George Sehremelis is building what he calls a “social news network,” with the aim of combating the spread of misinformation and fake news online.
“My goal has always been to make an impact on the 2020 election,” Sehremelis told me — a tall order, particularly when the big social networks are struggling to solve these same problems. And as if that wasn’t enough, Sehremelis is hoping to revitalize student and local newspapers at the same time.
To do that, he’s launched Overlooked, an app currently being piloted with newspapers at the University of Southern California, Dartmouth, West Virginia University and elsewhere.
“We didn’t want to build a news aggregator, and we didn’t want to build a social network,” Sehremelis said. “We wanted to combine them.”
So Overlooked is an app where users — initially college students — can post, share and comment on articles. And that’s basically all they can do. They won’t be able to post any original content of their own, which Sehremelis said already “eliminates the possibility of a deep fake” video or image that’s been edited to mislead.
Of course, misinformation doesn’t just come from individual posts, but also from articles posted by publishers across the web. Those kinds of articles might still be shared on Overlooked, but Sehremelis argued that by eliminating user-generated content, the startup “drastically reduces the amounts of data that we have to vet.”
“Instead of posts, videos, memes, all of the above, there’s only news articles,” he continued. “One day in the future, our content moderators will be able to actually vet all the content on our system.”
But without those social posts and memes, what’s going to bring readers to the app? For one, Sehremelis said Overlooked is the “fastest way and the easiest way to share a news article with your friend.” This is also where the partnerships with student newspapers come in.
Sehremelis is a recent USC alum, and he participated in the school’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. He recalled visiting the offices of the USC newspaper, the Daily Trojan, and seeing printed newspapers stacked to the ceiling — which seemed like a wasted expense that’s disconnected from the way students actually get their news. This, in turn, led him “down the rabbit hole of the newspaper industry as a whole,” where he learned about broader circulation and revenue challenges.
“The newspaper, it needs a superhero,” Sehremelis said.
And in fact, Overlooked has created a superhero mascot of sorts called Article Man, who represents the profile that newspapers can create on Overlooked, allowing them to communicate and share content directly with readers. They also get a share of the revenue from any Overlooked advertising that targets the newspaper’s readers.
Sehremelis argued that this approach addresses the issues that arise from an individual newspaper app (which can have a hard time getting downloads) or a profile on social media (where a newspaper gives up control and rarely monetizes in a significant way). He suggested these issues are only going to be more acute this fall, with many colleges sticking to remote learning or bringing students back to campus in a reduced capacity.
“Students aren’t going to be on campus to pick up the newspaper,” he said. “Many students weren’t picking up newspapers, anyway. Many of these student newspapers instead are on social media — it’s just that social media wasn’t compensating them.”
In addition, he’s hoping to get Overlooked in classrooms (virtual or otherwise), with professors inviting their classes to join the app and discuss the news.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
Continue Reading Below
Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
Continue Reading Below
But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update
Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines
John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global
Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark
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