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Category: News

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Tracking News: Beyond the US Filter

Bing, Google, Yahoo, and dozens of other US-centric services provide news to millions of Web users.


The shift from desktop computers to mobile devices has forced changes upon the online news providers. The headlines and text of the old-school news Web sites has given way to flashy new services. These range from Flipboard, Pulse, and now the social media giant Facebook.


The presentation of information is bite-sized and colorful like Skittles. Perfect for the on-the-run, super busy commuter trapped in a 101 jam or an ice storm in Atlanta.


But what if a different perspective is needed? What if there is news from a central European company with business ties to Ukraine? What if a business person is planning a trip to India? Will a zippy, frequently updated app deliver the goods?


Let me highlight several news services my team at have found to be helpful.


The first is (, a service of the European Journalism Centre. The RSS aggregation updates every 20 minutes. A user picks the flag of one of the 28 countries in which he or she is interested. The screen then displays the publications and the recent headlines from that country. If you don’t know the flag of the country, you have to mouse around and read the pop up label. I would prefer a text list. The headlines for Bulgaria ( appear in the screenshot below:


eufeeds bulgaria


At the right of the flag graphics is an EU flag. A click displays European Union publications and their headlines; for example, the European Voice:


eufeeds euro voice


The small icons shown in the European Voice headlines, provide access to different functions. The most useful is a direct link to the source publication’s Web site. The service can be sluggish at times, and as recently as January 28, 2014, the system was not available for 48 hours.


The second service is a European news aggregation service produced by the EU’s Joint Research Center called EMM ( The JRC itself focuses on seven priority areas, although news is not one of them. My view is that the Newsbrief site is a demonstration project. The interface has quite a few features and functions. One useful one is that the system presents a graphic that shows the the coverage of the major stores by language. It is easy to spot what is hot and what is not. Here’s the graphic on January 31, 2014 when the Amada Knoxmurder story was diffusing across news sources:


newsbrief graphic


In addition, the display highlights a country that is in the news and provides one click access to a collection of stories about a particular country. The screenshot shows the stories for Afghanistan on January 31, 2014:


newsbreif afghan


The site provides one-click access to an Android and Apple iOS apps. I ran test queries for individuals known to be involved with the Russian criminal organizations and found little useful information. However, for one-click access to clusters of news, the service is useful. These clusters are displayed on the left side of the interface in the “Themes” ( drop down:




A click on the plus sign expands the categories.


These two services do a good job covering Europe. If you want to keep up with news in Asia, neither of these Euro-centric services are of much help. The DeeperQI team has found that The Big Project, operating out of the United Kingdom, is more useful.


Navigate to Big Project Asia ( and you get hot links to selected countries news publications.


bigproject asia


Select a country, in this example I choose Thailand.


big project thailand


A click on Business Day provides me with the English language publication “Online News: Business Day.” Note that many of the publications have erratic publishing schedules and offer non-English content.

Several observations are warranted:

First, spending a half hour exploring content on these three services makes it clear that information readily available in the US is quite selective. Some might say limited. Investigating a story using non-US sources provides useful information, particularly details that are chopped from publicly-available sources due to space limitations or editorial whim.

Second, sources come and go. The economics of news aggregation put many of these services on an uneven footing. Copyright may explain why some sources disappear without warning. A growing number of publications whose content is aggregated want to charge an access fee or impose a limit on the number of stories a person can view before the taxi meter pricing clicks in.

Third, accuracy varies. Scanning high profile stories and looking at the presentation of the “facts” often provides quite different views on some subjects. As always, trust but verify.

To get more online research and investigative tips, visit


Searching for and Finding Current News

Free online news is everywhere. Headlines are even available on a mobile phone. Tasty apps like Flipboard, Pulse, and Zite deliver a stream of frequently updated stories. CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and USA Today provide one-click access to Miley Cyrus’ latest PR stunt to all, regardless of interest. Most of these services offer information without requiring the user to register or pay for access.

Microsoft has been struggling to generate as much Web traffic as Google. In September 2013, Microsoft changed the logo for the Bing News Service and revamped the site’s approach to content. ran a story with a headline which gave me a bit of a shock: “Microsoft Downgrades MSN News Service.” With Microsoft’s increased emphasis on Bing, it makes little sense to offer a competing news service via the MSN portal. The TechEYE report explains that Microsoft MSN News drew 100 million visitors a month. My interpretation of the TechEYE analysis is that MSN News is likely to remain on a downward trajectory. At the same time, Bing News will be enhanced with what eWeek called “a more modern, responsive user interface that retains its focus on photos and imagery.” In-depth news at Microsoft seems to be out of step with users who want nuggets, pictures, and videos for smartphones and tablets.


Google and Yahoo news services provide headlines. Some stories lead to lists of articles from other current news sources and to video content. With Web traffic mirroring the 1% versus the 99% set up of the US economy, most of those looking for news will rely on large services like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.


However, in the 99% of news sites, there are some quite useful sources for information. Very useful services are available to a business person wanting information from sources other than the Associated PressBloombergBusinessweekReuters, and major US newspapers.


Let me highlight a handful of the services which make it possible to get a broader perspective on a news story. For content not available in English, I suggest you use Google Translate to convert Farsi, German, or Russian into a language you know. For now, Google Translate is available without charge, but that could change, of course.


Newsnow. This is a UK based service which offers a free and a commercial version of its service. Navigate to With a single click you can select a stream of stories in English from the US, UK, and other countries’ English-language news content. A search box makes it possible to search a 30 day back file of content. When you click on a story to read, Newsnow redirects you to the source’s Web site. Sometimes a story will not be available. In that case, you can navigate to the source directly and search for the story on the Web site’s server. One of the most useful features of Newsnow is that it makes it explicit when a story was available on the service. As new stories arrive, older stories are pushed down in the result list. The free service is ad supported and works like a live demonstration of some of the features of the for-service offered to commercial customers. My research team rates the service at four out of five stars.


Another useful service is World News. Navigate to You will see a splash page which shows the major stories of the moment. The service is extremely useful because a query returns results which date back to 2001. In order to access the back file, you will have to click past the video news story and narrow the query to the “News” category in the left-hand sidebar. Once the page refreshes, you will see a date ordered list of headlines, the source, and a snippet from the news story. Unlike HNGN, World News includes content in French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Non-English news is available from Google, but you have to run your query in the language of the Google index you want to access; for example, and use French or and use German. World News lets you do your research from a single Web site. My research team rates the service at four out of five stars.


TheBigProject is one of those 1995-style sites which are largely overlooked by today’s online user. Point your browser at You will see a very large, single page with hundreds of hot links to news services. Of particular value is the list of European news sources in English. In addition, there are links to global news sources in a wide range of languages. Google Translate can make an unfamiliar language understandable, but the translation is not letter perfect. The interface is dated. The upside of TheBigProject is that like HNGN, the Google Custom Search system generates results. My research team rated this service at four out of five stars.


Silobreaker is a for-fee service. A trial subscription is available. The system provides access to a wide range of news from Web logs, commercial services, and government entities. The Silobreaker search returns results which are quite useful. First, the system processes content in the major languages and includes an on-the-fly translation function. If you get a news story in Farsi, a mouse click renders the story in English. Second, Silobreaker includes a relationship map showing the connections of individuals named in news stories to companies and one another. Third, if you search for a person, Silobreaker displays a map that pinpoints the last known location of the individual. My research team rated this system five out of five stars.


When does a business person shift from mainstream news services (AOL, Bing, Google, etc.) and use a less well known service? There are no hard-and-fast rules that apply to every business person looking for information. My team and I identified some broad guidelines which you can consider in terms of your own information needs.


First, if you are looking for mainstream coverage of well known companies and people, the Google-style services will do the job. However, if you are looking for people or companies outside the US, you will want to tap services which include non-US content.


Second, if you want to verify a fact, you will need to use a service which has a back file. World News is useful for this purpose. If you do not find what you need, you will want to consider signing up for a commercial service like Silobreaker, LexisNexis, or one of the other professional information systems. Free works reasonably well, but for some information, commercial services save a researcher time.


Third, if you need information about the context in which a company or person works, you will want to tap into a business intelligence centric system. Silobreaker has already been mentioned. You may want to explore, developed by a former Israeli armed forces officer.


An important point to keep in mind is that a large amount of information is generated everyday. News services can only process of fraction of the available content. Some news services aggressively filter stories which contain certain words or phrases. US news services may not cover stories which are important outside the US but of little interest to the average American online user. Despite challenges, it is possible to find a news service that will more or less meet your information needs by using the information above.

by Stephen E Arnold at