13 News search with major search engines

Joshua Farran

Introduction

Interest in the news is definitely not a new phenomenon, especially in the world we live in today. Dissemination of major news events has been around since the beginning of time, whether announced to the people by the court of the King or spread through rumors and word of mouth it is no secret that people want to be informed and will always find a way to get their fix of the news.

Fortunately for us we live in the 21st century. While in the middle ages spreading messages to the masses presented a problem, nowadays individuals are bombarded with too much news that they aren’t able to keep track of. As recent as 30 years ago we were still limited to the newspaper, magazines, television and the radio. Now, with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Smartphones, Tablets and other devices it has become incredibly difficult for users to sift through the extraneous information and focus on the news they really want to know about.

In this chapter, the focus will be on News searches using major search engines with an in-depth look at both Yahoo and Bing. Both of these websites present capabilities for the user to search for almost anything related to the news and allows them to use specific filters and advanced searches to continually improve their search precision. Finally, these tools both allow for connection to an RSS feed.

Specialized search strategies

Since almost everyone is familiar with much of the general web search strategies, most of us will be extremely familiar with the methodology for searching for news. Almost all of the same search operators are available on both Yahoo and Bing news search that are available for their general web searches. Below I will list a few quick recommendations for formulating a better search query while searching the news on Yahoo or Bing.

1. Use the “intitle:” search operator

While this is often a useful tool in regular web search it becomes even more important when searching the news. A major (MAJOR) component of news articles is their headline, even in electronic news. For example, if I were looking for news information about the Michigan basketball game last night I might use the query [intitle:”Michigan basketball” IUPUI] and I will improve the precision of my results. One thing to keep in mind is that by specifying specific elements of your search Yahoo and Bing often greatly limit the quantity of results returned. This may be a good or bad, but definitely something to keep in mind.

2. Use news source in your query, especially if you are searching for major news events

For example, if you are searching for information about General Petraeus’ resignation as Director of the CIA you can search specifically for articles from CNN, ABC News or any news service of your choice by including them in the query. Including this as a component of your query will ensure you receive credible results from a very reputable source.

3. Set your preferences

By setting preferences you can automatically customize the types of articles you receive as suggested news and on the general homepage. By customizing your search options and your interests the website software will automatically optimize your search results around your selected interest areas and display them in accordance to the preferences you have specified.

4. Use the filters provided

Finally, in something somewhat self-explanatory it is extremely helpful to use the filters and suggestions provided by these websites. If you are interested in historical events and are looking for a news article about the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in Japan, you can filter all the way back to that time period and look for articles there. As always, just be aware that the more filters used the more limited your news search results will be. Just be careful when crafting these queries to ensure the best results are returned to you.

Bing News instructions

How to use

Searching the news through Bing is extremely similar to a typical web search query. A user experienced in basic web search should have no trouble stepping right in and becoming an expert at gathering the latest, most important news from Bing. In this section I will provide a detailed example of how to effectively search through Bing and provide some additional information to help you get the most out of your news search experience. In this section the sample query used will be: [Hector Camacho death].

Homepagewww.Bing.com/news

 

The Bing homepage offers a great place to start a news search while providing the user with excellent opportunities to simply browse through the latest global events. At the top of the page Bing provides you with a typical search bar. Below the search bar Bing allows you to sort through news articles based on subject matter with options such as U.S., local, business and politics.

On the right hand portion of the page Bing places specific news items that they have determined to be relevant to you. They show thumbnails of “imporant” events such as Demi Moore’s divorce and even our topic, Hector Camacho. Additionally, below that Bing provides weather descriptions and local articles based on the location detected by their server. Bing’s homepage provides a good mix of both personalized suggestions for news articles and important news events that are most likely the top stories from every news source.

Moving further down the page, Bing provides a brief preview of articles from all different genres. By having these thumbnails with mini-previews all on the first page, the user is able to browse through the entire world of news without having to click through pages. Users can easily scroll up and down the page and receive a diverse sampling of articles. Bing also shows their top news videos from today. The videos are very relevant to what a reasonable person would be looking for and by showing videos from different sectors the user has a wide array of offerings to choose from.

Finally, I’d like to highlight that Bing is compatible with both email alerts and RSS feed subscriptions. These options will be discussed later but I wanted to point out they are available right on the homepage.

Sample Query: [Hector Camacho death]

As previously mentioned, the news search tools are very similar to that of a regular Bing web search. Bing shows you the number of results returned (32 results) and automatically sorts the results based on what they feel is most relevant. You are able to change the sorting away from Best Match to with a certain time frame. Unfortunately, Bing only allows you to sort articles by the past hour, past 24 hours or the past 7 days.

One cool tidbit that Bing offers is their “People in the News” and “Public Updates” sections showing notable quotes and Tweets related to the searched query.

At the bottom of every search result page Bing gives their related search ideas and their links to connect with Email Alerts and your RSS feed. The search suggestions are a little disappointing. I dislike that they are shown at the bottom of the page; often I won’t end up scrolling all the way down and it may be valuable to see these suggestions right away and to change/improve my initial query. The actual suggestions are also not very helpful. While Hector Camacho is from Puerto Rico and he passed away there, I probably wouldn’t want to run a search for simply [puerto rico] if I was interested in reading about Hector Camacho.

How to get the most out of it

My Bing News – Facebook Connection

Beyond their own website search opportunities Bing has created a Facebook app allowing you to get customized news articles delivered directly into your News Feed. Bing makes finding relevant news to you quick and easy through their short setup process.

After setting your preferences Bing has created your own personal site to access through their Facebook app. They provide articles relevant to the topics you’ve selected in your preferences and provide extensive previews of the article text. From here it is up to you to decide where to go and how deeply you’d like to dive into the articles. In many instances, the preview they provide is enough to get the basic idea of the article and stay up to date on current happenings.

Within the application Bing allows you to run a search query as well. I ran the same query as above and found very similar results to my initial search through general Bing news. The results have a good level of precision and are from reputable sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post. However, it is odd that the Bing app returned 45 results vs. 32 results in the straight Bing news search. The app also returned different top results as well.

In conclusion, My Bing News is an excellent tool to utilize through Facebook. This application provides better results than a regular web news search through Bing and it allows you to add some productivity to the usual Facebook browsing experience.

Yahoo News

How to use

In this overview of Yahoo News Search we will work through an overview of the entire site and move through an evaluation of the search features through an actual query. For purposes of this example we will be searching for news regarding the looming fiscal cliff in 2012. Our starting query will be [fiscal cliff].

Homepagewww.news.yahoo.com

 

The Yahoo News homepage is an excellent starting point for your news search.  They offer an excellent balance between news that is tailored specifically to you, news that has been recently viewed by your Facebook friends, and articles they’ve deemed important based on their global searches and global importance.

Across the top of the page, Yahoo offers the ability to select different genres of the news allowing the user the ability to focus on specifically U.S. news, sports news, technology news or news through blogs. Mousing over each category offers the option to filter down even further offering many subcategories of news as well (Ex: Sports – NFL, giving specifically NFL news). By clicking on one of these categories you are transported to Yahoo’s homepage for each of these categories (Business – Yahoo Finance) where you can browse articles there and run your own search through the specific home site.

 

 

Progressing down the homepage, below the main headline section Yahoo offers the option to browse the news and filter based on source. I find this as an excellent tool to get top world news and to find a slightly different take on many of the current news issues. When simply browsing the news, this is an excellent tool to get a nice variety from a good quantity of reputable sources like ABC News or Reuters.

 

Finally, one of the most unique aspects of Yahoo News’ homepage is that they connect very well with social media, specifically with Facebook. At the top of their page they offer a section titled: “Your Friends’ Activity”

By allowing you to cycle through the recently visited articles via your Facebook friends, Yahoo has found a way to recommend articles to you based on others’ preferences that are often similar to your own.

While these are not the only features available on the Yahoo News homepage these are some of the most useful. The homepage is especially nice for simple browsing of the news, but also offers the option to search which will be covered in the following section.

Basic News Query

When starting out with your first news query be sure to search in the “News Search” bar at the top left instead of the general web search in the top right corner. While it is nice to have the option to run a web search from any yahoo page it can be a little confusing.

Typing the query [fiscal cliff] and clicking “News Search” takes us to the search results page:

The search results page looks very similar to a web search on any website, so we should all be familiar with this but I’ve highlighted some key elements to the page with different colored boxes:

Yellow – Basic search result. Shows the article title with our query highlighted showing why they returned this result. Yahoo also provides a quick preview of the article content. They also show the source of the article and the date and time the article was posted.

Green – Shows the number of results returned by the search. In this example 3,298 results were returned.

Purple – The portion of the search results dedicated to images. These are images drawn from articles about the fiscal cliff, or with fiscal cliff in the picture title.

Blue –     Along the right hand side Yahoo provides links to videos applicable to our query. In this case, two videos were returned from internal Yahoo News postings while two videos were from external sources. Additionally, Yahoo offers the ability to connect this search to your MyYahoo account or to an external RSS feed – a very powerful tool.

Brown – This area shows the related search recommendations from Yahoo. In this case all suggestions seem very applicable and some great new ideas can be gathered from here.

Red – The only filters offered by the default news search allow for the user to filter the articles by time period and to sort the search results by relevance or most recent.

The below screenshot provides an example of a search using the time filter (articles from the last hour) and then sorted by time (most recent first).

As you can see, by limiting the search to articles from the past hour the search results have been refined significantly. We now have only 21 results compared with 3,298. The articles returned are extremely recent (9 minutes ago) but we’ve narrowed down our results to the point where we no longer have any image or video results returned.

How to get the most out of it

Search Tip

While my major search suggestions are universal to all sites and are listed in the introduction to the chapter, I’m going to show the advantage of using the intitle search operator to help improve our query. I’ll be searching for [Boehner fiscal cliff] and [intitle:Boehner fiscal cliff] in order to see how John Boehner, Representative from Ohio, feels about the looming fiscal cliff.

Here are the results for the first query [Boehner fiscal cliff]:

Here are the results from the second query [intitle:Boehner fiscal cliff]:

Ask.com instructions

How to use

Culminating our evaluation of searching for news through non-Google major search engines we find ourselves working with Ask.com. While Ask.com is often an afterthought when it comes to internet search we will work through an overview of their news search feature and highlight many characteristics that may make using this website worthwhile. Within this section, I will use the sample query [Egypt political unrest]

Homepagewww.ask.com/news

The Ask.com homepage is very similar to the other search engine news sites that we have seen. Ask highlights the top news stories right at the top and then continues to move down the page showing headlines within different categories of the news. Ask provided articles from a variety of sources anywhere from CNN to La Repubblica. They display both the source and date of publication along with a very brief preview of the article text (very, very brief).

While browsing through I noticed that Ask does not immediately allow you to connect their news homepage to an email alert or an RSS feed. After even more investigation, Ask doesn’t have a quick link anywhere to connect your query to email or an RSS feed.

Starting off with a basic search here are the results:

Ask spits out a search results page very similar to both Bing and Yahoo with a variety of articles from many different sources. While Ask only offers a minimal preview of the articles, they have many little things that help to create a surprisingly nice news search engine. In the following sub-section I will highlight these characteristics.

Red – Ask probably provides the best filtering options of any of the three search engines covered in this chapter. They have the ability to allow the user to sort their search based on the category in which the article fell, where in the world the source of the article is from, and sort between date and relevancy.

Black – Ask has a unique feature listing the number of articles from different sources similar to a specific result. In this example, the first article is discussing John McCain’s views on the situation in Egypt. Ask has found 8 other similar articles and 1 image related to this topic. Clicking on the “8 articles” link we are transferred to another Ask search showing these other results.

Blue – Based on observation, it seems that Ask has created an algorithm that mimics a little bit deeper human thought into their related searches. With suggestions such as “Effects of Poverty in Africa” Ask doesn’t simply provide suggestions based on keywords from your past search. They’ve gone through their own search results, drawn some conclusions about the articles, and formulated recommendations based on that. The superiority of these recommendations is a huge asset to Ask.

Yellow – In the “You Might Also Ask” section Ask has coupled your news search with another capability from their website.

Ask transports you to another search, run through their “Everything” search engine, but highlights social media tools to help answer your question. Ask uses its Questions and Answers capabilities to connect you with others on the internet who have posted the same question as you in a message board and have gone on seen their question answered. Ask adds in a collaborative factor which is unique to their search engine. Even if message board responses aren’t always 100% relevant and their accuracy must be verified independently, they still provide a quick answer to a specific question and can prove to be very valuable.

Overall, Ask provides an additional alternative to Google, Bing and Yahoo. While they may still be the last search engine that comes to mind they have a few unique features that may help them gain more share of the news search market going forward.

How to get the most out of it

Utilizing Ask’s question and answers tool is the best way to expand upon the news results returned through the initial basic query. This Q&A tool allows me to post a question to Ask’s server which will be displayed for all other Ask users, who can then provide their own answer.

Thanks to Ask’s “You Might Also Ask” recommendations I was able to formulate a question to help me find more information about the current political unrest in Egypt. Ask prompts me to enter more information about what I’m looking for, helping to place my question in the correct section of the site.

With my question posted the only thing left to do is sit back and wait for the rest of the internet community to help me out. Ask also offers connectivity with both Facebook and Twitter, allowing me to Tweet my question to my friends and look for information that way as well.

Again, Ask succeeds in offering excellent recommendations for related searches, showing their suggestions along the right hand side. Ask’s biggest asset is helping the user along their path of information gathering – starting with an initial news search and guiding you through the website’s other tools to discovery.

Comparison with Google Web Search

The below chart provides a ranking summary of each news search tool we’ve covered so far. Each of the four major search engines are ranked on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being the best search engine.

Overall, Google really is the most consistent news search engine that I’ve worked with. Other search engines have taken time to develop improved search features or have built a more appealing homepage but have missed out on other significant portions of their search service. Because of these glaring holes in other websites Google still receives the crown as best overall search engine. In my opinion, the quantity and quality of the results given by Google vastly overshadow the improved customization or functionality of other websites. Google can make up for their deficiencies in search filters because they provide superior results without the use of any extraneous tools. From personal experience, Google lives up to its reputation as the most popular and most balanced search engine available. When running a very specific search (for example, if you’re looking for public opinion and user comments on current news items) an alternative search engine such as Ask.com may be the best choice, but as a generalization Google is still superior.

Recommendation

The search tools in this chapter have many common similarities. On a very basic level, both Google an Ask will probably lead you to the news articles you’re looking for. Even though Google rated the highest among major categories evaluated they are not a clear cut selection. Among the 4 major choices all will probably be sufficient for your search needs and the final selection may be based on personal preference. While Bing, Yahoo and Ask have some advantages over Google in aggregate the negatives of these sites are too significant to ignore.

If you’ve been using Google in the past I’d encourage you to give the other options a try but I’d recommend sticking with what you’re most familiar with. However, if you haven’t used Google news search much in the past, start out with Ask.com and work your way backwards through the search engines when you find yourself looking for news. Bing, Yahoo and Ask have valuable features that you may really like. By trying these alternative options before you work significantly with Google you may be surprised with which site becomes your favorite.

Appendix

All images are screenshots from the respective search engines. Opinions provided in this chapter are based on direct observations from search engine usage and through minimal inferences. All opinions are my own.

Google, http://www.google.com: This is the site referenced as “Google” and the site upon which the “Comparison with Google Web Search is based”

Bing, http://www.bing.com: This is the home site which is referenced as “Bing”; Bing news search can be reached through this homepage. All sections discussing Bing news search is based on this website.

Yahoo, http://www.yahoo.com: This is the home site which is referenced as “Yahoo”; Yahoo news search can be reached through this homepage. All sections discussing Yahoo news search is based on this website.

Ask, http://www.ask.com: This is the home site which is referenced as “Ask”; Ask.com news search can be reached through this homepage. All sections discussing Ask.com news search is based on this website.

 

About the Author

Joshua Farran is an undergraduate student in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in the University of Michigan. Josh is pursuing a BBA with an emphasis in Finance. He is originally from Troy, Michigan. He will be moving to Los Angeles to begin his career as an investment banking analyst at Barclays in the financial sponsors group. Josh is an avid University of Michigan and Detroit sports fan. After spending time in LA and other locations Josh plans to move back to Detroit in order to pursue interests in the real estate industry.

License

To Google or not to Google? Copyright © 2013 by Joshua Farran. All Rights Reserved.

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