July 6, 2010 — Access Innovations, the sponsor of this post, is in the indexing and classification business. Humans have grouped events, people, and information for millennia.

We read with interest the New York Times article about search and the Softpedia commentary. When you read this, the New York Times article will not be easily available. The Softpedia article, which is the focus of our comment, is “Yahoo Experiments with Search Data Driven News”.

The idea is that Yahoo will prowl through log files, identify what users are clicking on, and then use those data such as keywords and phrases to generate a news page.

The passage that caught our attention was:

Yahoo in particular has been adamant about content which is now central to its strategy. The company is going through some massive changes as it shifts its focus to the core properties and content generation. Yahoo has put together a great editorial team, with many editors victims of layoffs at major traditional publications. But it’s also dabbling with alternative approaches, pioneered by companies like Associated Content and Demand Media. Having recently acquired the former, Yahoo is now using it as inspiration for a new blog which will leverage Yahoo’s comprehensive search data to guide the editorial decisions.

The use of click streams to “define” news is interesting. If users follow a normal distribution, then, by definition, the news will appeal to the topics that have the most popular appeal. The approach works for popular culture, but what about important subjects which get little or no attention in the click stream. Examples range from scientific, technical, and medical information to subjects that are unknown to a mass audience such as replacement parts for a Honda generator.

The Yahoo method could be one of those recursive functions that iterate until reaching zero. In this case, will Yahoo news become a content zero?

Stephen E Arnold

Post sponsored by Access Innovations