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Ask.com Launches BigNews Multimedia Site

February 8th, 2008

ask-big-news.jpgA review of the latest search engine marketing news today revealed that Ask.com has unveiled a new site that functions as a news gathering hub, combining traditional news outlets with newer “Web 2.0″ sources such as blogs and social media. The site, actually a subdomain of Ask.com, is called BigNews and uses a rating system known as BigFactor to determine which news stories are shown on the front page and considered most important during the particular snapshot of time when you are visiting.

The “BigFactor” is actually a composite rating calculated according to four components:

  1. Breaking: This measures the “freshness” of a news story. Presumably newer stories are given more weight than older ones.
  2. Impact: This is an indicator of how often the story appears in other articles and in various multimedia, measuring its overall impact on the Web.
  3. Media: This is based on the number of images and videos that are associated with the story.
  4. Discussion: This factor measures the number of mentions in forums, bulletin boards, comment sections, and other discussion-oriented venues.

The BigFactor rating is a numerical range from 1 to 100, and is continually updated as new stories are found and Ask.com recalculates its algorithms. If you mouse over the BigFactor number beside each headline, you can view a bar graph chart that shows the relative importance of each of the four components in that story’s overall rating.

In addition to the rating, each headline block also includes links to a separate page that displays relevant articles, blogs, images, and videos along with the headline and snippet of the story itself. There is also a “Day History” link to the same type of page, but with a little bar graph above the list of images that allows you to track the story’s BigFactor rating for previous days, assuming the story is more than one day old.

Both the front page and single story pages include a section at the bottom where relevant articles that have been submitted to Digg are listed. At the bottom of the front page, this section is subdivided into two columns; the left column displays the top five news items with the most diggs, while the right column shows news stories that have been submitted very recently and thus have zero diggs.

According to Ask, the BigNews aggregator regularly searches over 10,000 Internet news outlets and uses a complex algorithmic system to determine which items are timely and relevant enough to be displayed on the main page or in search results. In addition to viewing the “hot” stories on the front page, it is also possible to filter stories according to region (Latin America, Europe, Asia, etc.) or make specific search queries on a particular topic as one normally would with a standard search engine.

What is not clear at this point is whether or not there is any way to submit stories to Ask BigNews or better yet, to submit one’s blog for inclusion in its possible search results. Even if there is no such method, consistent blogging combined with quality reporting on timely news stories and inclusion in Ask’s regular search results might be a way for enterprising bloggers to get at least one of their articles onto the BigNews page and receive additional traffic. Alternatively, submitting a relevant news-oriented post to Digg may also be followed with a brief appearance on the BigNews page and draw some clicks from interested viewers.

Although Ask.com still holds a relatively small share (usually around 3 to 4 percent) of the total search engine market, it has been one of the better search engines in terms of integrating multimedia aspects of searching such as images, videos, regional maps, and blogs. In fact, over the past three months or so, I have started to use the Ask search engine alongside Google and have found that it actually provides better results in some cases, particularly with image searches.

With a possible Microsoft-Yahoo merger looming, the launch of BigNews could help Ask become a more serious “third party” search engine competitor. Meanwhile, if you have a website and want to capitalize on a potential upward trend of Ask, you can read my previous article on how to optimize your site for Ask.com.

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