One of the first posts I wrote when I began this blog looked at alternative search engines to Google for journalists. It wasn’t a knocking post about Google, but a post which aimed to explore if there were alternatives to Google for journalists seeking information beyond Google’s first page.
Earlier this year, it became the most read post on my blog by a country mile after being linked to from an American forum, and with that link came a list of suggested other useful search engines to explore.
Last week I finally got around to looking at some of the suggestions, as well as some new ones which I’d heard about elsewhere. What follows is a list of seven search engines which I think have potential for journalists who are digging for information related to stories and projects. It’s not intended to be definitive, just useful (I hope):
Booshaka makes it easy to search Facebook. I’ve tried it out on multiple location names and also on the names of some people who have featured in stories in the local Press in recent days and it seems to provide potential new lines every time.
Good for: Seeking stuff out on Facebook
There have been several attempts at search engines which aggregate the results of other search engines, therefore in theory giving you an broader look at the internet in one place. Scour presents searches initally based on its own search criteria but gives easy access to the searches from Google, Bing, Yahoo and OneRiot. The real point of Scour is that you sign up and vote on the usefulness of search results, which in turn help influence future search results on the search engine. That’s great if you want to do that, but as a tool for seeing a lot in one place, it’s also very handy.
Good for: Checking out multiple search engines in one place, and if you really want to help determine search results…
Samepoint, at first glance, feels a little cluttered and a little ‘same old, same old’ but its brilliance lies in the tab bar which runs under the search box. Of particular note is the search of social bookmarks which can turn up interesting results, the Wikis search (pretty much Wikipedia to be honest, but a good deep search) and the Q&A search. B2B search pretty much looks at just Linkedin but is a useful tool, but I was most impressed by the documents tool, which could be very useful if looking for a story.
Good for: Deep searches done easily, especially through Wikis and documents
Socialmention does many of the things Samepoint does, but beats it hands down in several areas – not least in design. Socialmention’s particular strength is around searching for phrases in comments – generally on forums – and in bringing up results from social media. In addition to this, it also brings up semantic information such as similar words being associated with your search phrase, and the social media users most likely to be commenting around your phrase. And, of course, it’s excellent for finding out what people are saying about you or your brand, if you really want to know…
Good for: Finding people talking about what you want to know about.
DuckDuckGo was first suggested to me after I wrote my last piece on alternative search engines and at first I didn’t get what it did differently. But I’ve tried it several times when researching things and found it useful, especially for information which falls into the category of ‘general information.’ As well as providing results of searches in a different order to Google, it also directs you to other searches quickly, which is useful.
Good for: Searches when you’re on a research mission.
With the main search engines often giving added weight to material which has been around for a while – therefore often more linked to – NowRelevant has nipped after spotting a gap in the market: A search engine which only brings up recent results. Anything from the last two weeks in fact. So if you have a beat or patch which can be summed up in a couple of words, then this is a great site to dip into to see what’s going on.
Good for: Finding recent information and monitoring new material
Topsy boasts being a real-time search engine, but it’s real strength, for journalists at least, lies in how easy it ease to set the time period of search. With one click, you can whittle it down to just the last hour – especially good when there’s a breaking news story you are following. Its expert button is also fascinating – it’ll bring up people it thinks might be expert on your search term.
Good for: Monitoring social media around breaking news events/information, finding potential experts