Google News is a lot like Google’s general search engine in that there’s a lot of secret sauce going on. Google states up front that search results are provided by algorithm, but you don’t get more under the hood than that.
So Google News has always been a bit wonky. Now and again I’ll catch some fake news that got through and I’ve had to change how I search it since the Google News site redesign. More recently, I realized that searching Google News by different date options provides different results when it doesn’t seem like it should. But what I ran into this weekend — it takes the wonky cake.
Via IFTTT, I heard about a news article I thought would be good for ResearchBuzz. It was an AFP article headlined At vast New York warehouse, preserving records in the digital age. The link I had was for a Yahoo page and I wanted to find the original or something that wasn’t as ad- or image-heavy as Yahoo. So I did what I normally do when I’m looking for another site for a syndicated article; I copied the first line of the article (“The turntable needle drops and the reverbs of the obscure band”) and popped it into Google.
There were a few links to the article but not the original, so I switched the search to Google News. Here’s what I got.
The first result was from France24. “Great,” I thought, and clicked on it.
Okay, no France24 today. “That’s all right,” I thought, “It’s a syndicated article. I’ll go back and search for it by date. It must have been syndicated somewhere else.” So I reset the search tools to sort by date instead of relevance and ran the search again.
Yup, once I sorted by date, all the results disappeared. I stared at the screen for a minute, and then noticed the little bit at the bottom of the search results:
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 0 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
Google News could not find any results to display, but has articles very similar to the 0 it had to display. I was still looking for that article so I clicked the link to repeat the search with the omitted results included.
And: reverse poof!
Showing the duplicates I got about a dozen results. Oddly, the France24 result was last on the list.
After sitting back and thinking about it for a minute, I blamed myself. I should have used a phrase search. Maybe if I had included the line in quotes it would have narrowed down the search enough that I would get the relevant results in the search without having to rerun it for duplicates. So I re-ran the search, using quotes, and this time I specified that Google News should show me duplicate results.
But beyond that, Google News was still hiding duplicates, which were the same syndicated articles it showed before when I revealed duplicate results.
Finally fed up with this whole thing, I went to Bing News and ran a search for that first line. And:
Ah. Three results, no waiting — and those three results stayed the top three even when I sorted the results by most recent.
There’s wonkiness and then there’s borderline unusable. I am alarmed enough by the way Google News has been acting recently that I want to at least duplicate my major alerts with Bing News. Thank goodness it’s easy to cook up Bing News RSS feeds. Now, to see if I can find some other news alert services that won’t break the bank…