A Different Take on Metatagging Advertorial Content

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After I wondered if magazines should tag advertorial content, reader Rex Hammock responded with an interesting counter in the comments. 




Transparency of source is a good thing.

That said, the algorithms of Google aren't "content cops" that are designed to protect searchers from "shilled" vs. "professional, traditional and legitimate" editorial content. The algorithms of Google are engineered to help searchers find the most relevant and helpful content related to the query they are typing into the search box. And many times, the most valuable content comes from "the source."

And another thing: Wasn't the "nofollow" attribute developed to combat specific types of link spam, especially comment spamming? When the problem is such a black and white, good vs. evil thing as combating comment spam, it's easy to agree on what should be done.

I believe the topic of whether there is value to the consumer (or reader, or search engine user) in content created by sources other than journalists is a more nuanced issue.

This is a fair point. Your average Stanford or MIT press release about a scientific paper, say, is more information-rich than the summary that most newspapers or blogs would provide of it. Nonetheless, do such press releases or advertorials belong in "Google News," a product that is nominally exactly for "professional, traditional and legitimate" sources?

Relevance, too, in the two-audience (machine and human) world is tricky. Google is using keyword density and other sophisticated methods, but can do little to detect what, to a human reader, might be an obvious bias or conflict of interest. That kind of consideration should play into Google's "relevance" algorithm, but so far as I know, it doesn't.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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