Google has had news search for a long time, but its archives are only 30 days deep. Now Google has added an archive search to the news mix. While it’s always good to have deep archives, and it’s really nice for genealogy searches (more about that in a minute), there were a few things about it that drove me crazy.
Let’s start with the happy stuff. The archive search is located at http://news.google.com/archivesearch . There’s a basic keyword search and there’s an advanced search that allows you to search by date or source as well as restrict your results to free content or paid content restricted to a certain level.
The search is supposed to go back 200 years — to get a search that goes back a good long way try buggy whip. (“Buggy whip? Buggy whip? Three buggy whips.”) Results are listed by — relevance, I guess. Sort your results by date using the “Show Timeline” feature that breaks your results out with text marking years or decades. Within each of these sections news stories are listed oldest to newest, which as you might realize is backwards from the date organizing done in the regular Google News.
Search results include the title of the item, publication name and archive name, cost to access and date of publication, and a small snippet of context. There’s also a “Related Web Pages” link. Try that when you’re looking at a story that’s going to cost you money to access. I found about 25% of the time when I tried it I could access the story for free online via a Google search.
Clicking on the title from the archive search results either takes you straight to the result (if it’s a free story) or to the individual archive’s payment/information page (if the story costs money.) I found that the archive pages tended to have more extensive article snippets. In some cases, like with obituaries, the whole story really was available for free.
Speaking of obituaries, I found that this archive search feature was really good for genealogy. It’s an easy way to search a lot of obituary archives at one time, and for some reason (I thought it was a NEWS archive) this search also finds information on WWI registration cards from Ancestry.com. The search is better — cleaner and faster — than the actual search at Ancestry. In fact this feature got me rather sidetracked…
But there are some things I don’t like about Google’s new News Archive. First is the fact that it seems so separated from the regular Google News. If you go to Google News and do a search that gets no results, does Google News recommend you search the archive? NO! Why not? 30 days is not that long. Further, the fact that the date sorting is one way in Google News, and backwards in the archive search, is going to get frustrating over time. How about newest-to-oldest both places?
I also missed the advanced options available in Google News when trying the Archive Search. Mostly I missed the location: syntax, which would have allowed me to narrow my search results by state or country. That would have made the genealogy searching even better! Perhaps having old stories aggregated into archives makes separating stories by location more difficult.
Don’t get me wrong; I really like this archive search. I can just think of a few ways I’d like it more, and I’m really surprised how isolated it feels from the established Google News.