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3/19/2009
11:58 AM
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New Search Site Debuts For Business Users

The Financial Times Group has launched a public beta of Newssift, a business-oriented search engine that provides multifaceted search and other cool features.

The Financial Times Group has launched a public beta of Newssift, a business-oriented search engine that provides multifaceted search and other cool features.Newssift aims to make searches more relevant by letting users build detailed queries before a search executes. When a user types a keyword, the page automatically populates five categories -- Business Topic, Organization, Place, Person and Theme -- with additional keywords that can be used to drill down on a subject. Users can choose from among the suggestions or add more of their own keywords.

Once the results are returned, you can filter out different content sources. If you're only interested in what the blogosphere has to say on a subject, a simple click removes the results from magazines, newspapers, press releases, and so on. You also can filter results based on a variety of date ranges, such as the last 30 days, a specific date, or all dates before or after a time you specify.

Another neat feature is sentiment analysis. A small pie chart on the left side of the screen provides a color-coded snapshot of the general sentiment expressed about the subject, based on an aggregate analysis of the articles in the search results. Red is negative, green is positive, and gray is neutral.

When I used "Heartland Payment Systems" as a search term, the sentiment chart became more than three-quarters red -- which is what you'd expect for a credit card processor breached by thieves. When I entered "Cisco Systems" and "Unified Computing System," the pie chart came back a healthy green. I'm not sure how valuable the sentiment snapshot is, but it's fun.

The site is freely available to anyone, but the Financial Times Group hopes to attract business users. To that end, the site isn't hoovering up every possible content source on the Internet. It focuses on business-oriented magazines, newspapers, blogs, wire services, and television.

Newssift is supported by advertising. The advertisements are restricted to a couple of boxes that run down the right side of the page. At present the ads aren't tied to search terms, but the company says that's coming.

The variety of options takes some getting used to. As I fumbled around building queries and tinkering with filters, I found myself longing for the type-and-shoot simplicity of Google. And frankly, the site is ugly. Google and Apple have raised the bar for clean and attractive interfaces. Newssift still has some work to do on this front.

That said, I think the site has the potential to be a very useful tool, particularly when doing deep-dive research. I like the ability to filter by dates and content sources, and to be able to construct a detailed query before I hit "enter." I'll definitely be coming back to Newssift.

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