January 23, 2019

Naver going Google? Judge for yourself

PUBLISHED : May 10, 2018 - 10:46

UPDATED : May 10, 2018 - 13:54

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[THE INVESTOR] Han Seong-sook, the CEO of Korea’s largest portal Naver, on May 9 held a press conference on how it would be changing its services. The main point being that it will be tailored more after Google and depend less on editing news content for profit.

The move comes after a political scandal showed Naver’s policies that allow users to endlessly reply to their own posts using multiple IDs led to manipulation of opinions. 

Naver CEO Han Seong-sook

Below are excerpts from the Q&A. 

Question: You said you would be editing news with your artificial intelligence system AiRs. Doesn’t this mean you’re not actually stepping back from news editing?

Naver: The news edited by the media will have priority on our site. AiRs will take a supportive role to edit news other than this to offer contents that users may like.

This is to address the core of our news system under which employees chose main stories appearing at the top of our portal at their discretion.

Q: What’s your final say on outlinks?

Naver: We believe specific guidelines are needed, but at the same time believe we can’t apply a general set of rules for every situation. We hope to discuss further with the media.

Q: What will be at the core of the outlink guidelines?

Naver: We heard feedback that the outlink system is a hassle, and that they prefer the old way. But we believe there will be something to gain from the change, and will continue to discuss the transformation with the media.

Q: Was this decision politically influenced?

Naver: No. We made the decision independently. Some 30 million Naver users had complaints that they are forced to look at the same content, the same layout. They also said the information they want is unavailable. So we have been thinking about this for a while now. We also decided unless we let go of certain things, there won’t be a future.

Q: Do these new rules also apply to the PC version?

Naver: News is mostly consumed on our mobile version, so transformation of the PC version will come after the mobile version.

Q: How will Naver’s main page look like (after it is stripped of major news content?)

Naver: We haven’t decided yet. Some say weather is a must, others suggest different things. Nothing is fixed yet. We also are considering if we should follow Google, which has just the single search box. In any case, the main page is representative of Naver’s identity, so we will see what we can do.

Q: What about the media outlets that want to stay as inlinks?

Naver: For those companies, it will be up to them to decide whether to allow users to comment on their posts. All these decisions will be made by the media.

Q: So how does the outlink system work?

Naver: Outlinks are also strictly under the jurisdiction of the media. There are around 70 media outlets we are collaborating with, and about 70 percent have indicated their views on outlinks. Among them, about half said they are undecided. Only one has agreed to outlinks, and the rest prefer the inlink system.

Q: Is adopting outlinks the way to go?

Naver: As with any new policy, adjustments will have to be made, and there are going to be many inconveniences, which will be taken into consideration as we set about laying down the guidelines.

Q: Are these changes going to affect how you compete globally?

Naver: That’s difficult to say because we are literally changing user habits, habits that were cultivated over a long time. So it’s a challenge and we don’t know how it will be received. Despite it, we believe when we start to focus more on our areas of core competition and technological development, and less on agendas that aren’t our mainstay business, we can start to walk a new road.

Q: How much of a contribution does the news content make to Naver?
Naver: In terms of traffic, about 3 percent of it comes from our news content for the PC version, and about 7 percent for our mobile version.

Q: Will the latest changes affect your profit model?

Naver: We can’t really put a finger on it, but one thing we do know is that our profit probably won’t gain from the change. Our real goal for now is to pick out what consumers want and use that knowledge to mold our future policies.

By Kim Ji-hyun (

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