Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Feeding the Google

The Wichita Bureau is intrigued by a Howard Kurtz piece about how Google is driving news production--everything you write these days has to generate Google hits.  Me, the part I like best is a quote from David Carr at the NYT where he says that it has changed the way people write headlines:  you used to go for cute, now you go for the words that will catch the search wave.

I'm sure he's write but he is talking about  guilty secret that headline writers have known about for a long time--headlines admired by other copy readers are not those favored by readers.  The copyreaders' choices are lmost always too elegant, abstruse, or cute. In this respect, I suspect that copyreading is not that-all different from other forms of intellectual production.  Example: the "literary artists" admired by the cognoscenti are rarely the ones admired by casual readers.  Think of names like John Barth, John Hawkes, Gilbert Sorrentino: names still uttered in hushed tones around the academy, yet nobody actually reads them.  I suspect you could make the same sort of analysis of music and art.  Yet also among upmarket novelists, you can sometimes sense a trend that they're trying--like copyreaders--to figure out a way to chase the market: think Haruki Murakami.

Meanwhile Wichita recalls the old insight that the three most popular book topics are/were "Lincoln," "Doctors" and "Dogs."  So a book named "Lincoln's Doctor's Dog" ought to be a smash.

At Wichita's suggestion I Googled "Tiger Palin Koran" (though not in parentheses).  Got only a lousy 880,000 hits.

And FWIW, I assume the headline on this piece is precisely not what the marketers want.

Update  here's a piece on Palin word-searches, including the "r" word.   A Google Search for "Hawkes Sorrentino Barth" gets a lousy 51,800.  Here's a piece about Hawkes and Barth with the not-very-reassuring title "Ironie ist pflicht."

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