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Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Two-and-a-Half Point Online News Manifesto

1. Yahoo, please seriously partner with (or seriously consider acquiring) Moreover Technologies. Like a lot of you out there, I frequently check a customized "My Yahoo!" page. On this page there are some useful elements, such as the real-time currency conversion table that is showing the Canadian dollar climbing relentlessly. But the news portion which dominates the page (the way I have it set up, anyway) is becoming increasingly useless. It seems that the online feeds provided by the majority of sources - Reuters, AP, The New York Times, Golfserv, you name it - are neither frequently updated nor comprehensive in their coverage. Some of them even get stuck for weeks, so you waste your time looking at the same headline every day until it unsticks. But even more vexing perhaps is the outdated concept behind all of this. News junkies want better customization that really works. Moreover's promise is that it's a "web-savvy" version of old-style news services. It has been widely adopted on niche websites all over the place to serve up highly topical news. It's a "Reuters for the 21st century," if you will. So much so that a concerned Reuters actually made a significant investment in Moreover.

2. Unfortunately for Moreover lovers, though, Moreover is starting to suck. What used to be a nicely-customizable, categorizable, XML-feedable combination of major news sources and quality articles from relevant niche trade mags and high quality web sites has become a watered-down mishmash, often peppered with drivel which is, in some cases, created by webmasters who have decided to pump out numerous little one-paragraph stories on a daily basis. In other words, we see sites starting to "optimize for Moreover." But where is the quality control? If I wanted to search random observations on weblogs, I'd use some other means of searching. And why are some sites' "blurbs" somehow picked up and distributed as "articles" and others, not? There seems to be little rhyme or reason to any of this. Cleanup on Aisle 7, Moreover. Trying to market your technology as a unique type of KM tool for the enterprise, because it offers "competitive intelligence" of various remarks made online, makes plenty of sense. But the attempt to sell corporates on your jauntily-positioned product shouldn't interfere with the usefulness of your public news feeds. How about some guidelines, as follows? Stories that are not from original sources don't get credited to guys who have plagiarized the first paragraph of news from a major news source. Weblog entries don't get indexed as news. And "articles" of fewer than four paragraphs or 200 words don't get indexed.

3. If the above two conditions are not met, need we remind you that Google Search and Google News are poised to take away your market? People are already using Google News because it just flat-out works. It's amazing to me that major companies like Yahoo and pioneers like Moreover are going to stand by and hand Google another info-retrieval monopoly.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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