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Brian Livingston
Google's new news

MILLIONS OF WORDS have been written about Google.com, the rapidly growing search engine that people love for its uncannily relevant results.

But the Googlers have just started beta testing a new service that you probably haven't heard boo about. Best of all, this feature is free and open to the public -- if you know where to look.

With little publicity or fanfare, Google has added a new search box that allows you to pull up recent stories culled solely from newspapers and magazines around the world, including InfoWorld.

You could always, of course, use plain old Google to search the Internet for any news subject you like. But reporters, researchers, corporate analysts, and others often need to trace a widely known fact back to an impeccable source, not a generic Web site. Citing a statistic from The New York Times sounds better than writing that you found it at DrudgeReport.com.

Limiting your search to credible news sources almost guarantees that you'll find a quote-worthy reference in seconds using Google's new News Search feature. The time this saves can add up fast. In a study last year of how story assignments are researched by journalists, consultant Jakob Nielsen found that a full one-third of scribblers turned to Google as their very first step (see www.useit.com/about/searchreferrals.html).

As a beta program, Google's News Search may not have every story you'd like, but it costs nothing to find out. I'm pleased to pre-announce its slightly out-of-the-way location.

To try News Search, go to Google.com, then click Advanced Search. Press your Page Down key to find the News section. Any search terms you insert here will query only bona fide news sources when you click the Search button. (While you're on this page, bookmark it. I always start Web searches at Google's Advanced Search page so I don't have to remember any of that Boolean crap.)

The News Search input box now also appears at the top of http://news.google.com, a headline-news page that began only this past December.

Interestingly, Google tries to group related news on this page into clusters. Its computers do this purely by word analysis, with no human intervention. This sometimes provides some odd combos, but I find that most of the resulting links make sense.

Only the latest week of stories is searched. To look farther back, try NewsTrove.com or NorthernLight.com. But I'm hoping Google lifts its limit soon.

It's heartening in the dot-gloom to see Google do well. From zippo in 1998, it now handles 14 percent of all searches worldwide, followed by MSN's 13 percent and AOL's 5 percent, according to StatMarket. Yahoo, a directory that gets search data from Google, is still tops at 41 percent.

If you try the beta and see an upgrade you'd like, send e-mail to news-feedback@google.com.



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