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Taking a close look at a CNET.com news storm

How many insightful news articles could one particular website considered by many to be a legitimate tech news source write about Google Glass in the span of a week? I would guess at the most two or three, reason being that it isn’t even considered to be a viable commercial product and I don’t see CNET.com the type of site that would insesently blog about one thing on a daily basis, especially a product that isn’t even sold in stores yet, but it seems that CNET.com is gaga over glass to the point of nausea.

During the week leading up to May 1st 2013, CNET.com managed to churn out a total of seven Google Glass articles. Most of these articles weren’t very insightful and are essentially shells for a Samsung S4 campaign that had the phone featured on the banner header and in the right rail. From a white hat perspective this worries me.

CNET.com was one of the first websites that many a geek would come across in the first few years of the internet taking shape. CNET.com and ZDnet.com stood out above the fold when most websites were only still a few pages deep. Now it seems to be reducing itself to blog fodder in order to come up at the top of Google News’ daily feeds.

Here is the list of articles published on CNET.com the week leading up to May 1st 2013. I think taking a close look at each of these articles we can further understand how CNET.com and other news outlets push thier articles to the top of Google news feeds:

  • Google Glass kernel software goes public

    This one is two short paragrphs talking about a blog reporting that the Kernel code has been made public. Why not just report what’s posted on Google’s official blog?

    From: April 28th 2013

  • Twitter may already have an app for Google Glass

    Again an obviouse spin.

    From: April 29th 2013

  • Can Google Glass ever be fashionable?

    From: April 29, 2013

  • Yes, you can tweet from Google Glass

    You can tweet from Google Glass, would’ve never guessed it could do such a thing…

    From: April 30th 2013

  • Google releases Glass tutorial

    This “article” is really just two short paragraphs describing what’s seen in a youtube video that’s literally 1-minute long.

    From: April 30, 2013

  • How Google Glass works: now and tomorrow

    From CNET Australia here is an article focused on the inner workings of the device.

    From: May 1st 2013

  • Google shows you how to use Glass in new video

    This one was written on the same day but hosted on the UK version of CNET

    From: May 1st 2013

  • Hey Google Glass, are you recording me?

    Written by Dan Farber who’s the Editor and Chief at CNET.com. I actually found this article informative and news worthy. Funny enough though, this one came out after all the fluff this past week.

    From: May 1st 2013

  • Embarking on a Google Glass exploration

    To quote the intro blurb “In this special edition of CNET Update, Bridget Carey shows off Google Glass and explains the basics of the computer headset.” Thought we already went through this?

    From: May 1st 2013

  • Hands-on with Google Glass: Limited, fascinating, full of potential

    This was the Coup de gras for me. The official Google Glass review which of course should be expected from CNET.com. This review mentions the word Glass 170 times. I am not kidding, go ahead and CMD/CTRL+F “Glass”.


    Here’s an excerpt from a paragraph in this article illustrating the overt spamming going on:

    “As an actual glasses-wearer, I found Glass feels more like the framework for a pair of fancy 3D glasses than a regular glasses frame. They can fit on top of my regular glasses with some flex, but they’re really meant to be used glasses-free (for now; prescription versions and other variations are in the works). This meant I had to rush to get a pair of contact lenses, which was as disorienting as being fitted for Glass. But Glass has an undeniably solid build quality. It’s not always the most comfortable device, but it sits evenly on my face and remains as innocuous as a pair of glasses. Adding on the clip-on sunglasses made Glass feel a little less awkward. Maybe it’s the psychological framework of actual glasses.”

    The word Glass appears 11 times just in this one paragraph. It’s the kind of thing that no-one who wears a white hat should ever concoct, much less a reputable “News” site.

    From: May 2nd 2013

Could it be that this is how CNET.com gets fresh impressions for it’s advertisers? On March, 1st 2013 during the Samsung S4 campaign they were publishing at least one Google Glass article per day that in turn would show up in the Google News feeds usually between the first and third spots.

Ranking at the top page of google for Glass and driving in fresh daily views can be one benefit, another one could be the potential to outrank future news competition for related Glass terms. If the news article about tweeting with Google glass was published way before anyone elses then likely your fresh Google Glass articles are going to outrank the competition even if the quality of the older content is negligible.

I understand people might have an insatiable hunger for news and there’s a ton of competition out there but wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if websites like CNET.com, which is essentially a product review website, wasn’t provided the same clout as a news organization? Is CNET.com in the business of writing negligible content so it can outrank its competitors when it really matters? How could any up-and-coming news site battle against giants like CNET.com without conducting a cat-and-mouse SEO spam campaign to come up on top in Google News feeds? At this very moment if you do this advanced search on google,[site:cnet.com "google glass"] you’ll see Google come up with About 161,000 results. Doesn’t this smell of spam? When you try the same search and change the site to [site:googleblog.blogspot.com "google glass"] you only get three results.

So is CNET.com just a tabloid? I will be monitoring CNET.com from now on and continue to analyze its approach.

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