How Does an Obscure Story on How Christmas Season Sales Will 'Spike' Hit the Top at Google News?

In the course of preparing a post earlier today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) dealing with a glaring error in a New York Times story on planned Christmas/holiday/fourth quarter hiring, I came across this search result at Google news on "holiday retail sales" (not entered in quotes) at about 11 a.m.:

GoogNewsOnHolidayRetailSales100710

With all due respect to WHIO in Dayton and reporter John Bedell, I don't understand how your story made the top of the charts, or how other sources with far higher traffic didn't. Perhaps someone with Google-y knowledge far superior to mine can explain it.

Here are a few paragraphs from Bedell's report:

Holiday sales projected to spike this year

The nation's largest retail trade group said this week that it projects sales for retailers across the U.S. to climb after two years of slow sales tied to the recession.

The National Retail Federation said that retail sales will climb 2.3 percent to $447.1 billion for the 2010 holiday rush.

This comes as welcome news for many retailers who saw sales in November and December climb a measly 0.4 percent in 2009 and watched as sales fell four percent in 2008.

... even though the projections aren't a sign that the economy is in full recovery, Ellen Davis, VP of public relations for the National Retail Federation, says the forecast does indicate that the economy has at least turned the corner.

Bedell's enthusiasm over the nature of the anticipated increase in Christmas season sales isn't warranted, given the results of the past 15 years as charted at the National Retail Federation ("mouseover" below will not work, but does work at the NRF link):

 

NRFxmasSeasonSales1996to2010

Bedell's "spike," if it materializes as the NRF predicts, will be clearly lower than 9 of the 14 previous reported years, and will be about the same as two others. Excuse me for not being impressed.

As seen in the Google News graphic above, other news sources are taking more measured views.

So how did WHIO's report get to the top? If the station is using an outside company to optimize search engine results, that firm's phones should be ringing off the hook. If it happens again, it would be nice if such a high search result placement were accompanied by higher-quality journalism.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.