Searching for Pete Townshend

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 13 January 2003

I don't care how they boast about their index size or their refresh rate, search engines are still not cutting it with freshness.

A classic examples in the UK is the news story over the weekend concerning Pete Townshend and child pornography (another UK witch-hunt courtesy of Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail).

It should not be difficult for a search engine to pick up a sudden rise in searches for such a specific topic, and then have either a human editor or a technical process identify that this search - "pete townshend" - has now clearly got a news element to it and we should therefore attempt to refresh our index for this specific term, or provide a more news orientated results set for this term.

At the moment the major UK engines are coping badly with this story:

  • Google - two interjected news headlines, one from Ananova, and one from the Sydney Herald - as if the Australian take on the story was significant
  • Yahoo! - news headline on homepage news panel, but nothing in search results
  • MSN - nothing
  • Ask Jeeves - nothing
  • Altavista - no news, although they offer a news aggregation tab
  • BBCi - at least interjects news stories into the right hand panel, but the run of results is still just "Pete Townshend" websites

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