Nick Denton makes a good point about the algorithm that generates the Google News home page: it discriminates against exclusives. In other words, it’s not yet perfect. Think about this, though, how can a human being keep up with exclusives anyway? I mean, I generally hit Today’s Papers at Slate every day, which points out the big stories (and exclusives) in five major US papers, but if the Times of London, or the South China Morning Post, or Times of India has an exclusive, chances are I miss it until it’s covered in the US papers anyway.
Google does a great job of showing which stories are getting a lot of coverage, and even better, how coverage differs based on locality. For example, yesterday one of the top entertainment stories was about the finalists for the Booker Prize (a big book award in the UK). The UK papers talked about an Irish novelist being the likely winner. Canadian papers tended to talk about some Canadian authors being on the short list. US papers failed to cover it at all. Iran’s president is trying to gain passage of a new law that would let him crack down on members of other branches of the government that violate the constitution — thus letting him get rid of members of the judiciary that are Islamic hardliners. Checking out Google’s list of stories on the topic, you can see how papers around the world are handling the story. It’s not that this is the first time we’ve seen news story aggregation, it’s that it’s so efficient. Google can programatically aggregate stories from many more sources and on many more topics than a service driven by humans could.