Content item properties prove damn important – United Airlines looses $1 billion

Let this be a lesson for all of the Web content mangers out there. Back in 2002, when a story was published to a Web site, there little thought about properties associated with news items. In this case, the five-year-old story didn’t have a publish date.

When an old story gets pulled out of a database and becomes a hot topic, companies can loose millions; or in this case $1 billion in value. That’s what happened when a 2002 story about United Airlines going bankrupt hit Google News on Monday morning.

When you post a story – or even a blog post – there are certain properties (a.k.a tags or attributes) that you associate with the post. You have the headline, description, abstract, teaser, author, dateline, publication date, keywords and body text. You can have more properties too.

All of these properties make it easier to categorize information, and it makes it easier for search engines to pick up and display your content as well.

Well you can imagine what happened when Google picked up a story about the possibility of United Airlines filing bankruptcy on Monday morning. Google – which is really just one big computer – could not find a publish date, so it assumed the post was current.

The story went viral. UAL stock lost more than $1 billion in value. They don’t have much to spare, so it’s a big deal.

Reuters has one of the stories out there – Tribune blames Google for UAL bankruptcy story. Well I guess you need to blame someone.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Tribune Co on Wednesday blamed technology owned by search engine company Google Inc for treating an outdated story about UAL Corp’s bankruptcy as current, breaking news.

Tribune said in a press release it had identified problems with Google’s “Googlebot” technology months ago and asked the company to stop using it to “crawl” for stories on its website.

The Chicago-based publisher said it believes Google continued using the technology to identify stories and make them available as search results on its Google News site, and that Google continues to misclassify stories.

That’s gotta hurt.

Here’s a clip from

NEW YORK (Thomson Financial) – Trading in shares of UAL Corp. was halted Monday morning on reports that the company was filing for bankruptcy. While calls to the company weren’t returned, CNBC cited the company as saying the reports were untrue.

The shares were halted at 1 cent, down 99.92% off their Friday closing price of $13.20. Volume was 29.1 million shares.

That really hurts. Luckily for the stockholders, United seems to have gained back most of the losses.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.

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