As Vanessa noted, Ask.com has revamped its news aggregation service, adding lots of bells and whistles and a few useful features. Most notably, Ask has embraced the social media tenet that you need others to tell you how important a news story is, with its new “BigFactor” ratings.
Like Google News, Yahoo News, and other news aggregators, Big News scans and analyzes traditional news sources, prominent blogs, and video sources, and groups related stories about specific events. Within each story are links to all of the articles, blog posts, images, and videos associated with the event, allowing you to quickly access a variety of sources.
Big News differs from other aggregators by attaching a numeric ranking to each event, called a “BigFactor” score, which analyzes four key dimensions of a current event:
- Breaking: The timeliness and freshness of a story, with more weight given to breaking news
- Impact: The story’s impact across the web, monitoring mentions in articles, multimedia, and blogs
- Media: The number of “quality” images and videos associated with stories
- Discussion: How much buzz a current event is generating in forums, comments, and other open discussion venues on the web
BigFactor scores range from 1-100, and are updated as the Big News algorithms evaluate new content. You can mouse over a BigFactor score and see a graph that displays the relative importance of each of the factors described above.
At first glance, BigFactor scores seem most useful for people who are relatively clueless about current events, or need guidance from others about what’s important to pay attention to. But look more closely at stories that include an “X day history” link. Clicking on that link takes you to a “Big Picture” page which lets you see how a story has unfolded over time.
At the top of this page a graph depicts how the BigFactor score has changed since the story first broke. This is a really useful indicator of the relative importance of the story compared to other events that unfolded over the same time period.
Another nice feature lets you track stories over time. Simply click the “track” link on a BigFactor score and the story gets added to your collection of “My News” stories. Depending on how important the event is, stories may be tracked up to 30 days or so.
Digg users will love the bottom of the Big News home page, where the “top 5 Diggs in the news” are displayed. And Ask has also made it easy to spam Digg by displaying stories that have “zero Diggs – be the first!”
The bottom line is that Big News is an attractive news aggregator with some nice features. I still prefer Yahoo News, with its less colorful but more function-packed interface—with things like direct access to influential sources, the ability to mouse-over a headline and see a pop up snippet of a story, and the ability to quickly customize news categories with your own preferred sources. But if Ask continues to innovate on Big News in the way they have with their impressive Ask 3D web search results, Big News is a service worth keeping an eye on.