May 22, 2022

Research Article: “Measuring the Importance of User-Generated Content to Search Engines” (Preprint)

The article (preprint) linked below was recently shared on arXiv.


Measuring the Importance of User-Generated Content to Search Engines


Nicholas Vincent
Northwestern University

Isaac Johnson
Northwestern University

Patrick Sheehan
Northwestern University

Brent Hecht
Northwestern University


via arXiv
Paper Accepted  at ICWSM 2019


Search engines are some of the most popular and profitable intelligent technologies in existence. Recent research, however, has suggested that search engines may be surprisingly dependent on user-created content like Wikipedia articles to address user information needs.

In this paper, we perform a rigorous audit of the extent to which Google leverages Wikipedia and other user-generated content to respond to queries. Analyzing results for six types of important queries (e.g. most popular, trending, expensive advertising), we observe that Wikipedia appears in over 80% of results pages for some query types and is by far the most prevalent individual content source across all query types.

More generally, our results provide empirical information to inform a nascent but rapidly-growing debate surrounding a highly-consequential question: Do users provide enough value to intelligent technologies that they should receive more of the economic benefits from intelligent technologies?

Direct to Full Text Article
13 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.