Weekly Digital News Roundup: March 12 – 16
- Google is changing up its Web search formula in favor of factual, semantic-based, slightly AI results. Over the next few months, the search engine will offer facts and direct answers at the top of the results page, which could give Google more ways to offer ad space.
- Essentially, Google aims to provide more relevant search results by incorporating “semantic search.” This technology will focus on understanding the actual meaning of words, not just keywords. Amit Singhal, a top Google search executive, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that “the search engine will better match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of ‘entities’—people, places and things—which the company has quietly amassed in the past two years. Semantic search can help associate different words with one another, such as a company (Google) with its founders ( Larry Page and Sergey Brin).”
- These changes mark one of the biggest search developments in Google’s history, and could potentially alter page rankings in a big way. The current search system determines a site’s relevance via its content and how often another site links to it, among other factors, but semantic search results could give more relevant sites greater clout. It’s also a bit unsettling to think that Google’s new search algorithm is reminiscent of sentient robots, but that’s a different concern.
Encyclopedia Britannica Stops Printing, Regrets Nothing
- Encyclopedia Britannica recently announced that 2010’s 32-volume book set will be its last set of printed tomes. As a true testament to new media, the company will now shift its focus to its digital encyclopedia and education tools. Cue the nostalgia.
- While bibliophiles may shed a literary tear or two, Britannica president Jorge Cauz insists that this is part of the company’s natural evolution. “Everyone will want to call this the end of an era, and I understand that,” Cauz says. “But there’s no sad moment for us. I think outsiders are more nostalgic about the books than I am.”
- The company is set to offer more free content in an effort to garner more subscribers. Cauz also commented on the competition between the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and the future of Britannica. He says, “Wikipedia is a wonderful technology for collecting everything from great insights to lies and innuendos. It’s not all bad or all good, just uneven. It’s the murmur of society, a million voices rather than a single informed one.” This places Cauz’s company in an attractive position: while online sources might not be completely factual, Britannica’s reputation for accuracy continues to entice consumers in the digital age.
Facebook’s New Real-Time Page Insights
- Over the next few days, Facebook’s new real-time version of Page Insights will go live. The analytics tool allows brands to understand their presence on the social network, and this update will offer instantaneous reporting on page and post performance.
- “Changes in data can drive immediate action,” said Facebook Product Manager David Baser. “For example, you might want to change a post that’s getting a lot of distribution but not engagement. A post with a lot of engagement is maybe one to pin to the top of the page. With real-time, the underlying meaning of metrics are changed. You see what happens, and then you take actions. The data itself becomes a form of analysis.”
- Facebook’s goal with real-time Page Insights is to give brands instant access to more information. This development goes along with other tools introduced by Facebook to encourage interaction and responsiveness between brands and their audience, like the recent brand page redesign.