Thursday, May 21, 2009

Google News

Seems google has come to my attention on several fronts in the last week, so rather then write about them too much, I'm going to give an overview of the three developments that I think are most interesting.

Google Supports Newspapers
In a recent letter to the Office of Fair Trading (in the UK), Google has called for a relaxation of the rules governing newspaper mergers. Quoted as saying, "the present laws do not reflect the increased competition publishers face from search engines and internet companies". The letter went on to say that Google would be completely supportive of publishers such as Trinity Mirror or Johnston Press, were they to investigate merging their operations with local or regional newspapers.

Google's call has been seconded by senior executives at the Local Media Alliance, who are also asking for a relaxation of merger rules. Their own opinion being that present laws do not take account the large impact the internet has had on newspapers. Ultimately, they have said, a relaxation of the merger rules would allow newspapers to diversify their offering, increase their reach, enhance their content and reduce their overall costs.

Google's stance is understandable considering that it currently provides one of the largest news services in the world, through search listings, that it pays nothing for and receives advertising revenue (in the form of PPC ads appearing alongside the listings). Only a month ago Rupert Murdoch publicly asked, "Should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyrights?". In an extremely harsher statement, Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson recently said, "Google devalues everything it touches" and "it divides content quantitatively rather than qualitatively".

The Office of Fair Trading currently has these rules under review as part of the Digital Britain report. An announcement is expected in June.

Google Search Options
Google recently announced the addition of search options to your Google search results. This is their way of allowing users to refine their search results through an easy to use interface, without any knowledge of the standard Google search definitions. Google describe the new options as "a collection of tools that let you slice and dice your results and generate different views to find what you need faster and easier. Search Options helps solve a problem that can be vexing: what query should I ask?"

The easiest way to understand what Google Options has added is with this nice video:

For the general public I think these are great additions, but beyond the novice user I'm not sure they've add anything that I haven't already been able to do. Though I do like to write my blog posts directly in HTML so maybe this was never aimed at me.

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