TECH TALK: News Refinery: A World of News

We spend a lot of our time reading everyday – newspapers, magazines, websites. We are in search of news and information. This “information absorption” activity is perhaps the largest consumer of our time after email. The Web allows us to increase manifold the sources of news and information that we can now tap. These sources are not only updating us with what is happening in the world in specific areas, but are also serving as the source of new ideas. It is therefore important to be able to get the news and information without missing anything and from all over, and perhaps faster. Being able to see a lot of sources together can also help us identify trends which we may otherwise have missed. Also, as business becomes more global, it is not enough to just read the local or national newspapers.

We all have our own ways of keeping up-to-date with what is happening. Here is my way of scanning news and managing articles of interest. I just have to read everything possible (written in English) and like to, at least, have a general sense of knowledge of what is happening in most areas. Look at the way I do things. I go to various websites daily (about 6-7), scan the headlines, click on some stories, and if they are of interest, I either read them and/or email the story to myself for later reading and filing. Then, once every few days, I sit for a stretch, read the stories in detail, and make notes which allow me to think and reflect, and then file the electronic stories in appropriate folders (in Outlook Express). This also means I am limited to Outlook Express’ search techniques to search the stories later.

This process helps me cull out new ideas, and perhaps apply what has worked for someone else to my business. It’s a process which is also painstaking. It takes time – going to all these sites and hunting out what I want. Also, if I miss a day, then it is very difficult to get the stories of that day from the Web because the website is a continuum – there is no concept of an edition for a specific day. This means that unless I actually subscribe to the print edition, it is possible to miss out on stories. The print editions have little or no linkage to the website – one cannot, for example, easily look up a story one has just read I the print edition on the web for filing or forwarding.

All in all, even though news is critical for our lives and drives a lot of decisions we make, the way we process news leaves a lot to be desired. One can of course pay for certain services which can allow search but considering that most sites put up their regular editions on the web for free, it should be possible to create a site/service which leverages this to help us derive greater value for news.

Sites like Lexis-Nexis and Factiva provide access to stories, but they all cost a lot of money. Considering that news sites publish freely, it doesn’t make sense to pay for their archives – they actually charge me for the past, which seems kind of counter-intuitive! This forces me to maintain my own filing system. collects headlines from 1700 sources, but is a very primitive form of what we would like. They have done a good job on the “grabbing” and classification. But one needs to go way beyond that. PurpleYogi too has an interesting tool but the free, consumer version is too rigid and limited.

What is needed is a News Refinery – to create a better system to navigate, search and derive value from news.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.