I’m almost sold on Newsmap, the site which could potentially be one of my fave ways of keeping up on the news. Almost, but not quite, down to it still needing a few tweaks before I’ll become a regular user. The site, which is currently being developed but available in beta, maps the news using colour tabs and clustering stories which are related to eachother, all fed via Google News.
As it’s still a work in progress, according to the developer’s blog, with further features yet to be added, I’ll sit tight and just wait until they come into play. Among the planned developments, which I’m eagerly awaiting, are options to create your own custom news map. Although registered users can customise things like saving category tab preferences, e.g. technology, my biggest issue with Newsmap is that you can’t prioritise categories in order to give whatever news you’re most interested in more screen space. If you look at the screengrab above, world news (in red) dominates two thirds of the screen, whereas health (purple) in the bottom right-hand corner is scrunched up so small that you can’t even read most of the headlines.
Once that’s ironed out, and perhaps if they add the ability to specify your own categories, such as science or movies, that’ll seal the deal for me. Feeds are all fine and dandy, but being able to visualise those feeds and create links between stories would certainly ease the eye-strain in a journo’s quest to always stay on top of the news. I’ll drink to that.
Update (30 July 2009):
Oh, and another feature that Newsmap could do with: enabling users to decide what news sources they want their stories fed from. At the moment, the content is fed from Google News, the bane of newspapers the world over for nicking their content for free. If you could choose to get news from, say, The Times or the BBC, then ideally this would contribute to their hits, and if current talk of paid content is realised, then this would contribute to their revenue too. As a side point, Google, rather ironically, blocked Newsmap from using Google News as its news source for a while. So, they don’t mind ripping off media organisations, but get uppity when someone wants to reuse their (stolen) content for free? Pot, kettle, black.
Anyway, rather than relying on Google for its news feeds, sourcing stories directly from the content providers through their feeds (rather than Google) would benefit them and also users by allowing them to choose their preferred news sources. Of course, I’m no developer, and it’s oh so easy to suggest things for developers to integrate – this kind of advancement would also need the cooperation of the news sources themselves. But since using Google News always leaves me feeling grubby, I think I’ll have to give Newsmap a miss for now.