Google Launches Metatags for Attribution of Original News Sources

By Tammy Wolf November 17, 2010

In the never-ending sea of information on the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to detect originality of news articles. In many cases, unfortunately, news sources neglect to give credit to other journalists that may have done the handy work in fishing out the facts and providing it to the cloud.

Google News is stepping up to the plate in an effort to give “credit where credit is due” and undertake the issue of “original authorship” – how to determine where a source of news derived from. By rolling out two new metatags, syndication-source and original-source, this will attribute authorship by using URLs that will be embedded into the back end of news on the Internet.

The metatags, which Google uses to establish what articles should be at the forefront for consumers, will differ in several ways, according to Google employees Eric Weigle and Abe Epton. The metatags will “allow publishers to take credit for their work and give credit to other journalists,” they wrote in a blog post.

Using simple lines of HTML, the metatags provide Google with information about websites and helps it read and contextualize the Web. According to Weigle and Epton, the metatags will operate in the following manner:

  • Syndication-source: Indicates the preferred URL for a syndicated article. If there are duplicate or slightly-modified versions of an article, publishers will be asked to use syndication-source to pinpoint which one Google should use.
  • Original-source: Indicates the URL of the first article to report on a story. Google will encourage publishers to utilize this type of metatag in order to give recognition to the source that originally broke the story. Though it’s hard to determine, Google intends on using this tag to “reward hard work and journalistic enterprise.”

In an effort to benefit the broad spectrum – users, publishers and Google, of course – Google News is urging publishers to use the metatags to give “credit where credit is due” and be proactive in developing its own news search algorithms.

Ready-made tools for publishers to utilize these metatags do not currently exist, but if this method takes off, Google hopes a plugin will be created for content management systems used at news organizations.

According to Google, this won’t affect ranking, however.

“We think it is a promising method for detecting originality among a diverse set of news articles,” the tags’ explanation page says, “but we won’t know for sure until we’ve seen a lot of data. By releasing this tag, we’re asking publishers to participate in an experiment that we hope will improve Google News and, ultimately, online journalism.”


Tammy Wolf is a TechZone360 copy editor. Previously she was assistant to the editor at The Darien Times, a weekly newspaper in Darien, Conn., where she edited submissions, did page layout and design and helped manage the newspaper's website. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Copy Editor

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