On Tuesday, Google News officials quickly removed a website from its search index, which had contracted with a local water district, in producing promotional stories “written in the image of real news.”
The move was a response to a Los Angeles Times article about the strange agreement between the Central Basin Municipal Water District and a consulting firm affiliated with the news website, News Hawks Review. Under the deal, the water district, a public agency based in southeast L.A. County, paid virtually $200,000 to the firm so that they would publish positive articles that emerged on Google News.
A Google spokesman claims News Hawks Review had dishonored its guidelines and would no longer come out on Google News searches. The spokesman never explains that violation that the agency did.
Last year, News Hawks Review, had made available published over 30 stories about Central Basin. The topics come in a wide range, from recycled water system and its legal battle over groundwater rights. The site seemed to be self-governing; it showed its own advertisements and recorded short memoirs of its reporters and editors.
However, Google was able to detect the connection of News Hawks Review with the Coghlan Consulting Group, a corporate communications firm employed by Central Basin last November. The deal, which will last until April next year, calls for the firm to create one story about the water district every week that would equivalent to a monthly fee of $11,500.
Danny Sullivan, a search engine expert based in Orange County, said Google News had eliminated sites from its index before but that no public agency got involve in the news index before.
He also said the News Hawks case could make Google to reconsider its procedure for giving access to sites to the news index.
Google News always makes sure that the news that gets index are legitimate news rather that those coming from individuals or marketing companies.
The principal of Coghlan Consulting Group, Ed Coghlan, pitched News Hawks Review as a way for Central Basin so that it could enhance their image on the internet.
Coghlan stressed the fact that, in Google News classification, the pieces about Central Basin “would normally show up as news stories online. Before it got revoked by Google, the News Hawks articles were one of the top search results for news connected to Central Basin.
Although the bulk of its articles related to Central Basin, News Hawks also endorsed other subjects.