Information Trapping: Following University Information With Google News

In an effort to get my information traps back up to snuff, I’m spending some more time messing around with Google News to get the best searches possible.

I keep information traps for both ResearchBuzz material and for my Day Job. For my Day Job, I like to keep track of how universities are using both textbooks and ebooks. While I do monitor the local universities’ newspapers directly, I want to be able to track trends on this usage across the country. This is where Google News comes in really handy.

As you probably know, Google Web search uses the “site:” syntax to restrict your searches to results that come from either one domain ( or a set of “top level” domains (.com). The same syntax works for Google News. So if I want to restrict my news search results to just those that come from university sources, I can add site:edu to my search.

I want to monitor for news about electronic textbooks. My information trap would simply be

e-books site:edu

Of course, I might want to add variants, but that would be my start.

Does site: work with other domains? Sure; for government information you could use site:gov as a search modifier. Want military news? Try site:mil. You can also try those more unusual top-level domains like .biz, .info, and .tv, though it would be harder to narrow those down to one topic or one type of news.

Why not try country codes? I can hear the cool kids in the back saying if those unusual top-level domains should work, then why not use the country codes like .uk, .au, and .ca?

I don’t use country codes when I site search on Google News for two reasons. The first reason is that not all of a country’s media is on a domain that has a country code. For example, I really like The Irish Times. What’s the URL? Not an .ie to be found. If I did a search for Irish news using site:ie then I would miss The Irish Times. And that would be bad.

The second reason I don’t use country codes with the “site:” syntax is that Google already has a syntax to let you search news by location. That syntax, surprisingly enough, is called “location:”!

“location:”, which is a syntax specific to Google News, allows you to restrict your search results to a particular country (or a particular state — more about that in a minute.) Use the name of the country with the syntax along with any keywords you want to use to restrict your search. For example:

today location:malta

That will find you stories containing the word “today” from the country of Malta. (And though Malta is a small country there are over 500 stories with the keyword “today”.)

I can’t guarantee that all countries will be represented in a Google News search because I haven’t tried all of them. But I found results from countries as small as Monaco:

today location:monaco

So if you’ve got a trap and you want to aim it at a certain country, give that location syntax a try.

And once you’ve tried location: for countries, give it a whirl for US states! Yup, you can use location: with the two-letter USPS postal abbreviation for an American state, and you’ll get news from sources originating in that state. Let’s try this for Rhode Island:

today location:ri

As you can see, that search gets you news from sources like Pawtucket Times, Providence Journal, and Woonsocket Call. You can use this syntax with the 50 states, with the District of Columbia (location:dc) and even with at least one US-affiliated place, Guam (location:gu). (Strangely, Google News did not recognize either Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands as valid search locations.)

Knowing that we can search individual state news with the location: syntax, let’s go back to the site: syntax. Can you combine site: and location: syntax? Absolutely! Say I want to find college and university news in North Carolina. Nothing easier:

site:edu location:nc

You don’t even have to use any search terms with that, though you will get a LOT of results. If I wanted to restrict my search for textbook or ebook information to one state, this would be the way to do it. Or if I wanted to focus my traps on one topic for one state, I could do it this way too:

basketball site:edu location:ca