Archive for the ‘Yahoo’ Category

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Reporting the News in a New Way

October 24, 2006

My biggest concern in creating Bessed (other than money, time and resources) has been to differentiate it from what other search services offer.

We can not compete with the major search engines on their turf. We’ll never be able to supply the phone number of your local pizza place in every city of the United States. There is an inherent limitation to using human editors.

We can easily become the best Web directory, but that’s a short hurdle. It will take time, but I have no doubt Bessed will outshine the Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory over the long haul.

But that’s not enough. To be more than a small, marginally profitable entity, we have to offer something no one else is offering. To do so, I’ve looked at Wikipedia for inspiration. Bessed is very different from Wikipedia, but we can learn from it in building our site.

People love Wikipedia because it’s one of the few places online you can go to get a complete overview on a topic. Want to know about the magician David Copperfield? (Just pulling a name out of the air here, couldn’t say where it came from.) Wikipedia will tell you where David Copperfield was born, his life history and a few other interesting tidbits. Sure, the nature of Wikipedia means that someone could come in and write that Copperfield sleeps with 75 snakes each night, but in general you’re going to get pretty accurate information from the site. And no one other site is as thorough on so many topics.

What does Bessed do to similarly differentiate itself? We first must understand that to be a different kind of search service it won’t be enough to just offer a bunch of links. Instead, we have to paint a picture on each search results page. Someone should be able to come in and within the first dozen links have a great overview of a topic. Then, if they want to delve further, they can use the links further down the page. In the end, they should feel like they got everything they needed in the shortest amount of time possible.

No search engine or directory does an adequate job of this. Search engines use an algorithm that often gives you the almost identical content from 10 different competing sites, forcing you to keep looking and looking to get a clear picture of a topic you’re researching. Web directories give you a bunch of static links listed alphabetically and tell you to do with them what you will. Search engines aren’t ideal, directories aren’t even close.

Bessed has the opportunity to paint that picture. As an example, see our World Series 2006 results. We start with the official site of the World Series from Major Leage Baseball, but then the links are sort of a backward-looking view at the Series as it progresses. Right now that means that you’re getting Game 2 highlight links, including multiple links from news organizations and blogs about the controversy over whether Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers was using an illegal substance to get a leg up on the Cardinals. Further down are select links on Game 1, further down from there are links to articles that previewed the Series. Interspersed among those links are links to commentary on the Series overall. By the time the Series is over, a visitor will be able to come in and quickly find just about everything he or she would want to know about this World Series, from the big picture to the game-by-game highlights to the opinions of both journalists and fans who followed the event.

We’re not creating content, but by artfully putting the story together through the use of timely, relevant links, it becomes a comprehensive look at the many aspects of this World Series.

Our goal is to do this as much as possible, to become the go-to site for anyone who wants a well-crafted overview of an event, person, subject, etc. Some topics will lend themselves to this better than others. The World Series has more depth than the subject of air compressors, unless you’re really, really into air compressors.

If we can become the go-to site for the best links on topics people are looking to really dive into, we will also get the less deep searches as well, and that’s what will ultimately drive our success.

I mentioned to someone not long ago that what Bessed is doing is what a smart newspaper would do. A smart newspaper would continue to report stories, but backfill those stories with links to other newspapers, blogs, sites of interest that provide an overview of the subject being reported on—each story offers the reader a chance to get the big picture. No one does this because they don’t want to give up the eyeballs. (To be fair, some newspapers have begun to include blog links alongside stories, but it’s an automated, hit-or-miss affair.)

We’re certainly not going into the newspaper business, but we’re going to fill that gap where search, news, blogging and wikis intersect—or where they would intersect if anyone was willing to put the work in to make it happen.

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Is Google Custom Search a Revolution or Just Keeping Up with the Yahoos?

October 24, 2006

As part of its Google Co-op offering, Google is now offering you the ability to “roll your own” search engine. Basically this means you can create a custom search engine for your site that can limit the search to certain URLs, or give certain URLs priority in the results. This can be used simply as a site search to allow people to search your site, or you can include many multiple sites in your engine that are authority sites for whatever niche you might be interested in. For example, you could create your own Beatles search engine and give priority to sites you know do a good job of focusing on Beatles content. And, Google’s offering will add Adsense ads to the search engine, giving Webmasters a share of revenue if site visitors click on the ads.

It’s a nice offering, but I imagine it will have limited adoption. Why? Because it takes work to create a custom search engine in terms of deciding which URLs are more important than others, and unless you really see this search engine as providing a service to your visitors, you probably won’t bother. Yes, there is the revenue share aspect that will drive some people to it, but God knows Google ads are already everywhere. Webmasters don’t really need a new custom search engine as a way to increase their Adsense income–the result is more likely to be a shift in terms of where the revenue comes from than an increase in revenue overall.

The most obvious application is for Webmasters to use Google’s search interface to offer visitors the opportunity to search their own sites, something Google’s already been offering for a long time.

I don’t know if this is really seen as a big idea inside Google or simply a way to keep up with Yahoo’s Search Builder and similar offerings from companies such as Rollyo.

The fact is that in most cases when you do a search, you don’t want it limited to just a few sites. Although it may be true that you’d like to see sites come out on top that you consider most trustworthy, you don’t want to shun sites that are little-known but happen to cover small niches really well. And it’s not always readily apparent where a good search result is going to come from. A site that spends a lot of time talking about hockey might suddenly write a very informative page or blog post on the best places to visit in Toronto. If your personal search engine excludes certain sites or always makes others more important, you might miss out on the good stuff from unlikely sources. Some will be willing to pay that price, but most will just continue to let the search engines sort it out, even if at times the results they get are frustrating.

TechCrunch and GigaOM both covered this, and neither seemed to think it was overly earth-shaking.

Via Brewed Fresh Daily, here’s a Google Custom Search just created for Cleveland, Ohio information.