Google Labs Cooks up E-Mail News Alerts

Web search powerhouse Google offered a glimpse into its plans for the popular Google News aggregation portal, rolling out a beta version of an email notification service that allows personalized delivery of breaking news stories.

The Google News Alerts service, cooked up within the Google Labs unit, lets users specify keywords that are likely to appear in news articles that interest them.

The same technology the company uses to scrape more than 4,500 news sources to populate Google News is used to deliver the email alerts — either once a day or on an “as it happens” basis.

The email notification service also allows users to fine-tune preferences. For instance, a user can request alerts from specific news sources or stories that contain exact phrases. The company said searchers can be tailored by using the advanced search interface on Google News.

When the Mountain View, Calif.-based Google launched the news search service last September, it was clear the company was targeting the content aggregation space. At the time, industry watchers predicted Google would begin selling targeted news packages to large-scale enterprise clients looking to plug feeds into intranets and internal news services.

With the addition of email notifications, Google has moved predictably into a market already serviced by the likes of Yahoo and most major news organization. Yahoo Alerts, which is a feature on the company’s My Yahoo service offers email notification on more than just news. Yahoo’s alerts can be personalized to retrieve information on airline fares, stock quotes and even local weather reports.

while Google’s News Alerts is clearly aiming for simplicity with the set-up interface, the fact that email verification is a requirement every time a user sets an alert is more of an impediment than an encouragement.

In addition, the company does not allow alerts to be edited. If an error is made in setting up a notification, the alert must be deleted and re-entered.

Alerts are delivered either “once a day” (headline and links are bundled into a single email) or “as it happens” where Google will scrape news stories continuously throughout the day. “If the topic is one that’s the subject of a lot of news coverage, you could get several News Alerts in a given day,” the company said.

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