Christopher Wink at Temple's 2008 commencement

Google Image Search: The next frontier

Today’s journalists need a Web presence. No one is arguing that anymore.

Indeed, the brighter and more Web savvy, young journalists have already made the step and are looking to refine the quality and searchability of their product so that when an employer (or future, crazed romantic interest) runs their name in a search engine, the right product comes up.

You want your Web site, clips, appropriate photos, a mature, healthy online persona. Considering I’m part of a generation that will find answers through technology, for ourselves and broader issues, I’ve thought plenty of how to do that, including using online applications, most notably actually giving in and joining Facebook recently.

But, once you get that much figured out – No. 1 Google search for Christopher Wink and among the top for Chris Wink, damn you Blue Man Group founder with the same name – the next step becomes clear: image searches.

I use Sean Blanda as an example, mostly because he is our own computer Jesus and has made an effort to work on his SEO. He is bright, talented and for-hire, his Web presence is top notch, he has a well-read blog that increases his search engine presence (though he has problems with Web searches anyway), but when his name is searched on Google Images, he clearly hasn’t dominated that space as he has a Web search of the same.

He is a good, young man, so there is nothing incriminating, but on the first page the best he has is the header from his site – which isn’t terrible – and his ‘gravatar.’ He faces what I think is a struggle for journalists, that images and photos from his clips (including lame ones) show up before he does. That also means photos he took like this even before his father’s Flickr account (See below with his brothers, not entirely professional but better than what a lot of young journalists might face in their image search).

Brian James Kirk, a friend and colleague of mine and Sean’s, who is far more tech-savvy than I am, is blessed with a Google Image search that shows his professional work, particularly respectable tech related stuff like the banner from his Philebrity blog column and a graphic from one of his shorts for Philadelphia magazine, but there is also stuff from Captain Kirk and a bass fisher. But, in a world of branding ourselves, none of him.

Howard Owens, whom I hold in a class of top, professional Web journalists, has a better place, but even an equally talented and noted Web journalist like Ryan Sholin doesn’t dominate his Google Image search like a Web search of his name.

Indeed, none of the journalists whom I noted as those I respect most are aggressively dictating what images are found online of them. One – Michael Vitez – has a personal Web site, but he isn’t controlling image searches in the same way as Web searches.

I write all of this knowing full well that I am worse off than the others. I had succeeded in getting a top image search for “Christopher Wink” (Blue Man Group dominates “Chris Wink,” aside from one photo clip at the bottom), but, of late, it has been lost to, like Sean, clips, which can be problematic when the photo includes one guy – is that Chris Wink? I am in a couple photos of last fall’s editorial board from The Temple News, but none of me alone. Currently, the top photo of me alone is this, and I haven’t come across an honest account of that college newspaper head shot that hasn’t said I look miserable.

Now, it could be argued that the importance of an image search is less important than a Web presence, and, really, that’s true. If you can win the top one or two slots on a Google search for your byline, you can create your own path to branding your likeness, but image searches are clearly used as a shorthand for those trying to unite a name with a face, and there is no reason to allow for ambiguity if you don’t have to do that.

So, I’d like to see an image search of Christopher Wink bring what is at top or what is just below, but – like a Web search – I have to work towards that.


See others that I’d like to see among the top in searches for the following:

Chris Wink with Bill Cosby and James White

Christopher Wink on a portion of the Great Wall of China

Wink‘s head shot from above

Maybe what Sean Blanda, and Brian James Kirk, and Ryan Sholin, and Howard Owens would want.

Anyone have any advice or thoughts?

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