Google Filters News Search Results

September 2011, Number 125

Know your source. Once again research findings have reminded us about the importance of understanding where information comes from. Everything we see, hear, and read has somehow been filtered before it reaches us. Broadcast news programs on radio and television have editors who decide which stories to show and in what order. Printed sources such as newspapers and magazines also have editors who prioritize and select
which stories to publish.

In his book The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser posits that personalized search might be narrowing our world view. Pariser notes that Google admits to using 57 “signals” to filter search results. Although we don’t know what most of those signals are, which browser you use, your search history, and your location are considered to be among them.

As searchers we care when our search results are filtered and we want to know why and how. Recent research confirms that Google News filters results from news searches. A recent survey of professional online searchers, conducted by info-entrepreneur Mary Ellen Bates illustrates the point.

Searching on the term “Israel” in Google News, and looking at the top three hits from 37 separate searches:

One story appeared in more than 90% of the search results, another appeared in 70%, and then the bottom drops out.

–Only 12% of searchers saw the same three stories in the same order.

–More than a quarter of the stories showed up in only one searcher’s search results.

–Almost one in five searchers saw a story that no one else saw.

For details on this survey, see Bates’ posting on her blog “Librarian of Fortune” at

So, dear Information Update readers, here is your take-away.

–Mary Ellen Bates says: For all search results, dig deep into the results list for a better understanding of the findings.

–Eli Pariser says: Know that filtering happens and seek out new sources and people who aren’t like you.

–Stephen Arnold from ArnoldIT says: Sidestep Google’s personalization by running queries on this url –

Eli Pariser: Organizer and author – TED Talk

Mary Ellen Bates: Info-Entrepreneur

Steve Arnold: online search specialist

News Databases Deliver Trusted Results

For powerful search capabilities in trusted news databases, consider using Factiva, Dialog, or LexisNexis. These products give searchers the power to slice and dice the
search results in a way that works for us. Sources, search strategies, and search results are transparent, with no hidden filtering in place.

A product of DowJones, Factiva offers powerful searching capabilities in a database of more than 31,000 sources from 200 countries. While updated continuously, the archive dates back to the 1970’s.

Dialog, a ProQuest product, includes several news databases. The Dialog NewsRoom includes 11,000 leading newspapers, business magazines, and newswires from all over the world.

LexisNexis, owned by Reed Elsevier, offers access to over 5 billion documents from 34,000 sources. Like Factiva and Dialog, LexisNexis provides powerful search capabilities to tailor results as needed.

These fee-based services provide search capabilities not available through free Internet sources, and they are at your disposal. For more information contact Shamel
Information Services at 858-673-4673.

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