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Hot on the Web

The daily fix

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on May 20, 2005
(Issue 2320, In the News)

For news junkies, these are the good old days.

There have never been so many sources of information – sources that update constantly, that are available from so many places, and that contain as much information as you could hope to process.

Despite the ongoing decline in subscriptions for large city newspapers, suburban and community papers remain in the pink of health. Talk radio has given AM radio newscasts a vitality and audience unthinkable a decade ago.

And then there's the 'Net.

With nearly every TV station, newspaper and magazine in existence having a Web site devoted to their news product, it's now possible to follow the news from every corner of the world. Travelers can now keep up on events from back home quickly and easily, without running up their phone tabs.

New news feeds also make it possible to get your news fix on your PDA or even cell phone.

As even Microsoft now admits, the problem online isn't finding information – it's making sense of it. Sensory overload is the new rule of the day, and finding a way to find the news that's relevant to you is the challenge.

Digests R Us

This is the promise of news digests – a quick overview of the news of the day. Not a news report itself per se, a news digest is instead a snapshot of the world's media.

Two of the most popular are offered by Google and Yahoo (to the surprise of absolutely no one!).

Yahoo's News site ( is designed like the rest of the Yahoo universe: clean, spare, text-oriented. It's organized at its top level by topic – world, nation, business, science, sports, etc. Within each of these sections, it's organized by the source of the news, by service – Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, AFI and Christian Science Monitor.

It seems to be updated in real time, and has a nice depth of news. You can easily keep up with what's going on around the world from here.

And you can also search the News both from this news portal or from Yahoo's main page by clicking on the News tab from the search bar. There is also a Local News link; for San Diego, you get headlines from the local business paper – not the most useful news on earth, unfortunately.

Google's news page ( is a lot flashier than Yahoo's, but just about as easy to navigate. Actually, Google's news site is designed more along the lines of CNN's – the biggest breaking news at the top, followed by the various sections: nation, world, business, sports.,etc.

And whereas Yahoo simply takes the news feed from various news agencies and then presents it online, Google uses a completely different model: It searches all kinds of Web sites and then links to their stories. So rather than Reuters, AP and a handful of others that Yahoo provides, Google gives a snapshot of the world's media.

So if there is a local story happening somewhere, you're just as likely to get links to the local paper and/or TV station as you are to the big media.

Google also lets you sign up for news alerts by e-mail – type in the topic you want to follow, and you'll get an e-mail whenever Google's search engines find a new story on that topic. It seems a good way to stay on top of your favorite sports teams, anyway.

Other outlets

While there are many news directories – Web sites that offer links to news outlets by region or topic – there don't seem to be many other news digests to compare with Yahoo's and Google's. Okay, actually, a bit of searching turned up ... none. Which I don't believe – I think I just didn't search the right way.

If you find one, contact me.

Cool contest

Those who are into hardware mods – i.e., tricking out your PC's case or creating a new input device – might want to visit HotMod. Their monthly contest features a $500 prize plus photo and description of that month's winner.