Google News Showing Old Stories As New: A Google Bug Or Publisher Hack?

google-news-featuredLast week, I reported on the Search Engine Roundtable, a huge array of complaints from Google News publishers and searchers that some news outlets are showing old stories in Google News, but they are appearing as breaking new stories.

The example I gave was a story from USA Today showing as being 14 minutes old but in reality being over 24 hours old. Here are screen shots from then, but I have confirmed this is still happening today.

Here is the Google News page showing the story was 14 minutes old:

usatoday-google-news-date-1374237796

Here was the article timestamp, which actually was over 24 hours old at the time of these screen shots:

usatoday-google-news-cheat-1374237796

I asked Google if this was a Google News bug or something being done specifically by the news outlet. Google told me, “we are aware of this issue and working quickly to improve the experience for users.” As you can see, Google is not admitting it was a bug.

From what I can tell, it seems as if USA Today was specifically sending newer dates to Google News. Meaning, Google News was being fed by USA Today artificial date information, and Google was using that information. Like I said, this is still happening now. On the front page of the Google News Sports section, I see a story that says 10 minutes old, but when I click through to the story, the story shows it was published last night — well over 9 hours ago.

A thread in the Google News publisher forum has publishers calling USA Today and some other large news outlets “cheaters.” People close to the situation told me that USA Today is not doing this to be malicious, and they are not gaming the system. But no one can argue that they are, indeed, benefiting from the situation. The publishers are saying USA Today is specifically refreshing the time of the article, as Google News sees it.

In a different complaint thread, Google News representative, Jack, told searchers to filter out the site using the “Rarely” slider. The truth is, publishers are not interested in that, they want Google News ranking to be an even playing field.

If you have more information about what these news outlets are doing and if it is or is not malicious, let us know in the comments.