Local search: Using site search in regional press websites - Part 4

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 10 January 2009

Over the last 3 days I've been looking at the site search services provided across the 20 regional newspaper sites that I have been studying. The quality of the services varied widely, from a site like EDP24 basically begging the user to go off and try Google News instead, to the 'This is...' network of sites providing a sophisticated faceted filtering mechanism.

Regional Press screenshots

Today I wanted to publish a couple of table featuring a summary of some of my findings during this piece of research.

Search features

The first table looks at some of the features available from search. This includes the default number of results displayed, whether help is provided with misspellings, whether the user can subscribe to RSS feeds of results, and whether there are any options available to the user for sorting or re-ordering the results.

    Title Search box location Number of results Spelling help Results as RSS Sort options Default sort
Manchester Evening News Banner area top-left 10 Yes Yes Yes Relevence
West Midlands Express & Star Banner area top-right 30 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Liverpool Echo Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Aberdeen Press & Journal Banner area top-right 20 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Belfast Telegraph Banner area top-right 20 Yes Yes Yes Date (Recent first)
Glasgow Evening Times Top of left-hand navigation 20 Yes Yes Yes Relevence
Dundee Courier & Advertiser Bottom of left-hand nav 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Evening Chronicle Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Shropshire Star Banner area top-right 30 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Leicester Mercury Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes Date (Recent first)
Birmingham Mail Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Eastern Daily Press Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Stoke & Staffordshire - The Sentinel Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes Date (Recent first)
Hull Daily Mail Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes Date (Recent first)
Nottingham Evening Post Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes Date (Recent first)
Yorkshire Evening Post Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Portsmouth News & Sports Mail Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
Aberdeen Evening Express Banner area top-right 20 Yes Yes Yes n/a
South Wales Evening Post Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes Date (Recent first)
Teesside Evening Gazette Banner area top-right 10 Yes Yes Yes n/a
    Title Search box location Number of results Spelling help Results as RSS Sort options Default sort

The features listed were observed during a research period between December 17th and January 5th 2009.

Search results format

The table below looks at which aspects of information are conveyed to users in the search results themselves. The features I looked for in particular were whether the results featured the story headline, an editorial standfirst or a contextually chosen snippet, the publication date, a URL, the site section or category where the story was published, an author byline and a relevancy score.

To clarify a couple of results in the table, I didn't see that any paper had specifically made the name of an article's author part of the returned search engine results. It might though sometimes appear in a 'contextual snippet' if the author's name was close to, or was the search terms used.

Additionally, the reason the Dundee Courier & Advertiser is the only paper listed as providing search results without a story headline is because they use a custom Google search. This indexes the HTML output of the paper, and story headlines are not included in the <TITLE> tag, meaning that Google cannot determine them for display.

Next...

Tomorrow, in the last part of this look at search across the UK's regional press, I'll be taking a slightly different approach. Instead of looking at search on the sites themselves, I'll be examining how they appear when you look for them in Google.

1 Comment

I found this very interesting. Opened my eyes up to a few things that I never paid attention to before. And the research has been quite thorough as well. Loved it.

Keep up to date on my new blog