Fast Company

G-Railed: Why Did Google Bury the Web's Oldest Entertainment Publication? [UPDATE]

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UPDATE: Roughly two hours after this post went live, Google re-enabled Studio Briefing's ad serving, without explanation. Irwin still wishes he knew, specifically, what he did wrong. But for now, he says, "we're back in business."

For all its claims of neutrality, Google certainly didn't seem very objective when it de-listed Studio Briefing, dealing a huge blow to the Web's oldest entertainment publication.

Since launching its own site in April, Studio Briefing--a Variety-style news service that's been sending emails since 1993--had been buying ads from Google AdWords and promoting ads from Google AdSense. Then in September, without warning, owner Lew Irwin received a boilerplate notification from Google that its ads had been "disabled"--thereby eliminating a potential revenue stream--because the site did not comply with Google policies. The search titan also diverted its spider, which meant Studio Briefing posts wouldn't appear in Google search results.

"The notice was totally vague," says Irwin, who just turned 75. "I've been trying to get a specific explanation ever since, but they haven't given me one." (A Google rep did respond to my request for comment, saying she would "look into [my] question" and get back to me.)

A few weeks later, Irwin received another notification, which made even less sense than the others. "Due to one or more serious violations of our advertising policies related to Landing Page and Site Quality," it read, "we are unable to accept advertising from you in the future. Please note that future accounts you open will also be disabled." Again, Irwin asked Google for an explanation, and specific guidance on how to make Studio Briefing comply with its policies. And again, there was no relevant response.

"We are in no position to battle Google on this," Irwin wrote on November 28. "And without Studio Briefing being included in Google search results we cannot draw sufficient readers to remain viable." That same day, he shuttered his blog (although he says subscribers will still get daily emails).

As he waits to hear back from Google, Irwin speculates that he was banned for using an older iWeb template, which may or may not be compatible with AdSense. But the fact that Google also pulled Studio Briefing's content from search--and banned Irwin from buying AdWords ads--suggests that it has a problem with the site's run-of-the-mill entertainment content, which seems ridiculous.

Was Studio Briefing's de-listing a mistake? Or does the world's biggest search engine legitimately have it out for a news site whose lead story--apart from the one covering its own demise--is about Jay Leno's ratings uptick? Your move, Google.

[Via Studio Briefing]

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4 Comments

  • Lisha Sterling

    This isn't a rubbish gossip posting, actually. I wish that there were more articles about Google closing down adwords and adsnese on sites without any information about why. I know one person that they did this to who can only guess that Google made a bad call based on a sudden increase in his traffic when he got slashdotted for an april fools parody. He can't figure out any other reason, and Google's not talking.

    The whole thing is bad on Google's part because it leaves people who've seen this sort of thing happen wondering if they could be banned from Google for something completely innocuous.

    Since Google has such a huge amount of control over search and such a huge impact on Web businesses, I think that they should be required to not only give a specific reason, but a path to remedy, to people who get removed from their indexes. And for those who get removed from the ad tools, at the very least a real explanation of why they got removed.

  • Clyde Smith

    @Nicolás Costa:

    Google never gives any real explanation for any such move. I did actually get contact when I submitted a site to Google News for indexing and it was a really strange experience after years of non-contact. It showed me they could communicate if they wished but they choose not to.

    Google screws over a lot of people without explanation on a regular basis.

    I'd love to see a class action suit but I'm not sure if that could even work and Google is never one to shrink from putting huge amounts of resources into a legal fight.

  • Nicolás Costa

    The weird thing is that they don't give any explanation that fully satisfy Mr. Irwin. Is this legal-fight material?