Pavarotti and Jane Tomlinson's deaths test search

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 7 September 2007

Reaction to Chipwrapper has been mostly positive so far, and users have started to arrive and subscribers have started to pick up the RSS feeds.

Adrian Monck made a very good point about not having the ability to search results chronologically, illustrating it with some results after the death of cancer campaigner Jane Tomlinson.

Jane Tomlinson Chipwrapper search

Unfortunately it isn't a feature offered by Google, and so although I'd love to, I couldn't incorporate it into the engine. It shows some real shortcomings with the way search engines crawl and index newspaper and news content in their main results.

Later in the week the death of Luciano Pavarotti tested Chipwrapper's topicality again. Here in the run of Chipwrapper results the stories from the BBC and Daily Mail seemed to imply a miraculous recovery by the opera star.

Chipwrapper Pavarotti search

Given that search engine's ranking factors include age and link popularity over time, it is obvious why a slighter older page that has been linked to around the web will rank higher than the 'new entry' about Pavarotti's passing.

On Google's main results page, they get around this by injecting some news headlines at the top of the search engine results if they meet certain topicality criteria.

Google Pavarotti news

Anecdotally I seem to recall that this issue came to a head for search engines who had to find a solution for bad publicity generated following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They were still offering search engine results purporting to link to a webcam atop the World Trade Center in New York after the building had collapsed.

That was how it used to be done at the BBC when I worked there on search as well - if a result from BBC News matched the search terms, was above a certain relevancy threshold, and had been published in the last couple of days, it would be 'artificially' injected into the results set.

Again, it isn't a feature offered by Chipwrapper, since Google's Custom Search Engines don't seem to be able to include that 'recent news' module.

Still, it was also interesting to note with the Pavarotti example that neither The Sun nor The Telegraph had wasted any time in buying up the keyword "Pavarotti" to advertise their coverage of his death.

Pavarotti adverts

It might be slightly morbid, but it is an example of flexible paid search marketing thinking at its best.

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