Robert_Charlton - 9:07 pm on Aug 7, 2013 (gmt 0)
With regard to part of the question posed by the title of this thread "In-Depth Articles - Only for Brands?"... it does seem that Google's examples of in-depth articles are only picking what I'd call "high-hanging fruit". ;)
In the censorship articles, eg, that are noted on the Google Inside Search article which JS_Harris links to, there's a matching up of writers and subjects in a way that makes these choices pre-ordained to be noteworthy regardless of how good the articles are. This is an example of what's known in show biz as "high concept"... and there appears to be a strong element of "high concept" in the sample results presented.
Nothing wrong with the articles cited. They're well worth reading. But this is how branding and the world work. Name publications picking name writers on subjects they're widely associated with are going to deliver an expected level of editorial quality and relevance. Salman Rushdie on censorsip in the arts. Eric Schmidt on filtering on the internet. These are safe choices, so good that they're almost too good to be true.
Is there more nuance and perspective to this algorithm? I don't know. I'd like to think there will be a lot more. I haven't seen any of these "in-depth" blocks out in the wild, though, and it's hard to say how the algorithm is going to react, eg, to controversial points of view, but that is an area that concerns me, as this is where high-concept generally breaks down. It's very often a damper to change... and it's very hard for outsiders, or for new approaches, to break into those circles.
The potential of the controlled and fragmented web, eg, which Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen describe in their excellent article, can be viewed as a description of the ultimate in "filter bubbles". While it's very different from the kind of filter bubble we'd get if featured authors are limited to the usual suspects (and I don't know if that will be the case), there some similarities worth thinking about.
What is happening, though, is that the algorithm increasingly reflects the way the world at large has always been working, and I'm thinking this troubles those who may have viewed the internet as a new frontier, away from that world.