Searching 'This Is London' from The Evening Standard

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 30 June 2006

I've recently been doing a survey of how well search works, or doesn't, across a number of British newspaper web sites. I've already looked at a couple of News International Titles - The Times and The Sun - and one of Associated New Media's properties - The Daily Mail. Today I'm going to look at another Associated New Media site, This Is London, the online presence of the Evening Standard. Although the Evening Standard is not a national newspaper I have included it in my study.

Search on the 'This Is London' site is via a small box in the top right-hand corner of the screen, placed in a similar position in the masthead to The Daily Mail's search. The search can be initially modified via a drop-down menu which offers the choice of searching the default 'Any time', or refining the search to cover the last 24 hours, the last week or the last month.

This Is London homepage search

I found the relevancy of the results for my test searches to be abysmal. My first test search was for "Blunkett resigns". I got back the answer that there were no results for that. Really? No mention of the word Blunkett or the word resigns in the same article in the whole of the This Is London index?

This Is London no results page

I wanted to get a screengrab of what the search results looked like, so tried another search for something I was sure would be on the site. I saw that there was a top level navigational category for 'Big Brother 7' so I tried a search for Big Brother. The fist result I got back was a story that featured a large protest banner of David Blunkett. Someone at Associated New Media was messing with my mind surely?

1.Protest fathers storm Big Brother
By Patrick Sawer, Evening Standard
Fathers' rights protesters stormed TV's Big Brother compound today in a bid to unveil a banner on the roof emblazoned with David Blunkett's face. The group, which was soon arrested, also planned to distribute food and drink to the housemates..read

The relevancy didn't improve for my other test searches either. Trying to find out about "england sweden result" got me a story about Swedish band The Hives at number one, and the result of a Wimbledon - Middlesbrough Worthington Cup game from, I believe, November 2000.

1.Hives are a Swede sensation
By Alex Hannaford
A few months back things were looking dodgy for Alan McGee's Poptones label. But then he signed Sweden's top-notch retro popsters The Hives and stopped the rot..read

2.Burton's boys in spirited display
By Leo Spall
Pressure is mounting on Bryan Robson after Wimbledon dumped Middlesbrough out of the Worthington Cup...read

The search results page is very cluttered, and the presence of three sponsored links pushes the results of the site search below the fold of the page.

This Is London search results page

This Is London doesn't offer any kind of advanced search. Here is a summary of the features of This Is London's search

This Is London search - feature summary
Results per page 10
Article excerpt or abstract Yes
Date stamp (day/month/year) Yes
Time stamp (hours/minutes) No
Article word count No
Navigational or Section information Yes
Specifies original publication Yes
Specifies original edition No
Specifies original edition page number No
Results display colour-coded Yes
Search terms highlighted in results No
Relevancy score (%) No
Destination URL displayed No
Sponsored links featured in results Yes
Site offers web search No
Default search Site - Any time
RSS feed of search results No
Advanced search options No
Search by date-range Yes - drop-down menu on homepage offers choice of last 24 hours, 7 days and month

Next week I'll continue with a look at online newspaper site search facilities from The Mirror, The Independent, The Daily Express, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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