In a move that is sure to strike fear in the heart of local news providers such as your newspaper or TV affiliate, Google News has added the ability to see local news based on your location.
Here’s how it works: simply go to Google News, look half way down the page you’ll see a text box allowing you to enter either a zip code or city/state. Do so and Google News will reload with your local city listed as one of the categories of news available for your reading pleasure. Aggregating local news stories from a variety of sources is nothing new for Google News, but this is the first time we have been able to see a specific city’s news items as a news category.
One obvious missing feature is the ability to search the local view. If you do enter a search term, you see the global search results. Additionally, at this point in time the local news feature only works in the United States and only in English.
Google may make a splash, but their not the first
Google joins a competitive space. Yahoo! News has had local news in Beta status for some time. To it’s credit, Yahoo! News is more pleasing to the eye when compared Google News. It cleanly breaks up news content based on originating source and allows easy access to local video reports. Additionally, Yahoo! leverages it’s assets by displaying user submitted photos for the area that reside on Flickr.
Similar to Google News, Yahoo! news does not enable you to search the local sources and retrieve results based on your geography. Google’s local news offering delivers local news from many more areas as Yahoo has not expanded it’s service beyond major metro areas.
MSNBC‘s offering is even more limited than that of Google or Yahoo!. After being prompted for your zip code, MSNBC’s home page displays a paltry 3 or 4 stories and your local weather provided by the Weather Channel. An individual city’s news page requires massive amount of scrolling and, as expected, shows a few stories from local news sources including newspapers and local TV affiliates’ news departments. Again, leveraging their assets, MSN displays a Virtual Earth map showing local traffic, a view of local company’s stock activity, local sports scores, and lottery results. To my surprise, MSNBC adds a unique view into local blog scene by featuring recent posts from local blogs. As with Yahoo! and Google, no local search is supported.
Topix is a winner in the news aggregation scene and is sure to feel some pressure from Google’s News’ newest feature. Topix’s claim to fame is mixing traditional media with citizen journalists. Topix presents a well laid out website with main news stories dominating the page with weather, traffic, and a poll appearing on the page. Like Google News, Topix pulls from numerous sites. Their tagline on their site is “Local news continually updated from thousands of sources on the web”. Topix has developed a strong audience by delivering pertinent information to a local audience. Each article has “Related Topix” that give a tagsonomy to the website and creating linkage to each article. Topix, like Google News, features many geographic area because of the reach of it’s new sources.
Google’s local news service has a massive amount of potential and represents a fantastic way to stay up to date on news in a geographic area. However it’s clear that if they utilize other components of their online offerings, Google’s local news sites would be more valuable for users. For example: offer Google Maps with it’s easy to use Traffic view, embed Picasa photos that have been tagged or geo-tagged with the known local city name, and offer blog posts that have been discovered by Google Blog Search.