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Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

Google expanding non-English news options

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Google News, a computer-generated free news site provided by Google Inc. that aggregates stories worldwide, is expanding its customization options for non-English readers this year, the creator of the news service said recently.

Krishna Bharat, a Google research scientist, said in an interview he expects the site's news personalization and other features to become more widely available for non-English readers sometime this year.

"Everything will come to non-English languages, including Japanese," Bharat said.

Google currently offers more extensive options for English readers to personalize their news site by enabling them to create sections that cluster together stories closely matching their interests.

Bharat said personalization of news is among the company's top priorities for the year, along with enhancing the speed with which the stories get delivered through a variety of mobile and nonmobile devices.

"The Web is very slow — the click on a link takes eight to 10 seconds," he said. "The new model that is emerging is that people read news in a stream, it's coming to you . . . almost like watching TV. You're able to go from story to story and can read multiple articles about the same story in a very intuitive way."

Google News was rolled out in September 2002, shortly after the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Bharat, an Indian native, created the news site out of his frustration in trying to find coverage of the tragic event from different sources — not just Western media but from all over the world.

"I feel we've made a lot of progress," he said.

"We had just the one English edition initially — now we have 72 editions in 30 languages — it's been a lot of international expansion," he said of the service, which won the prestigious Webby Award in the news category in 2003.

The site currently draws news from more than 50,000 sources around the globe, ranking them according to the company's algorithm, which checks factors such as originality and timeliness of the story, the number of citations, quality of the source and other signals that determine overall quality.

Bharat, who grew up in Bangalore, recalled that one of his fondest memories from his childhood was sitting with his grandfather — an avid listener of the BBC World Service — and hearing him talk about global events.

Bharat said the experience of learning of events happening around the world, including those in his native country, through a foreign broadcaster taught him the importance of diversity in news reporting.

He said he would love to see, sometime in the future, American readers getting direct and instant access to Japanese and other foreign-language news articles by reading translated versions.

He said such exchanges have happened to some extent for English-language readers, with leading Japanese papers, for instance, producing English versions. He said the American press should try to reciprocate by publishing their articles in non-English languages.

"That might be a way to bridge the debates that are happening in countries which are not talking to each other as much as they could," Bharat said.

"I think it will be good for global harmony to have more access to newspapers internationally."



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