Editorial: My New Best Friend

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I have a new best friend. His name is Google News. Google has just launched a site for searching news stories from 4,000 sources: from The New York Times to DM News. The entire site is automated. Google said it developed computer algorithms to select the top stories of the day and the best coverage of those stories. Several media pundits have weighed in on the service, mostly concerned that no humans are used to produce the site. I don't really care about any of that.

What I do care about is news that is specific to direct marketing. This is why I now find myself continually going to the search function and typing in "direct marketing" or "direct mail" or "privacy" or ... well, you get the picture. And the results I get are from Business Week and CNET as well as the Casa Grande (AZ) Valley Newspapers and the international edition of the Helsingin (Finland) Sanomat. Not your typical DM reading venues.

However, not all of the search results hit the mark. A story the other day from The Plymouth (UK) Evening Herald about "spam" actually was about an award given out for the best spam fritters (they seem to be a tasty treat in the United Kingdom). And a search for "direct marketing" included a Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate story about restrictions on the amount of sugar being allowed into the United States. But if you're interested in a company or person making headlines, there's nothing better. Just type in the name, and you'll get back more stories than you care to read through.

Google News isn't the first site to crawl the Web and aggregate the news, but it's the best effort to date. It's a bit of a stretch to call it a "news service," as Google does, because it doesn't do any reporting of its own. It's more of a research tool that piggybacks on other news organizations. Each item includes a time stamp so you can see how fresh the stories are. Another plus is that Google has arranged with some leading news sites requiring registration to bypass that step and go directly to the article. This way there's no intervening registration screen, even if you're not already registered. At this point, Google isn't charging for the service, nor is it selling any advertising space. Officials said they're waiting to see what demand the site generates. If you're a news junkie, watch out. You'll be hooked in no time.

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