Sep 19, 2006

[The Web] And Now the News...

Similar to what was done in the Geeky Guide entry Battle of the Search Engines, I thought it might be good to look at the various news services of each the major Web 2.0 providers out there. This won't be in the "contest" format used previously, but more of a run-down of what each has to offer.

First up, of course, is Google News, given it is my personal favorite at the moment. The layout of the page is clean and efficient, which remains in line with Google's philosophies around speed in terms of its products. While Google News does not offer original content, it does what Google does best - help you search the web for what is being discussed out there. What makes Google News most unique are the links to related articles it provides so you have the option to read about the event through different perspectives rather than just subscribing to one service. It doesn't necessarily provide favorites and you'll see random news sources every time you visit the page.

While it may not seem to be all that great to read about the same news item over and over again, it does allow one to get a more wholistic view of the story in question and ensuring you don't just limit yourself to one news source. There's another service out there called Newsmap that creates a visual representation of Google News based on the number of articles so you can easily see what appears to be the biggest news item (literally) based on the relative size of the article link on the map. Another good thing about it is the option to customize the layout of the news page if you have a Google Account and recently they've provided the option to search news archives from many years back. On a whim I tried searching for [People Power] using the archive search and it did in fact bring me to articles that go back to 1986, the time of the first People Power revolution. Unfortunately, most if not all of the archive results require payment in order for you to view the full article. At least they help you find it, eh?

Next up is Yahoo! News, perhaps one of the more popular services given its ties to Yahoo!, what remains to be one of the biggest content providers on the web today. Yahoo! News is immediately viewable from the Yahoo! home page, something which is convenient for some while a nuisance to others since it adds to load time just to get to the default search engine. While Google News only attempts to help you find news articles on the web, Yahoo! tries to provide original content, to a degree, while branding the rest of the items under the Yahoo! name. Yahoo! is great since it provides you up-to-the-minute updates from a wide variety of news sources although it does not provide you with alternative sources the same way Google does. Instead of sorting the news by topic or event, they're sorted by content provider.

Customization options for the news page are limited given you need to accept how Yahoo! News presents the information to you. Normally, this means that artciles from the AP are top billed, so to speak. Other benefits of Yahoo! remain focused within the original content arena since it also provides links to top photos, comics and other mixed media.

Windows Live has yet to officially launch its own news service and still relies on its MSN family of services to provide you with content in this area. Like Yahoo!, news items can be viewed from the MSN home page which again slows down load time to an extent.

In terms of actual news, MSN relies on it's tie-up with MSNBC in terms of branding its news content which provides you with more limited resources compared to Google and Yahoo! news services. The only side benefit is probably the links to Newsweek articles, since it too is part of the family of services on the MSNBC side of the house. Because of these tie-ups, MSNBC does provide the most original content, if that's what you're looking for.

Last but not least is News Search, which appears to somewhat follow the spartan philosophies of Google in terms of page design while borrowing a page from Yahoo! News in terms of news sources and presentation methods. Again it does not provide links to related articles and follows the "most recent" pattern of updating articles much like Yahoo! News does. Customizations are limited as well and also does not necessarily provide original content.

I suppose the question of which news service to use is really up to you. If I may, allow me to throw in my own summary of what each service has to offer. If you want associated results presented quickly, go with Google News. If you want real-time results quickly, go with If you want more original content and have suffucient bandwidth to support additional formatting add-ons, go with Yahoo! News. And if you want predominantly original content similar to what some people may have gotten used to with services like AOL, then go with MSNBC.

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