone searching for "Hutton inquiry" or "Hutton report" on the UK's most popular search engine Google is automatically directed to a paid-for link to BBC Online's own news coverage of the inquiry."

I tried this on google.com and google.co.uk, although news.bbc.co.uk was the first search result, i saw no paid for search results, and i was certainly not 'automatically directed' to the BBC Online's website. If i was 'automatically directed' to a website without clicking on the 'i feel lucky' button i think i would close the browser and never visit google again.

I can't prove it, but this article stinks of FUD, and is probably the result of the Guardian Media Group wanting a slice of the bbc.co.uk pie, just like Rupert Murdoch does.
posted by derbs at 7:34 AM on January 27, 2004


ascullion, call me naive but I don't think a publicly funded news gathering organisation should be doing this kind of advertising. It's a slippery slope that ends with purely commercial infotainment masquerading as news in one domain and non-stop webspam in another. Advertising and public service don't go together, period.

derbs, well if the story is completely false then matt should delete this thread post-haste so as not to add to the Grauniad's google-juice. Obviously a lot of details are incorrect in the article, but you come to expect that from any old-world news source reporting on such subjects.

OK enough from me - I'll shut up now.
posted by cbrody at 7:46 AM on January 27, 2004


Um..this appears to be a load of crap.
posted by Orange Goblin at 7:56 AM on January 27, 2004


I don't see how they can possibly justify trying to control where people get their news from, especially as Hutton is almost certain to find the corporation (well, Andrew Gilligan anyway) to be a contributing factor in Kelly's suicide.


How exactly is buying google adwords "controling" where people get their news? You can't even buy exclusive rights to a term through them. And all the other natural search results would also be returned.
posted by delmoi at 7:56 AM on January 27, 2004


Oh my god! Save us! Not adwords! Wow, those evil socialist Brits at the BBC sure are trying to "Control where people get their news from."

Your outrage is up at 11. This story deserves, oh, a 2. Maybe. Hell, the only newsworthy thing in it is that the BBC's getting hip to modern advertising techniques. Comparing it to the 'Sexed up' dossier goes beyond even hyperbole. How, exactly, is the BBC tampering with intelligence estimates? Are they buying up these AdWords to link to a story that lies about the Hutton Inquiry and exaggerates the severity of the charges against Blair? Cause that, maybe, would be occasion to bring up the dodgy dossier. Not AdWords.
posted by jbrjake at 8:05 AM on January 27, 2004


I lied (about shutting up).

Just spoke to Owen Gibson of the Guardian and he denies that the article intended to say that you would get automatically redirected to another site, just that the links appeared prominently on the page. Also, the "first use" that he claims is not the use of Adwords by news organisations (an obvious point to some, but I had to press him quite hard on this) but specifically for the terms in question.

On the larger point about the missing ads, he says that they were appearing on Google "towards the end of last week" although he wouldn't be more specific than this. The reason for them not appearing anymore, he said, was because the trial has ended.

His stating that the trial had begun "just 48 hours before" the report was due to be published, could possibly be attributed to the long production lead times of the Media Guardian, if one was being generous.

As with the other "minor errors" (not that he conceded any) it's sloppy writing which does seem intended to mislead. BBC 1 Guardian 0

I stick to my point about adwords though - the BBC should be above all that. ;)
posted by cbrody at 8:18 AM on January 27, 2004


At one time the BBC was buying up Google keywords for rival radio stations. A search for "Radio Caroline" or a mention of it on sites with Google ads would bring up an ad for BBC 6music.
posted by kerplunk at 11:37 AM on January 27, 2004


Just spoke to Owen Gibson of the Guardian and he denies that the article intended to say that you would get automatically redirected to another site, just that the links appeared prominently on the page

Owen Gibson
Monday January 26, 2004

Just 48 hours before Lord Hutton delivers his verdict on the controversy surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the BBC has begun an advertising experiment that involves buying up all internet search terms relating to the inquiry.

Whatever his 'intention', those are his printed words.

Another sad day for my once-preferred old media.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:41 PM on January 27, 2004


In other news, BBC America uses Google to control where people get their, um, 'office' from. I'm sure the US Patent Office and OpenOffice.org must feel sickened.

(Yes, I know it's a joint overseas venture and so is exempt from Charter requirements)
posted by riviera at 2:32 PM on January 27, 2004


It would seem that Owen Gibson doesn't have an entirely firm command of the English language.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2004


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