News search isn’t new to Microsoft. The company has long offered it, but when I reviewed it last year, it left much to be desired:
You can have a pass on using Live news search over Google. That’s because it doesn’t seem to hit as many sources as Google but rather sticks with large, mainstream media.
The new release aims to correct the disappointment. "Our news search sort of languished over the past few yeas, but as of late, we realized that’s where a lot of people are looking," said Justin Osmer, senior product manager with Live Search.
The new service automatically shows you top stories grouped into topics on the home page. Yes, that’s similar to how Google News operates, or Techmeme, or Topix, as many have noted (Yahoo still uses editors, to my knowledge).
That’s cool, but I’m more a keyword news search type of person, someone who wants to search through a large selection of news sources and see what matches my search topics. Microsoft says they have more than 2,000 sources now, which is a jump up from the 100 or so mainstream publications they seemed to have in the past. I can even find a few blog and niche publications in there, but Microsoft says more will be coming. Still, keyword searches remain feeling heavy on the mainstream publications.
Want a full source list? Well, none of the major news search engines provide this, so don’t expect it to come from Microsoft, either. How about whether they have more sources than the others? Again, we don’t get counts — and I don’t want to start a "we’ve got more sources" war. In the end, it’s the quality of the results, and the improved Microsoft service is certainly worth testing out against your favorite service over the coming weeks.
Want to be included? Hang in there. There’s no formal submission process, but one should be coming. By the way, the news crawling is being done entirely by Microsoft now (Moreover was a long-time partner), as is the algorithmic sorting.
Other features? I immediately liked how I was shown "California News" in a box along the right-hand of the page. That was due to Microsoft checking my IP address and seeing I was in California. In the future, it might even get localized to a city level. Want to see the future now? Visit Topix. Over there, it put local news for Newport Beach at the top of the page, precisely where I am right now.
Keep in mind that IP detection isn’t always correct. WebProNews noted how the new Live Search News was showing Illinois news to those in their Kentucky offices. Google avoids that problem by having users automatically put in a local ZIP code, a feature introduced in February. Unfortunately, that means users might not realize they can get local news (as with automatically showing them it). Indeed, two weeks after the Google feature rolled out, Google had to do a special blog post further explaining how to use it.
One thing I especially like are the "Today’s top news videos" section midway on the home page. You can hover over a video and get a 30 second summary of what it’s about, using Microsoft’s cool video preview feature that rolled out last September.
Another feature CNET noted is how when there’s big breaking news, an orange "Breaking News" bar will appear at the top of the page.
What’s missing? No alerts or RSS feeds yet, but Osmer said those will come.
Oddly, if you hit the main Live.com home page, the news link there takes you only to a keyword search box, rather than this new news page. But integration is better when doing actual searches. Try a search for obama, for example, and a big "News results" unit appears at the top of the search results. Select the "More on this story" link, and you get more news search results, along with nice refinement options along the right-hand side of the page, including localization options.