Sunday, August 01, 2004

MSN Newsbot biased toward MSNBC

The Washington Post reports that Newsbot biases its front page toward MSNBC stories:
    Another key difference between the Microsoft and Google services is that Google's story-selection formula doesn't favor any particular new source. MSN Newsbot, by contrast, gives favorable placement to articles from Microsoft's own news site.
Like paid placement in search results, this kind of bias is likely to reduce quality. Not a good move.


Michael McDaniel said...

It seems to me that it might increase quality, assuming that the metadata available for the MSNBC feed is superior. They might be in a position to personalize based on richer data, and thus provide more accurate story selection. Or am I just missing something?

Greg Linden said...

Thanks for raising this point. My read of the Washington Post article was that the MSNBC bias was done for purely marketing reasons, but it's interesting to talk about other reasons why it might have been done.

My claim that this reduces the quality assumes some optimal front page that should be shown given the information available. Any deviation from that would have at least some cost. An explicit bias toward MSNBC articles would be a deviation.

I suppose that if you have so little information about non-MSNBC articles that the site would be almost picking them at random, then showing MSNBC articles may be preferable to showing articles from any other source. But MSN Newsbot shouldn't be in that situation. And if MSNBC articles just have a little more data (and the prediction is just a little less noisy), I don't see how that would support a strong bias toward MSNBC articles.