Google News has finally graduated from beta status, after more than three years in development, with some shiny new features.
When Google News was introduced back in September 2002, its goal was to enable readers to get a broader perspective and dig deeper into the news—perhaps reading ten articles on a topic instead of one.
Google News has certainly become the news search engine of choice for journalists and news junkies—accounting for more than 40.2% of news searches conducted in August 2005, according to comScore. It was followed closely by Yahoo News with 39.4% of the news searches conducted that month, with AOL News solidly in third place, with a 19.0% share.
However, Google News has been leapfrogged by Yahoo News and AOL News in reach. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, Yahoo News had 25.4 million unique visitors in October 2005, making it the top U.S. news site. AOL News had 15.1 million unique visitors that month, making it the #4 U.S. news site, while Google News had 7.1 million unique visitors, making it the #14 U.S. news site.
Google News has also been leapfrogged by other sites in the number of news sources that it aggregates. According to its web site, Google News gathers stories from more than 4,500 English-language news sources worldwide. It has also grown to 22 regional editions in 10 languages. Yahoo News aggregates stories from more than 7,000 global news sources in 35 languages. Topix.net crawls more than 12,000 mainstream sources and 15,000 blogs and also offers more than 360,000 topical pages. RocketNews offers content from more than 16,000 news sources and 70,000 RSS and weblog sources.
In addition to taking Google News out of beta, Google also introduced personalized news headlines. By further integrating Personalized Search into Google News, users can now receive recommended news stories based on their past news searches and articles they've read, giving them suggestions for interesting stories to explore that they may not have discovered otherwise.
Users who want to receive personalized news headlines simply sign up for Personalized Search. Then, whenever they're signed in to their Google Account, they'll see recommended headlines based on what they've read in the past. These results appear along the left hand column but users can also get a full page of recommended stories by clicking on the section.
Google have also added another new section to the left-hand column that shows the most popular recent stories in the Google News edition you are viewing. Now you can see the top stories being published by editors across the web, other stories popular with readers, and topics that you track or are interested in—all on one page.
At the same time that Google announced it was taking Google News out of beta, Krishna Bharat, the creator of Google News, published a related post to the Google Blog.
Bharat said, "When we launched the English-language edition in September 2002, we entered untested waters with a grand experiment in news browsing—using computers to organize the world's news in real time and providing a bird's eye view of what's being reported on virtually any topic. By presenting news 'clusters' (related articles in a group), we thought it would encourage readers to get a broader perspective by digging deeper into the news—reading ten articles instead of one, perhaps—and then gain a better understanding of the issues, which could ultimately benefit society."
He added, "We've certainly gotten a lot of feedback from both readers and editors. For example, readers told us they loved the news clusters but they didn't want press releases on the home page (although they are still useful to have in the search results). A major area we wanted to address was personalization. We offered email alerts, as well as the ability for users to create a personalized page, but many users don't have the time to specify exactly what they want. So today we're adding a way to automatically recommend stories for users with Personalized Search."
Bharat concluded, "Google News has matured a great deal, and we're proud to see it graduate from its beta status. Much remains to be done, and as always, we have many exciting ideas that we intend to take forward. Meanwhile, as the saying goes, if you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own. Or just keep reading Google News."
He forgot to mention your other options: Reading Yahoo News, AOL News, Topix.net, RocketNews, or other news search engines that graduated from beta before Google News.
Greg Jarboe is the co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine optimization company and public relations firm that specializes in news search, blog search and vertical search.
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