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News About News

Posted On April 1, 2002
In the February NewsLink Monthly Spotlight, I covered some of my favorite news-specific resources-and admitted to a news addiction. Since then, I've gladly added to my list of options several other newly available resources for searching news and receiving news alerts. (Having a choice is always good, according to this searcher.)

Google has recently launched a beta version of its Google News Search (http://news.google.com). Google has been a favored search service for many of us, but had been obviously lagging by not offering a dedicated news search capability. Google News Search is starting with a very small number of news sources and faces other more established contenders (especially my two favorites, AllTheWeb.com and Moreover). But knowing Google, I predict continuous improvements that will make the new service increasingly valuable as a news search tool.

Kevin Elliott, the About.com guide for search, said: "This follows the launch pattern Google has followed in the past with features like Google Groups and Google Image Search. If the company follows the pattern, we can expect to see some interface tweaks and adjustments over the next few months, and growth of the index to cover far more than the current 100 or so news sources, followed by an official launch of the mature service (with a spot on the main Google tab bar, most likely)."

Google claims that what sets News Search apart from the competition is its grouping technology, which automatically puts related stories together in the same search result. I agree that it's a useful feature. On the front page of News Search, headlines are grouped under main categories (such as World, US News, Business, and Technology), and for each main headline for a story there are several other headlines that link to other articles about that same story. Search results also present grouped headlines. This gives users an easy way to link to and compare multiple angles or treatments of the same news item.

News Search supplies continuous updates throughout the day and provides access to about a week's worth of news. Google says it will be offering more news sources and updating the index more frequently. It asks users to provide feedback on sources they would like added or advanced search features they'd like to see. (So this would be a good time to speak up!) News Search has already added a toggle option to sort results by relevance or by date, but it has not yet included the Advanced Search interface for assisted news searches. I look forward to seeing what this service will become, and the developments it could spur from its competitors. Competition is good for providing choices.

One competitor, AltaVista, has made some recent improvements to the user interface and search functionality of AltaVista.com, including updates to its news article search and to the search results display. The search service offers a News tab on its home page. The news headlines, grouped by categories like Top Stories, Business, Companies, etc., are provided by Moreover.

Users are asked to take a 2-minute survey about the news service, so it looks like AltaVista plans to make additional improvements. This is a site I tend to forget to use, but it does offer a clean, uncluttered interface (following its recent streamlining) and fast results. In fact, I really should change my habits and use this instead of Moreover.com, which has a restriction of showing 25 headlines to registered users and doesn't provide the article abstracts that AltaVista does.

In other news about news, NYTimes.com has recently launched the Times News Tracker, a personalized service that allows users to customize e-mail alerts by topic and decide on a delivery schedule (immediate notification, daily, or weekly). While many other news sites provide e-mail alerts, this new service is integrated across NYTimes.com so users can easily create alerts directly from article pages. A News Tracker box is located next to each article on NYTimes.com and lists topics related to that article. Users can check the topic they are interested in and quickly design an alert. They can also go to http://www.nytimes.com/newstracker to define a news topic using their own keywords and phrases. Unfortunately, the current limit is just three alert topics.

An article in Internetnews.com about the Times News Tracker (,12_993391,00.html) reported that Christine Mohan, a spokesperson for New York Times Digital, said the division is waiting to see how the free service is received by readers. If it proves popular, one scenario might be to charge for the alerts beyond the three freebies now offered. Mohan said, "We would be evaluating what types of things users would be interested in paying for" with the latest service. "But for now, the service is free."

Registered users of NYTimes.com (free registration) can still choose from several free e-mail options, including breaking news alerts, daily headlines from a number of the site's sections (I get the technology headlines every morning), and newsletters on special topics (travel, money, dining, movies, etc.). As a former New Yorker, I like staying in touch with a great resource.


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