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Ask.com launches Big NewsInternet - Ask
I've been a fan of Google News for some time now...it automatically aggregates stories from thousands of news sources and then determines which stories are the most breaking, what topic they fall under, etc. It was also nice how each story would list multiple sources, so you could read articles with different viewpoints/biases on the same issue.

Yesterday, Ask.com launched a site called Big News. I haven't played around with it that much yet, but while it has many features like those in Google News, it's definitely got some noticeable differences from existing news aggregators that make it worth exploring some more.


For one, all the stories are assigned a "Big Factor" which uses 4 different aspects to rate each story:
What is the Big Factor Average?
Breaking
This factor accounts for the timeliness and freshness of a story, giving more weight to breaking news.
Impact
This factor tracks a story's impact across the Web, monitoring mentions in articles, multimedia and blogs.
Media
This factor identifies the number of quality images and videos associated with stories, providing rich insight.
Discussion
In a sense, the Web is like one big water cooler. This factor weighs the level of those discussions and which ones are making the most noise.


Here's a breakdown of the parts of the summary (non-relevant parts have been darkened by me):

You can quickly scan the Big Factors for stories, as well as mouseover to get the breakdown of those 4 categories. There's also a "Track" button here that will let you track the story via RSS or add it to MyNews if you're logged into Ask so you can view it there. This way you can keep up with new developments on the story.


Each story also mentions the number of articles, blogs, images, and videos that are associated with the story.


But the most distinguishing feature can be seen when you click on either of the arrow icons:


When you follow that link, you get taken to the "Big Picture" for that story. It's here that you get a better breakdown of the sources, and also a timeline of events. For instance, this story on Israel has a 27-day history, and by using the timeline bars at the top you can get sources from each day and see how an event developed:

The Big Picture page with timeline on top - I'm not certain if this page will exist permanently.
So overall I think I like it more in that it's more visual rather than being text-heavy. There's also lots of nifty little things, like mousing over the video links on the main page will play the video without having to go to the source (AP, ESPN, CBS News, etc.) page to view it. In fact right now there's a story with ESPN video that links to a FOX News article...it's interesting that they've managed to integrate the video playing right into the main page since I doubt all the source videos are the same format (Flash, aspx, etc.)...I wonder if they made deals with certain websites that have video.

They also hint at some interesting existing and upcoming filtering/personalization functionality:
How can I find my favorite paper or website's news?
Given the large number of factors involved, your hometown paper or favorite may not appear as a source when browsing the site. However, it is likely considered in the overall importance of a story, as there are more than 10,000 sources that factor into our backend algorithms and computations. Check out our Perspective Filters to find sources in specific categories such as "European News" or "Asia News." Future releases will introduce even more great personalization features.
I'll see if I remember to update this in a week or two after having had some more time to use it and compare it further, but my initial impression is I like it quite a bit and wonder if I'll start using it as a replacement for Google News.

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