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May 12, 2009 / Toby Dayton

Newspaper Sites Suffer From Horrendous Search Functionality

One of the most frustrating experiences I have with newspaper sites is trying to find a story on a newspaper’s website that I just read in the print edition. It happens quite regularly that I will read something interesting (I still read 3 newspapers a day) and decide that someone I know would benefit from reading it, too (and who most likely doesn’t read a newspaper every day). So I’ll go to the newspaper’s website to find the URL for the story and at least 30% of the time, the search results will not return the story that I am looking for (and I always take the time to type in the exact headline of the story from the newspaper that day). I then usually search on Google by typing in the newspaper name and the headline, and the first result is invariably the story that I am looking for.

It happened again yesterday with a story in the WSJ about applicant tracking systems. The story I read (here) was entitled “Resume Overload” and the search results on WSJ came back as follows:

newspaper-search-sucks-wsj1

Google’s search results returned the following results:

google-search-results

The story I was looking for was the FIRST search result.

The New York Times is no better. I recently searched on their site, again using the exact headline from the story I was looking for, and got the following results:

nyt-search-sucks

How the NYT’s and WSJ’s search functionality on their own sites can be so awful as to not return a decent search result is beyond me, but it’s further proof (as if anyone needed more) that the newspapers are completely ill-equipped to climb the hill online that they need to climb in order to have any chance of competing. It’s all the more laughable in light of the recent flap that all the newspaper moguls (Rupert Murdoch included) are making about shutting their content off from Google. Were Rupert Murdoch and Dean Singleton to make good on their threats, not only would their site traffic plummet, but no one would ever be able to find anything to read on their site given their horrendous search functionality. If it wasn’t so annoying, it would be comical how pathetic the search functionality is on newspaper websites.

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous / May 13 2009 5:51 pm

    That the search engines built and maintained by the newspapers aren’t as good as the search engine build and maintained by Google isn’t much of a surprise. What is a surprise to me is that the newspapers either don’t recognize the problem or don’t care enough about it to do anything about it. One easy and fairly inexpensive solution is for them to throw in the towel on their homegrown technology and instead use a version of Google’s search engine that would only include in its search results pages from the newspaper. We do that with our articles, blogs, and other such content. It works great.

  2. StevenRothberg / May 13 2009 12:51 pm

    That the search engines built and maintained by the newspapers aren't as good as the search engine build and maintained by Google isn't much of a surprise. What is a surprise to me is that the newspapers either don't recognize the problem or don't care enough about it to do anything about it. One easy and fairly inexpensive solution is for them to throw in the towel on their homegrown technology and instead use a version of Google's search engine that would only include in its search results pages from the newspaper. We do that with our articles, blogs, and other such content. It works great.

  3. StevenRothberg / May 13 2009 5:51 pm

    That the search engines built and maintained by the newspapers aren't as good as the search engine build and maintained by Google isn't much of a surprise. What is a surprise to me is that the newspapers either don't recognize the problem or don't care enough about it to do anything about it. One easy and fairly inexpensive solution is for them to throw in the towel on their homegrown technology and instead use a version of Google's search engine that would only include in its search results pages from the newspaper. We do that with our articles, blogs, and other such content. It works great.

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