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Yahoo! Debuts Two New Tools for Mining Expert Information
by
Posted On October 17, 2005
Recognizing that expert reporters can be found outside “the media,” Yahoo! has just begun beta testing two new tools for locating information from non-mainstream sources: News Search Now with Blogs Beta (http://news.yahoo.com) and Yahoo! Podcasts Beta (http://podcasts.yahoo.com).

Unlike other blog search applications, Yahoo! combines its blog tracking with the news search component of its Yahoo! Search service, an implementation that indicates how seriously Yahoo! takes “citizen journalism.” The work flow is a bit clunky, but it’s not worth complaining about. You can search news and blogs together, or you can search just news (but not blogs alone). If you want to focus on blogs, select “More Blog Results” from the blog hits down the right-hand side of the results page. Yahoo! has dumped them in the right-hand screen space usually reserved for ads.

Gary Price of SearchEngineWatch.com offers this workaround:

To limit your search to blogs in the Yahoo News/Blog integration, use the search string:

http://blog.news.search.yahoo.com/blog/search?p=foo and replace what comes after “foo” with your search terms.

Oddly (or with great foresight—time will tell), Yahoo! has chosen to display pictures from the photo-sharing site Flickr (http://www.flickr.com) along with blog results. These images in no way relate to the blogs, only to their keywords. The idea seems to be to give citizen photojournalists a pictorial augmentation, but current results are hit-and-miss. For major stories, such as the Pakistan earthquake or ice cap melting, no one has posted Flickr pictures, although you do get official news images in Yahoo!’s news results. If you search for Hurricane Katrina or Angelina Jolie, however, you will see Flickr pictures.

A blog search also brings up Yahoo! My Web links—bookmarks that Yahoo! users have saved on the site and made public. (You can also keep them private.) This form of tagging will eventually prove useful; however, no one has yet contributed to hot topics like “mortgage interest deduction,” “2006 congressional elections,” and “California real estate.”

Yahoo! claims it is starting with a subset of blogs but means to eventually include “the 20-plus million blogs from the blog.us ping stream,” which they recently acquired. Blog.us regularly imports lists of Weblogs from Blogger.com and Weblogs.com and allows bloggers to list their own and others’ blogs.

The current limited size of Yahoo!’s coverage leave them lagging behind the stand-alone blog searching tools offered by Google (http://google.com/blogsearch) and Technorati (http://www.technorati.com) in some ways. When Yahoo! adds the full 20-plus million, things could change. As of now, however, a comparison shows:

  • Coverage: Both Technorati and Google are more comprehensive. Technorati claims to index 19.3 million blogs. Google attempts to include every blog that publishes an RSS or Atom feed, which means most of them.
  • Language: Google, Yahoo! and Technorati all let you filter by language.
  • Links: Technorati automatically shows you items linked to search hits. Google and Yahoo! require use of the “link” command, which puts more burden on users.
  • RSS: All let you subscribe to search results via an RSS feed.
  • Presentation: Yahoo!’s and Google’s default order is relevance; Technorati’s is date.

A test search for “cervical cancer vaccine” turned up:

  • 2870 results from Google
  • 63 results from Yahoo!
  • 1374 results from Technorati

In this test, the first results page for each service differed completely from the others, which once again proves the importance of trying multiple sources.

New player Memeorandum (http://www.memeorandum.com) also integrates news and blog searching, but only for tech and politics. It doesn’t separate news sources from blogs, but it does label them so you know which is which. Inclusion criteria change constantly, but the site’s owner, Gabe Rivera, endeavors to select based on peer recognition.

Podcasts Too

Yahoo! also announced a new podcast directory. For those who have been away visiting other planets lately, podcasting is a hot new field that lets users time-shift audio programming they download from the Web. Like radio, but often less polished and more eclectic, podcasting went mainstream when Apple added it to its iTunes music client in August. While other directories exist—PodcastPickle.com, PodcastAlley.com, and Odeo, for example—iTunes quickly eclipsed them to become the source … until now.

A good podcast directory helps you find and evaluate podcasts. Because it takes longer to listen than to read, text-based metadata and user feedback are critical in achieving this end. Yahoo! is off to a decent, but imperfect, start. Since Apple has a long way to go, the top spot remains up for grabs.

Finding Stuff

  • Yahoo!: Yahoo! Search will let you find a series or an episode or both, but you can’t limit the search to a title. Select from 13 main browse categories, but expect to be overloaded. You can’t drill down to more specific groupings … yet.
  • iTunes: Search all podcasts, podcast titles, or podcast authors. You cannot limit your search to a particular episode. Browsing is pathetic. The just-released iTunes 6.0 won’t even let you browse by subcategory (a feature it used to offer).

User Feedback

  • Yahoo!: Yahoo! lets users tag episodes with keywords. However, only a few tags display on the main page, and there’s no way to see others until you’re looking at a specific cast. You can also rate and review casts, which are grouped by “Most Popular” and “Highly Rated” in addition to subject categories.
  • iTunes: Contrary to Web site verbiage, Apple allows no public reviews or ratings. You can arrange and rate your downloads for your own amusement, but rankings in Apple’s top100 list reflect only the number of subscribers, not feedback.

At this point, Yahoo!’s keyword searching is far more effective than browsing by subject. They need to provide browseable subcategories, a clickable list of user-assigned tags, and more ways to narrow a search, like limiting a search to words found in a title.

Hail and Beware

You can find a lot of unsubstantiated information in blogs and podcasts, but then there’s a lot of bias and error in the controlled environment of mainstream newsrooms too. At least now people with talent and drive don’t have to wait for permission to share their expertise.


Paula Berinstein is publishing trends columnist for Searcher and producer/host of the podcast The Writing Show.

Email Paula Berinstein
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