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Google Has Confirmed The ABC Dominates Its “News” Search Results

As with the BBC in the UK, Australian news search results are dominated by the public broadcaster, the ABC.

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BuzzFeed News

Australians searching just for "news" in Google News are more likely to see ABC News articles than any commercial media outlet for at least the first 30 results.

Typing in "news" into the Chrome search bar, or the Google home page, is the easiest way to get to Google's news page, and according to website Indivigital, that term alone accounts for 1.4 million searches in the UK per month, and 20 million globally.

Indivigital first reported that in the UK, the BBC dominated the first 50 results on Google News for people searching for "news". Google confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it was an issue affecting the United Kingdom.

A BuzzFeed News examination of the results out of Australia reveals around half of the first 50 results are for ABC News articles, with 22 out of the first 30 results linking to ABC News articles. The Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, news.com.au, and Sydney Morning Herald are linked to on some of the other articles listed in results.

In a nearly identical statement to that provided to BuzzFeed News' UK office, a spokesperson for Google in Australia told BuzzFeed News that it was aware of the issue.

"Wherever we show news on Google, our aim is to provide a wide range of quality views and information from a diversity of publishers," the spokesperson said. "We are aware of this issue and working to improve the experience for our users in Australia.”

Last week Google announced it was overhauling Google News to personalise the news individual users see on the platform, with content coming from "a range of trusted news sources."

It comes as there has been significant focus on the ABC's digital operations in the past few years, as the public broadcaster, under managing director Michelle Guthrie (a former Google executive), pushes the ABC to do more online.

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie.
Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie.

In Senate Estimates last year the ABC revealed that in 2016 it spent a total of $1.5 million on search engine marketing and social media marketing. Although it only represents 0.14% of the ABC's total budget, the broadcaster has still faced pressure from competing commercial players online.

A spokesperson for the ABC said the broadcaster's ranking in search results was not paid.

The ABC has defended its online presence. In a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's inquiry on digital platforms, the ABC said it had a responsibility to deliver "quality news and journalism to audiences where
they are searching for it and where they are spending significant amounts of time."

The ABC argued that because it is more trusted than commercial media (at 91% for the news website) it was vital the ABC operate in that space.

"This is a significantly higher level of trust, compared to commercial media, search engines, newspapers and Facebook," the ABC said.

The broadcaster argued that the rise of "fake news" meant that people were seeking out news that was unencumbered by the issues facing commercial media companies.

"This direct connection with the audience, where ABC news content is available advertisement-free and unencumbered by the influence of algorithms and third-party business models, remains central to our digital effort," the broadcaster said.

Each month in 2017, the ABC News page had on average 119 million page views.

Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Josh Taylor at josh.taylor@buzzfeed.com.

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