So, What’s the Headline News Today?

 

Daily-News-headline-newspapersAs you probably know, Google, Facebook, and other news aggregators work very hard to please you. In fact, they’re sort of like the creepiest guy you could imagine dating. (Adapt the simile as appropriate, if you date ladies.)

They study every term you search and think deeply about what it says about you. They remember every link you’ve ever clicked, and they ask themselves, thoughtfully, “What does it mean that she was interested in that?” They keep a list of all your friends. They study what your friends search for and what they click. They know where you live. They know what you buy. They know when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake, they know when you’ve been good or bad, and they know when you’ve got a touch of the flu.

They’re fascinated to discover that you like certain sports teams — wow, she likes Ronda Rousey too, we’re perfect for each other. They know who your favorite celebrities are, and they can even tell if you’re pregnant before you can. (They don’t even mind if it’s not their child — that’s how much they love you.)

And because they just want to make you happy, they spend their every nanosecond trying to figure out what you might like to see next on the Internet. They hope that if they prove they know you even better than you know yourself, and can anticipate your every wish, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll fall in love with them and never leave them — or at least, that you’ll buy something from one of their advertisers.

Sadly, as with all such ardent suitors, the worrying part is that the courtship phase probably won’t last forever. After they’re done watching every every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, and every step you take, their love could easily become a bit controlling. Abusive, even. For example, Google might start telling you for whom you should vote:

Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”

“Accidentally” is not necessarily how that would happen, by the way, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt; after all, even though Google is racing to be the the first company on a US-listed stock exchange with more than $1 trillion in market cap, their motto is “Don’t be evil.” This sophisticated theology probably militates against any possibility that they would try to use their power in a self-interested way. Right? Right.

Anyway, to my question. When you look at the news today — doesn’t matter which news source you use, unless it’s television or print, which no one uses anymore — what are the top ten headlines you see? Because I suspect you and I may be looking at the news in a very different way. In fact, I suspect I may see very different stories. Here are my top ten on Google News:

  1. At least 12 arrests reported on fourth night of demonstrations in Ferguson
  2. Rick Perry stops paying all of his staff as fundraising dries up
  3. EPA spill: ‘We looked at the river and we cried’
  4. A French couple’s love for the American West ends in tragedy
  5. Who Is Sundar Pichai, Google’s New CEO? (Odd that they think I’d be so interested in this, isn’t it?)
  6. Another huge crowd for Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders
  7. Political Violence Rages as Turkish Snap Poll Looks Likely
  8. Republican Debate: Marco Rubio Wins With 7 For 7
  9. US calls for peace between Afghanistan, Pakistan to defeat violent extremists
  10. Ukraine Suffers ‘Worst Shelling in Six Months’ as Violence Escalates

Alas, Google still doesn’t know me well enough to make me completely happy. I reckon I know why they think I’d be interested in the story of a French couple whose love for the American West ends in tragedy, but they’re quite wrong. I may be from the American West, and I may be interested in news about France, but it sure doesn’t add up to “interested in that story.” But apart from that — not bad, Google, not bad. I’d click on the other ones.

In fact, I did.

Now, interestingly, below are the top ten stories you’d get if Google knew nothing at all about you. This is based, I assume, on the rest of the world’s Google searches, although … look, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, you know that, but I have to wonder if the rest of the world is really more interested in first item than in any other topic, don’t you? If so, why?

  1. Google
  2. Kylie Jenner
  3. Taliban
  4. Warren Buffett
  5. Ferguson unrest
  6. Colorado
  7. Jennifer Aniston
  8. Istanbul
  9. Xiaomi
  10. Iran

So what do you see when you check the news on the Internet? Doesn’t matter if you’re looking at Google, Facebook, or any other Internet news source. I’m just curious to know what you see when it occurs to you to ask, “So, what’s the headline news today?”

There are 36 comments.

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  1. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: “Don’t be evil.” This sophisticated theology probably militates against any possibility that they would try to use their power in a self-interested way. Right? Right.

    I’d rather they be upfront in their self interest. Nothing is as dangerous as someone convinced they are acting out of pure altruism.

    • #1
  2. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Screenshot_2015-08-11-01-42-05

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: “Don’t be evil.” This sophisticated theology probably militates against any possibility that they would try to use their power in a self-interested way. Right? Right.

    I’d rather they be upfront in their self interest. Nothing is as dangerous as someone convinced they are acting out of pure altruism.

    Well, they don’t make a huge secret of their enthusiasm for money, power, and hot tubs on their private jets. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I fear many people don’t quite grasp that a) there’s nothing wrong with that; but b) the desire for these things often makes people confused about the difference between “their own interests” and “everyone else’s,” hence — caveat emptor, caveat lector.  

    • #3
  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    David Sussman:

    Interesting, quite similar to mine. So my theory about why they thought I’d be interested in the French couple is wrong.

    • #4
  5. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Mine is very American Football centric.  I’m a little surprised….

    Hall of Fame: Brett Favre, Terrell Owens will head Class of 2016

    Watch Marshawn Lynch Mock Seahawks’ Super Bowl Blunder on ‘The League’

    Bill Clinton Reportedly Told Jeb Bush That His Donald Trump Problem Would Be …

    Carmike Cinemas Inc (CKEC) Discloses Form 4 Insider Selling : Exec. A Dale …

    Eagles CB JaCorey Shepherd tears ACL after Brandon Boykin traded

    WundaBar Pilates has unique take on traditional reformer classes

    Wilson Staff Celebrating 100 Years

    Yuan Devaluation Jolts Global Markets as Stocks, Metals Retreat

    ‘West’s aggressive stance pushes Russia to China, threatens Western dominance’

    Invest Like Henry Kissinger

    • #5
  6. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    David Sussman:

    Interesting, quite similar to mine. So my theory about why they thought I’d be interested in the French couple is wrong.

    I just installed Google news last week and spent a little time customizing it. It asked my preferences and I replied “see Claires”.

    • #6
  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak: WundaBar Pilates has unique take on traditional reformer classes

    Okay, I got that one yesterday, which really puzzled me, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never searched for “Pilates” even once in my life. Yoga, yes — I was thinking perhaps that was the connection — but Pilates, no.

    Have you ever searched for anything that would make Google think you’re interested in Pilates? Why would this be a trending story?

    • #7
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak: Yuan Devaluation Jolts Global Markets as Stocks, Metals Retreat

    And based on what they should know full well interests me, I should have seen that one. I spent hours looking for more information about this yesterday.

    • #8
  9. Ball Diamond Ball Member
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Edited, see next comment.

    • #9
  10. Ball Diamond Ball Member
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    From the left sidebar:

    Google

    Ferguson unrest

    Taliban

    Colorado

    Istanbul

    Xiaomi

    Iran

    Bernie Sanders

    Verizon Communications

    IKEA

    Which is not at all what the center column shows:

    Michael Brown’s Father Sends a Message to Ferguson Protesters

    Rick Perry campaign stops paying staffers in South Carolina

    French couple who died in desert gave son extra water, sheriff said

    Israeli company to Google: Find another name, Alphabet is taken!

    Officials Downstream From Colorado Mine Spill Demand Answers

    Iranian Foreign Minister Postpones Visit to Turkey

    • #10
  11. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Kozak: WundaBar Pilates has unique take on traditional reformer classes

    Okay, I got that one yesterday, which really puzzled me, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never searched for “Pilates” even once in my life. Yoga, yes — I was thinking perhaps that was the connection — but Pilates, no.

    Have you ever searched for anything that would make Google think you’re interested in Pilates? Why would this be a trending story?

    YouTubes on stretching.  I need to get more flexible in my dotage….

    • #11
  12. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Kozak: Yuan Devaluation Jolts Global Markets as Stocks, Metals Retreat

    And based on what they should know full well interests me, I should have seen that one. I spent hours looking for more information about this yesterday.

    Big story on Zero Hedge today.
    China Enters Currency War – Devalues Yuan By Most On Record

    • #12
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ball Diamond Ball: Google

    Okay, so what’s up with this. Is it possible that this has for hours been the most interesting news story to the whole world? It doesn’t seem plausible to me, especially since if you click on it, it leads you to many different stories about Google — all very positive — and none of which, inherently, the kind of thing that would generate front-page interest on any other site. Unless I’m missing something, Google is — understandably — advertising itself. But it’s not doing so in a particularly transparent way.

    Am I missing something?

    • #13
  14. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Just checked out Google news.  My headline articles are almost the same as everyone else’s:
    Protests return to Ferguson streets, state of emergency declared
    Rick Perry campaign stops paying staffers in South Carolina

    French couple who died in desert gave son extra water, sheriff said

    EPA spill: ‘We looked at the river and we cried’
    China devaluation heralds currency war; Greece gets deal

    So I don’t think it’s a wide-ranging conspiracy.  I think their news aggregators are aggregating the news and disseminating it en masse, and individual clicks, etc, don’t seem to have that much effect.  Of course, if I sign in to Google or Gmail that might make it different.

    The sidebar articles are exactly the same as shown above in #10.

    • #14
  15. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    So, What’s the Headline News Today?

    Look, Up In The Sky, Perseid Meteors

    Bad News For Team Perry

    • #15
  16. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Chris Campion: So I don’t think it’s a wide-ranging conspiracy.

    I definitely don’t think it’s a wide-ranging conspiracy. But I do think we see different things — although we’re all checking it at different times, now, so there’s no way to compare. But I’m guessing I’m the only one who gets headlines from Turkey as “Top News,” and I notice I never get a story about football — ever.

     I think their news aggregators are aggregating the news and disseminating it en masse, and individual clicks, etc, don’t seem to have that much effect.

     Of course, if I sign in to Google or Gmail that might make it different.

    I was actually curious about what people saw using sites other than Google News, too. Is that what everyone checks first when they ask themselves, “What’s in the news?” I tend to check it first but quickly move on to other sites.

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I wonder why “Istanbul” is trending on the left — is it because of the attack on the US consulate? It seems to me more logical for “Turkey” to trend, because that’s just one small piece of the terrible, violent events of the past few days and … oh, ask and you shall receive. Now it’s “Turkey” on the left.

    • #17
  18. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Every morning, Yahoo News provides me with local crime and weather stories from Philadelphia.  I haven’t lived in Philadelphia since I went to school there 50 years ago.  Once it knows something, the Internet never forgets.

    • #18
  19. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    “Don’t be evil”. Wonderful. What’s their definition of evil? For that matter,what’s their definition of “good”?

    • #19
  20. John Hendrix Thatcher
    John Hendrix
    @JohnHendrix

    Just checked Google News, which I almost never check

    Here were my “Top stories”:

    New York Times Ferguson, Under State of Emergency, Falls Into an Uneasy Calm

    Rick Perry campaign stops paying staffers in South Carolina

    French couple who died in desert gave son extra water, sheriff said

    EPA spill: ‘We looked at the river and we cried’

    Jeb Bush: Obama and Clinton’s Iraq withdrawal ‘premature’ and a ‘fatal error’

    Sundar Pichai and the world of Indian CEOs

    I say that was a reasonable roundup of stories. Political stories attract my attention the most. The headlines quoting Rick Perry and Jeb confirmed my biases very nicely. Good job, Google!

    Then Google had some stories that were “Suggested for you” :

    Walker: ‘Everywhere In The World Hillary Clinton Has Touched Is More Messed Up

    Mel Brooks Q&A with “Blazing Saddles” Screening at NJPAC

    Raspberry Pi-friendly Windows 10 arrives – with an air hockey robot

    Shake Shack’s Sales Are Officially Hotter Than Chipotle’s

    Note: A Raspberry Pi is tiny computer. How tiny? This tiny:

    RaspberryPi-Hand

    Coincidentally, my business partner and I are developing a product that involves a Raspberry Pi (and much else.)

    Interesting that Google thought to suggest this story to me.

    The article quoting Gov Walker didn’t confirm any of my biases regarding Hillary  because:

    1. it’s mostly Obama’s fault anyway; and
    2. Obama had transferred so much responsibility to Czars that Hillary we left with involvement in Benghazi.  Which, again, I believe is mostly Obama’s fault.

    The item regarding Shake Shack it likely triggered by my interest in food.

    I think Google did a pretty good job stroking my biases and preexisting interests

    • #20
  21. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Google might start telling you for whom you should vote:

    Google’s search algorithm is essentially neutral. However, sophisticated web advertising minds can plant proper key words in the proper places to lift a story to the top of a google search. Also, by taking out paid ads that appear to the right of the search column dependent on particular searches a crafty campaign consultant could work the web pretty good.

    This is at the moment a matter of force and counter force. You hire your consultant to push your stories to the top etc. v their consultants. This is a problem for all advertisers on the web. Your best customer does a search and two pages of other companies come up before your beautiful web site. Time to call in a sharp shooter and get your name back up in the pack.

    The other problem of the ardent suitor who seems to know all is a different one. Sometimes the suitor is just a bit too sincere and is just a very good guesser. He really doesn’t know a thing. I have been annoyed by someone who’s entire approach was not only devious but employed a variety of stooges to follow me around. As my life is neither that exciting nor unpredictable these sleuths accomplished their goal quite easily except for the times I literally tripped over them.

    Live and learn.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #21
  22. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Another tense night in Ferguson (major story with additional linked articles)

    Rick Perry campaign stops paying staffers in South Carolina

    US Air Force F-16 Crashes in Southern Germany, Pilot Ejects

    With Yuan Devaluation, China Digs a Hole for Commodities

    Police release audio in fatal shooting of Texas teen

    New Google CEO Pichai made ascent with low-key style and technical chops

    In the World section, there’s news on Japan’s nuclear reactor, Turkey targeting the PKK, Russia and the Saudis on Assad, and the Greek bailout.  The US section has something about Bernie Sanders and a few random local stories.

    I’ve literally never checked Google news before.  I usually start with RealClearPolitics.

    The only thing that seems targeted is that Google knows where I am and has local weather and headlines on the right.  I could do without that. I notice that if I choose the “UK” tab from the drop-down box not only are the top stories different, I get a different selection of world news.

    I also notice that Google has no uniform headline capitalization style.

    • #22
  23. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    aardo vozz:“Don’t be evil”. Wonderful. What’s their definition of evil?

    ” Don’t stand in the way of the Progressive project.”

    • #23
  24. Nick Stuart Member
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    I only got 6 top stories. Google must know I have a short attention span
    Top Stories
    Another tense night in Ferguson
    Rick Perry campaign stops paying staffers in South Carolina
    Donald Trump: Door still open on third-party run, despite report saying otherwise
    Rivers hardest hit by Colorado mine waste spill to stay closed until Aug. 17
    Futures lower after China devalues yuan
    Brother of Athlete Questions Why He Was Killed by Police
    Top Stories Sidebar had the following

    Donald Trump
    Google
    Ferguson unrest
    Colorado
    Jennifer Aniston
    Istanbul
    Bernie Sanders
    Hillary Rodham Clinton
    IKEA
    Verizon Communications

    The Kindle Fire I got for Fathers day has gotten a whole lot interesting since the generic advertisements it came with have been tuned to my interests (vs being pitched to a 19 year old gamer).

    Being online is like going native on a nude beach. If you don’t want anyone looking, don’t go.

    • #24
  25. Manfred Arcane Member
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”

    The statistician in me got a chuckle out of this.  So if a coin flip can “determine” ~50% of national elections, well…

    • #25
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    News seems to be skewed by Australian IP, but the ads keep urging me towards shaadi.com and muslim matrimony.

    Rest easy – “they” ain’t that insightful.

    • #26
  27. david foster Member
    david foster
    @DavidFoster

    A world where everyone is seeing different sets of “tuned” news stories is rather like the world before printing was invented and gave everyone a common reference point.

    • #27
  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    david foster:A world where everyone is seeing different sets of “tuned” news stories is rather like the world before printing was invented and gave everyone a common reference point.

    Interesting thought. I wonder.

    • #28
  29. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Chris Campion: I sign in to Google or Gmail that might make it different.

    I would say that is true. When you aren’t signed in you are generic. When you are signed in, you and google both access your history.

    I’d be curious to compare the two.

    I’m always in the dark, about very much because I don’t use a news aggregator, other than Ricochet. I expand my quest from there.

    • #29
  30. Tenacious D Member
    Tenacious D
    @TenaciousD

    Google News has a handy feature that lets you personally customize your feed instead of just going with the default based on your location and search history. For example, you can add sections from other countries or in other languages. One of my custom sections is international news from France, which has a headline on the migrant crisis that doesn’t show up in my other results (“Migrants: Nearly 900 alleged traffikers arrested in Italy since Jan. 2014”). I’ve also got an Arabic news section (sometimes I try to sound out the headlines for practice–I’m far from fluent) that mentions a bombing that killed 50 people in Nigeria today.

    I also “Like” newspapers from different places on Facebook to try to expand my perspective. Apparently in Beirut right now, there is a crisis around garbage collection. And the Lebanese presidency is vacant. If I didn’t “Like” The Daily Star, these items never would have come to my attention.

    • #30

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