The official Google news blog has alerted us about a new feature on Google News that will help readers “quickly and easily” find original stories from news publishers.

This should be interesting to watch, particularly in the local context where the vast majority of content on South Africa’s major mainstream news sites is replicated from news agencies such as Sapa, AFP, The AP and Reuters. The other major source of online news content is derived from traditional media publications, otherwise known as “shovelware”. Then a small percentage of content is originated solely via the website editorial teams. The effect of this is that the major news sites often have identical stories, to the very letter (or spelling mistake). There are notable exceptions in the niches such as Moneyweb and ITWeb.

In a column I wrote some time ago, “Why SA’s online journalism is rubbish“, I lamented this fact. I was hoping perhaps, in this post, to say matters have improved — but they haven’t really. To be fair, it’s a question of economics.

Even at the Mail & Guardian Online the vast majority of content we publish is agency-related. It’s something we have noted and under our editor Riaan Wolmarans, more so than ever before, we have been striving for original reporting and shown some improvement. Of course, as the budget position of the online department has improved due to the recovery of the online advertising sector, so this has become easier to do.

Most major news sites get tons of traffic via Google searches, and Google News in particular. Now that there are new moves afoot by Google News to identify the source and root out the “copies”, it will be interesting to see how (and if) traffic to the major news sites is affected. But the fact remains: there is a real gap in the market for a news publication that reduces its dependence on the wires and produces original content.


  • Matthew Buckland is the former GM of the Mail & Guardian Online and co-founder of award-winning blog aggregator and editorial blog Thought Leader. He has worked in the online medium all his working life literally from its inception in South Africa. He was one of the first new media graduates out of Rhodes University and has previously worked for, Carte Blanche (Interactive), Johncom (e-media) and the BBC Online ( in the UK. He is a computer fundi and has had one since the age of 7 (ZX Spectrum 48k), where he spent most of his time creating computer games in BASIC. He has spoken around the world on online media issues, including New York, Germany, Kenya and London.


Matthew Buckland

Matthew Buckland is the former GM of the Mail & Guardian Online and co-founder of award-winning blog aggregator and editorial blog Thought...

Leave a comment