But for all the influence Google has in directing attention, we know painfully little about how its algorithm selects and curates news. Which sites does it direct traffic toward? And how does Google’s news curation impact the diversity of information found?
To find out, the Computational Journalism Lab at Northwestern, including Daniel Trielli and I, undertook an audit study of the “Top Stories” box on Google search. Top Stories often shows up in the prime real-estate at the top of search results, presenting a carousel of news articles relevant to the query.
The data shows that just 20 news sources account for more than half of article impressions. The top 20 percent of sources (136 of 678) accounted for 86 percent of article impressions. And the top three accounted for 23 percent: CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. These statistics underscore the degree of concentration of attention to a relatively narrow slice of news sources.