Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Google News releases Archive Search

Thanks to Bibliothecary for tipping me off to this via email this morning: it took my RSS aggregator a couple of hours to catch up with him.

Google has had Google News for what seems like ages now. I've never really used it, having been content with BBC News and the Guardian website for "proper" news.

Today, the Google News Archive Search was unleashed. You can search for news topics of your choice, and you'll find results going back quite some time. Over 200 years in some cases, in fact. This could be very useful for finding contemporary reports on big news events: the outbreak of war (Vietnam, WWII, the Boer War, take your pick); Thatcher leaving Downing Street; Star Wars; the list could go on indefinitely.

There are some genuinely useful touches here as well. At the click of a hyperlink, you can show your results as a timeline, in chronological order. Those search results include snippets of relevant text, as we've come to expect from Google. And it has the nice, clean interface we've come to expect.

There are even some sample searches to get you started. One of them, Groucho Marx, led me to this letters page from Time. Scroll down about half way for a missive from the man himself. The potential for easy access to articles that could really provide some context.

It's not all good , though. There is a strong US bias, which is explained as a result of the service being in its infancy. Google intends to balance the American sources with others as the Archive Search grows (see the FAQ).

The big blow, though, is that you have to pay to actually read a lot of the content. Admittedly, all of the summaries are free. Time Magazine, the BBC and the Guardian are among the free services searched, and they're all pretty good.

But with the other newspapers, you either have to pay a fee per article, or you have to have a subscription. When media stories about new online resources circulate widely, touting the new wealth of information we can access, they tend not to mention the cost. This makes me sad.

For recent "old" news, your library subscribes to a database I *do* like. It's called NewsUK. Go here if you're in a library; to get to it from home, you need the number on your library card and you need to go to your library's website first. Bolton, Trafford and Wigan all have different pages; scroll down to find the link (there's usually something about external access or similar).

NewsUK includes the full text of all UK national papers, with the exception of the share prices from the Financial Times. It also covers some local papers, including the Manchester Evening News and the Wigan Observer. This coverage goes back, in some cases, to the early 1990s. It also includes the Economist, New Statesman and the Spectator. Try it.

See Signpost's News section for a range of local, national and international news sources tried and tested by your favourite librarians.

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