21 essential Web tools: News and information

Written by Ian Portsmouth, Jim McElgunn, Kim Shiffman and Kara Aaserud

Feeds 2.0: Make the news come to you Information overload is closer to being solved with "personalized news aggregators" such as Feeds 2.0. Also known as "feed readers," news aggregators gather syndicated Web content from disparate sources into a single consolidated view that spares you the bother of constantly checking your favourite blogs and podcasts. Feeds 2.0 takes this idea a step further. Using sophisticated proprietary algorithms, this free service figures out your preferences and prioritizes feeds to suit your interests. It even recommends sites you've likely never heard of. You help it get smarter by marking pages you find interesting — and uninteresting. The more you use it, the smarter it gets. Popular alternatives: Findory Google Alerts: Find all the news that's fit for your inbox Competitive intelligence has never been easier to gather, thanks to Google Alerts. The free service harnesses Google's search engine to find new Web content matching the keywords you provide. It then sends the related links and a short snippet for each item to your inbox weekly, daily or continuously — you decide. Creating and editing your alerts is simple, and you can create as many as you want. Which brings us to the only potential downside: creating so many alerts using broad search terms (e.g., "Paris and Britney") that you're bombarded with hundreds of matches a day. PROFIT's recommendation: program "news" and "blog" alerts for your company name, the names of your closest competitors and your specific line of business. Popular alternatives: No direct competitors SearchMash: Do the search to end all searches Visit and you'll see a perfunctory home page that evokes images of a cash-starved Web 2.0 startup. In fact, Google's billions are behind this experimental search engine that uses the Web behemoth's technology to find Web pages, images, blog entries, video and even Wikipedia entries that match your search terms, simultaneously. What's cool is that you can then explore the results without having to leave the results page. Clicking, for instance, on "More Web results" appends the next 10 results to the existing list, while a video player is integrated into a corner of the results page. But if SearchMash is so functional, why is Google being coy about its relationship to the site? The company says it wants to test the response to new search interfaces without having its brand skew users' opinions. Popular alternatives: None

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