Rediff has launched a realtime news search service dubbed as Rediff RealTime News, reports TechPP (via Pluggd.in). The service which was till recent in closed beta has been opened up, though it still does not feature on the Rediff homepage. Similar to Google’s Instant Search, it displays search results across news and images as the users keys-in a term, predicting what the user is going to type, but more pertinently, it displays results from across media publications. According to the report, around 35,000 Indian and global news websites are being crawled by Rediff and search results also include Rediff news articles published since 2002.

Our Take: Intent and the choice between Search, Front Page & River Of News 

 

The landing page is minimalistic and just features a search box along with four recent news trends, displaying one news result for each, cycling through all of them. Compare this with most standard news portal interface, or, for that matter, even with Twitter’s trending topics, visible in the sidebar. Readers come to a news site with three different types of intent:

– First and foremost, they want to know what is making news and what is important, and discovery of news is partly serendipitous, because the reader doesn’t know what will pique his interest. This is where the front page option is relevant, allowing either editors or algorithm to surface news.

– The second alternative is that the reader has heard of a particular development from someone, wants to read more, and perhaps scan for multiple reports on the same issue. This is where search and also clubbing news together comes in.

– The third intent is that the reader wants to be on top of the news, as it happens, all the time. If you’re like that, you’re addicted to news and probably a journalist or unemployed/underemployed (I’m kidding). In this case, a reverse chronological river-of-news approach works best, especially with live updates.

Google News does the first two – it has a front page put together mostly using algorithms, and the option for users to pick their news, as well as a search box which allows users to sort the news updates via date, time, and clubs similar news items together which helps in reading multiple points of view. Where Google News fails miserably is that there is no or little editorial oversight in either selection of news or news sources, and there possibly is personalization as well, which tends to narrow a readers universe of options; which is why facebooks newsfeed personalization used to suck as well.

  

What Rediff has done is that they’ve chosen the search option, and also chosen to highlight  four trending news topics, and for the time being, appears to focus on the second alternative – that the reader has already heard of a development, and isn’t really in an explorative mood. Once they search for something, it offers related news, but this still does narrow the options for discovery. Of course, the reader can quite easily just search for something like “Cricket”, but this does also make the user think about what to search for, when things could be made much easier for him by offering some interesting alternatives, enabling discovery.

My suggestion: offer a search box on top, but also have an automated reverse-chronological river of news below which flashes the most recent update, and allow users to swap between certain key segments or tags, which are also being updated on a realtime basis. Clicking on a particular news link should also showcase alternate links to users. In addition, have trending topics based on user clicks as well as editors selections for top of the news, which will also aid in discovery. Just a search box isn’t enough. In addition, it would be useful to integrate news breaks from Twitter as well, because that is where much of the news breaks these days.

(with inputs from Anupam Saxena)