RB Search Gizmos

Taking Advantage of Bing News’ Loc: Syntax With CountryFeed

A few weeks ago I created a Search Gizmo called Marion’s Monocle. It lets you create lists of TV stations by state (using the FCC license database) and then search groups of them with Google. I created it as an exercise to see if I could make some kind of local news search in response to Google News’ deprecation of its location: syntax, which allowed you to search for news sources by region.

That was a very satisfying Gizmo to make. It used an authoritative data set to create a meaningfully-delineated Web space to search. I looked around for a similar data set that was as easily-available to see if I could keep going with the local search theme, but I didn’t find much. Then I remembered that Bing News still has a loc: syntax – and it still works. Even better, Bing News search results are available as RSS feeds.

Bing News Location Search And Making RSS Feeds

Way back in 2017 I wrote an article about creating Bing News feeds en masse with a Google Sheet. The technique took advantage of Bing’s loc: syntax to create RSS feeds for single countries, one entire world at a time (roughly 200 feeds.) The problem is that while the sheet is easy to use, it’s difficult to share and you still have to put the RSS feeds you create into an OPML file. So I decided to turn it into a new Search Gizmo called CountryFeed, which you can find at https://searchgizmos.com/countryfeed/ . Before I show you how it works, though, let’s talk about why you’d want to use it.

Why CountryFeed?

You may be reading this article and thinking, “I have no need for geographically-specific news searches, so why would I use this?”

Because there are two ways to do a Web search for general keywords without getting overwhelmed.

The first way is to apply as many special syntax as possible to narrow the search focus as much as  you can.

The second way is to make the dataset you’re searching smaller.

I would love to create Google Alerts for the search terms database and archive .  I don’t because I know it would lead to a zillion email alerts a day, most of which would be garbage.

But I can create country-specific Bing News RSS feeds that search for the term database within a set of known news sources for a particular country. And within that smaller data set, I can surface results using general keywords that would have been buried under a general Web search.

How do you think I’m finding news about an archive of a famous Azerbaijan composer or an archive of an earthquake that happened in Japan 100 years ago? It’s not because I’ve figured out every obscure keyword to winkle out every new resource mentioned in the media worldwide.

It’s because I’m using country-specific Bing News RSS feeds. I did not find those resources via Google Alerts. It’s actually a bit surprising how little overlap there is in what I find via Bing News RSS feeds and what I get from Google Alerts.

Here’s how CountryFeed works.

Using CountryFeed

Screenshot from 2023-01-09 04-55-45

CountryFeed has two parts. First, enter the Bing News search you want to monitor. Second, tick the boxes of all the countries for which you want to monitor news. The orange buttons allow you to tick all the boxes in a region at one time so you don’t sprain your clicking finger.

When you’ve made your selections, click the big blue button. That will create the Bing News RSS feeds, bundle them into an OPML file, and download the OPML file to your computer wherever your downloaded files go.

OPML stands for Outline Processor Markup Language. It’s a plain-text format for aggregating RSS feeds. Most RSS feed readers, like Feedly or NewsBlur, use OPML to import RSS feeds. CountryFeed can take you from selection to imported feeds in your feed reader in less than a minute.

A Word of Caution

Bing News and the loc: search normally works quite well, but every now and again you’ll get some WTF in your search results. I would say it’s about 85% good and 15% WTF for my searches, a ratio I’m fine with.

CountryFeed was another satisfying Gizmo to make, this time because it’s got more features than my old spreadsheet, like I don’t have to make the OPML file myself by taking the RSS feeds to a converter. But I’m still curious about local news search. There have got to be other ways to explore this space.

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