14 Specialized news search with SiloBreaker

Ryan Davidson

Introduction

SiloBreaker is a specialized search service for news and current events. SiloBreaker searches through news stories, blogs, research resources, and multimedia resources and uses a specialized news search engine to bring relevant search results to the user. SiloBreaker’s search engine uses text mining and graphical representations in order to make sure that the results it provides are appropriate and that the user interface is clean and straightforward. SiloBreaker is designed for “intelligence workers” such as business analysts and professionals who are constantly looking for new information about a certain topic or segment. In addition to the regular SiloBreaker News site, SiloBreaker provides several professional services that include access to more news sources, search features, and analytical tools.

SiloBreaker should be used when you are looking to monitor or look up recent news about a certain topic, industry, person, or company. Its search is designed to pull stories from over 10,000 sources and aggregate the results so that the latest information gets to you.

Specialized search strategies

Unlike regular web search, news search engines are designed to search through news resources and bring up news articles and associated information. These search engines are designed to bring up the newest news articles first so that you are getting the most up to date information. Some of the advanced features in SiloBreaker and in most news search engines include the ability to pick a range of dates that the provided articles are from, what sources and locations the articles come from, or what keywords are included and excluded in the results the search engine returns.

Another specialized search strategy on SiloBreaker is using entities. According to SiloBreaker, entities are the central concept of the SiloBreaker search system. Entities are keywords, such as companies, people, places, and topics, that are linked to the bottom of every article on the SiloBreaker site. SiloBreaker’s software automatically adds entities to every article it aggregates. Therefore, the quality of SiloBreaker’s search results improves dramatically when entities are used in the search engine.

Instructions- The Basics of SiloBreaker

The Homepage

When you first go to SiloBreaker’s homepage you will be greeted by current news and popular stories. Quickly you will notice the entities below every story. When you place your mouse over these entities a little window pops up which tells you about that entity and the newest news articles related to it. At the top right side of the homepage is the “In Focus” box. This box displays a list of entities that are popular in the news right now sorted by types (person, business, group, ect.) This box allows you to browse the news in a different way by choosing a specific entity and then viewing the related news to that entity. Other interesting features of the homepage include “Hotspots”, which is a map of the world that shows where news is coming from, and a trends graph.

An example of an Entity on SiloBreaker

The In Focus Sidebar

Search

The search bar is at the top of the SiloBreaker homepage. Just put your search term into the box and hit enter. SiloBreaker’s 360 degree search then searches over 10,000 sources for the latest results. Once the search is completed, SiloBreaker first returns a list of entities that are related to the topic you searched. For instance when I searched BMW, SiloBreaker suggested entities like BMW (The Company) and entities for BMW’s models such as the 3-Series, 5-Series, and X3. On the results page, the “In Focus” and “Hotspots” boxes are still on the right side of the page, but now they are more specific to your search. Below these boxes is a blogs box, which shows the latest blog stories that relate to your search topic. The search results are located to the left of these information boxes and just below the suggested entities. Search results are sorted by headline and similar stories are clumped together into one headline.

Entities and Headlines From a Search for BMW

By clicking on a specific headline, you are taken to a page that displays the first few lines of that story, which sources also are carrying the same story, quotes related to the headline, as well as related stories. For example, when I clicked on a headline that read, “BMW calling for 1M China sales during 2012-2014 stretch,” here is the page that SiloBreaker brings you to. This page shows you the first line of an article from LeftLaneNews and indicates that there are five other sites that are reporting the same story.

An example of a headline page

Because of the nature of SiloBreaker’s 360 degree search, Silobreaker works better when you search for topics, companies, or industries, instead of specific articles or headlines. For instance these are the results SiloBreaker provides when you search “BMW to sell 1m cars in china” compared to the results when you just search for “BMW”. Another important search strategy in SiloBreaker is using entities. SiloBreaker allows users to use entities in both its 360 degree search and its advanced search to better specify what type of information they are looking for and therefore get better results. In order to search with entities, just start typing in a word or phrase and SiloBreaker’s search will suggest entities to use in your search query.

One of SiloBreaker’s main faults is the drop in quality results when searching without entities. For instance when you search for “BP Oil Spill” only two or three of the results are actually relevant, while the rest have nothing to do with the topic. In contrast, when you use the BP entity, the results  are much more accurate and almost all of the news results have to do with the company.

Search results for “BP Oil Spill”

Search Operators Within SiloBreaker

SiloBreaker recognizes a variety of search operators so that you can better specify what you are looking for in the results Silobreaker returns to you. SiloBreaker search supports the use of three basic Boolean search operators.  The “AND” operator will allow you to search for articles that have two different, separate topics in them such as “Lions AND Tigers.” The “OR” operator tells SiloBreaker to look for articles that  either have one topic or another topic. Additionally, the “NOT” operator allows you to search for articles that have one topic but not another certain topic. In addition to these three Boolean operators, SiloBreaker has a bunch of search operators that are unique to its platform. Enlarge the images below for a list of these operators and a description of their purpose:

Advanced Search

If you are unsatisfied with the results and headlines that SiloBreaker finds using is 360 degree search, there is an advanced search option underneath the search bar. The first field the advanced search gives you is to search for documents that include all the words or entities that you provide. Below that is an option for SiloBreaker to search for articles that include but do not necessarily have certain all of the enities or words your provide in that field. The next field in the advanced search asks you to list all of the words or entities that you do not want to find in your results. This field is simular to using the “NOT” operator in the regular SiloBreaker search. The advanced search also allows you to limit which sources (I.E. The New York Times or MSNBC) are searched, which countries the results come from, and the age of the results returned. The ability to limit which countries your results comes from if very helpful if you are looking to see what other countries are saying about a certain topic or news event.

Above is the advanced search I constructed to find news on BMW M cars from the last 2 weeks. By telling the advanced search to include articles related to certain BMW M cars and to leave out articles that were about Non-M BMW cars, I was able to get a much more specific set of results about BMW M Cars.

The only issue I found with the advanced search is that several times when I went to use it, SiloBreaker would not allow me to click on it. This is very frustrating because I have used it before and know that it works. Hopefully, SiloBreaker will fix this issue shortly.

Google Web Search vs. SiloBreaker

1. Appearance/Interface

Google is the clear winner in this category because the site is laid out much better and is much cleaner.

Google’s user interface and site design is much cleaner than SiloBreaker’s. The layout is very simple with the results all in one column. Plus with adblock on, Google is advertisement free and the only things on the results page are the results, and maybe a Google Knowledge Graph. In contrast, SiloBreaker’s homepage and results pages are a lot more cluttered with lots of things going on. With all of the sidebars and the different sized results, SiloBreaker’s pages are not as pleasing to the eye or as user friendly. Plus, the added step with the “Headline Page” when searching means that there is an extra step between picking a headline you want to read about and getting to the actual article. One beneficial feature that SiloBreaker has that Google does not, are the entities. This allows you to get a preview on certain topics without ever leaving the results page.

Google Results Page

2. Quality of News Results

SiloBreaker is better than Google Web Search for finding news articles unless SiloBreaker does not have an entity related to your search topic.

For news results, SiloBreaker, when used properly with entities, produces better news stories then Google Web Search. Searching [BMW] in Google brings up results such as BMW.com and wikipedia.com/bmw. While these results may be good for the average user looking to find information about BMW, these are not news results. Even searching “BMW News” in Google does not bring up news articles on BMW but rather results for websites that have BMW news on them. When searching for BMW, SiloBreaker brings up the latest news headlines for about BMW. However, if SiloBreaker does not have an entity related to the topic you want to search, I would suggest going to Google Web Search because SiloBreaker’s accuracy when you don’t use entities is pretty bad. While SiloBreaker beats Google Web Search in the category, other sites like Google News Search and Yahoo News Search may be better choices for finding news articles.

3. Speed/Responsiveness

Google is much faster than SiloBreaker which seems almost unbearably slow at times.

With its instant search, Google already has its results by the time you are done typing. This means that you waste no time while the search engine loads and that you can search very efficiently. On the other hand, SiloBreaker is much slower. There is always a load time after searching on the site. This detracts from the user experience and is quite frustrating.

How to get the most out of it

For users who want to get the most out of SiloBreaker’s services, there are premium, paid accounts that give users access to even more sources in addition to a bunch of analytic tools and search aids.


For users who do not wish to pay for SiloBreaker’s premium services, the best way to get the most out of SiloBreaker is to lookup and use SiloBreaker entities. When used in both the regular and advanced searches, the entities will make your searches much more accurate and will allow SiloBreaker’s 360 degree search to better tailor its result to you. Also, using the side boxes such as the “In Focus” box may help you find articles that are related to your topic.

Recommendation

While SiloBreaker is better than Google Web Search for delivering news results because it is a dedicated news search site and Google Web Search is not, there are other news search engines that are better than the free version of SiloBreaker. SiloBreaker’s pages are cluttered with information and advertisements and are very disorganized making the user experience less than perfect. You tend to often overlook useful results because of the layout of the pages and the amount of things trying to draw your attention away from the actual search results.

In contrast, when used properly with entities, SiloBreaker does a good job at providing quality search results that are relevant and useful. The headlines SiloBreaker provided are usually current and related to the topic you are searching about and the quality of the articles is usually pretty high. However, the biggest problem with SiloBreaker and the reason why I am hesitant to recommend it is that when you do not use entities, SiloBreaker’s search is inaccurate and almost useless. This is a major problem when you want to use the site to find information about topics that do not have a related entity.

If the sub-par user interface does not bother you and you use entities to your benefit, SiloBreaker is a great information source; however because of the cluttered design and inaccurate search results when you don’t use a SiloBreaker entity, I have a feeling that many will look elsewhere for news search.

Appendix

  • SiloBreaker, http://news.silobreaker.com/: This is what the chapter is based on.
  • Google Web Search, https://www.google.com/: This is the site I compared SiloBreaker to.
  • Billhatzer, http://www.billhartzer.com/pages/silobreaker-redefines-news-search/: This is an article I used to gain some background knowledge on SiloBreaker.
  • LaptopMag, http://www.laptopmag.com/review/software/silobreaker.aspx: This is an article I used to gain some background knowledge on SiloBreaker.
  • SiloBreaker Key Benefits, http://www.silobreaker.com/products/overview-key-benefits: I used this page to learn more about SiloBreakers benefits.
  • SiloBreaker Manual, http://www.silobreaker.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/User-Manual-Silobreaker-Premium-2012-04w.pdf: I used this to get a better understanding for SiloBreaker’s features.

About the Author

Ryan Davidson is a student at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Ryan is originally from New York and is an avid sailor.

 

License

To Google or not to Google? Copyright © 2013 by Ryan Davidson. All Rights Reserved.

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