Newssift, a semantic business news search engine created by The Financial Times, has launched in beta tonight. Currently indexing thousands of news sources worldwide, and with millions of articles in its database, Newssift aims to bring context and meaning that its creators say is missing from traditional keyword-based business news search engines.
“We want to put an angel on the shoulders of the business person,” says Newssift CEO Robin Johnson.
We took Newssift for a pre-launch spin, and the search engine does offer a compelling experience as a business research tool. The screenshot below shows Newssift’s results on a search for “Internet advertising.” Scroll down for an explanation of what you see.
Users can refine queries across multiple search options, such as Topic, Organization, Place, Person, and Theme/Keyword (see the gray area at top). Below the suggestions, Newssift’s search results include additional context, such as the ability to refine results by Sentiment and/or Article Sources (see pie charts on left). Using the screenshot above as an example, a searcher could quite easily drill down to find news articles that talk positively about Yahoo and its new CEO, Carol Bartz … and then click to see negative coverage, too. The ability to save searches is a nice feature, as is the saving of your search history, both of which can be accessed quickly from the search engine’s main navigation bar.
What Newssift hopes will separate itself from other news search engines — and business news, specifically — is its ability to add meaning and context to news search results. Johnson says Newssift is the first search engine to apply a relationship-based algorithm to business news. Newssift wants users to begin with generic queries, and use its refinement technology to find the most relevant results.
A team of editors helps choose and aggregate the sources that Newssift crawls, but Johnson says the engine gives no preference to Financial Times news articles. Indeed, on a purely anecdotal level, I rarely saw Financial Times articles appearing in the results of the dozen or so queries I did. (The only prominence FT gets on Newssift is that it’s separated as a sub-option under Newspapers in the Article Sources refinement — see above.)
With Newssift now in its public beta, the creators are looking for user feedback and say they’re planning to expand the source list by crawling more online news sites, including blogs.