Wikio is a relatively new startup that blends articles from major news web sites and blogs with commentary and tags from Wikio users. It also offers powerful search and customization options that go beyond what you find at most other “media harvesting” sites on the web.
Google News offers personalization, but doesn’t let you choose your own sources or interact with other users. Topix.net allows you to comment on news stories and participate in forums, but doesn’t let you add tags or vote for your favorite stories. Digg lets you vote and comment on stories, but doesn’t offer any personalization (other than a list of the stories you’ve “dug.”)
Wikio offers the features of all of these services, and more.
When you first visit the Wikio home page, it looks like most other news aggregators. You’ll see a list of the top 20 recent news stories, each with a headline and excerpt, along with links to related stories at other sites. Each story is color-coded by category (blue for general news, aqua for technology and sciences, green for entertainment and so on), and has a small box showing the number of votes the story has received from readers (to vote for a story, simply click on its votes box).
Articles are displayed by relevance (weighted toward date and length; more on how relevance is calculated here). You can also change the view to sort by date or popularity. Links to categories on the upper right of each Wikio page let you quickly drill down into a particular topic. A tag cloud shows you the most popular tags associated with the stories on the page you’re currently viewing.
All this makes for an easy-to-use news site—but things get much more interesting when you register and start using Wikio’s personalization and customization features. Registration is free, and requires only a user name, password and email address, though you can also create a public profile with additional information if you want to get more involved with the Wikio community.
Once you’ve logged in, you can create your own customized categories by adding a new “tab” to Wikio. Click the “new tab” link, and enter a title for your new section. Then either type in a keyword tag or click one from the tag cloud of general topics. Once you’ve entered a tag, the tag cloud gets updated with related tags, making it easy to add multiple similar tags.
And a really nice feature allows you to add RSS feeds as a source in addition to your tag keywords. I created a “search” tab using the usual suspect keywords, and added the Search Engine Land feed and several others as sources.
These customized news tabs work really well to personalize your experience with news and blog posts, giving you a focused view of what’s happening in a particular area that’s not easy to find elsewhere, at least in my experience. And the associated tag clouds also show you at a glance what’s hot in your topic. For example, “Jerry Yang” is a prominent tag in my search tab. Clicking the link brings up dozens of stories about Jerry Yang, most talking about Yahoo’s recent earnings call and Yang’s presentation at Mac World with Steve Jobs.
Each tab has its own RSS feed that you can pull into your own feed reader, though you’ll lose some of the flexibility you get by viewing articles directly on Wikio.
Wikio provides a search box at the top of every page, and also offers some advanced search commands, including “+” to indicate a theme for a search (this allows you to search both by keyword and topic at the same time), “-” to exclude a topic, and quotation marks for an exact phrase search.
Wikio doesn’t offer an explicit list of its sources, but claims “live information from 17979 media and blogs,” and says it’s well on the way toward gathering multi-lingual content from 100,000 sources. These sources have been selected by Wikio editors or recommended by users. “The process for selecting news sources is carried out with no ideological or political bias,” according to the Wikio blog. “The only sources we exclude are those whose content is anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, sexist or more generally intolerant in nature, those which provide no editorial added value, and of course, those which propagate spam.”
Want to suggest a source to Wikio? Start by reading this blog post, Suggesting a source to Wikio, and searching to see if the source is already included. This isn’t as easy as it should be—source names aren’t indexed, so you’ll need to search by the title of an article or using some quoted text from an article in the source you’re looking for.
In addition to the English version that’s primarily targeting a U.S. based audience, Wikio is also available in French, German, Spanish and Italian. The company plans to release a U.K. English version next quarter, and then additional European and Canadian versions.
Wikio is a Luxembourg-based startup, founded by seasoned entrepreneurs Laurent Binard (founder of portal-building software firm Mediapps) and Pierre Chappaz (founder of Euro shopping engine Kelkoo, and general co-director of custom start-page Netvibes). The company just announced a 4 million euros by venture funds Lightspeed and Gemini, so it’s on track to continue development.
Although Wikio offers more flexibility than most news aggregators, it’s still not perfect. It would be great to have the option to eliminate certain sources altogether (you can flag individual stories as off-topic or spam for editors). Also missing is the Digg-like ability to cast a negative vote for a story. But these are just quibbles—overall, Wikio is one of the most useful news and blog aggregators I’ve seen come along in a while.