WASHINGTON – Does the Web need an industrial-strength news search engine? Neal Goldman of Inform Technologies thinks it does and rolled one out Monday morning. Although he concedes Inform.com (search) still needs usability and development work, Goldman said the goal is to help visitors create their own newspaper with stories selected from thousands of news sources.
It's all done with math. "We go out onto the Web and capture millions of stories. We crunch down the essential elements of people, places, topics, industries and products, assign mathematical scores, and produce a new way to search and organize news," Goldman said. He did a similar project in a startup for the financial industry, Capital IQ. That was sold to McGraw-Hill (MHP) last year for a reported $225 million.
The home page of Inform.com lists the top news of the day. Stories are organized by an editor, because you can't predict what's hot, but the rest of the site is organized by computers. The technology makes it possible for readers to find news not only by keywords but also by topics. "You can search our site for Bill Clinton, and it will do a 'perfect search' by finding stories about 'President Clinton', "William Jefferson Clinton,' and 'Former President Clinton." Goldman says the mathematical scores assigned to every story create "a new navigational paradigm," for Internet news.
The secret sauce is called "meta tagging." He says it produces more refined and contextually relevant searches. They can include hundreds of print, online and broadcast publishers, and even filter them by region of the world. Stories a reader selects are displayed with citations including people, places, and topics, making it possible to create complex searches of several terms with a single click.
Goldman may be hoping that Inform.com can be something like the Superman of news tools: faster than a speeding Google (GOOG) ; more powerful than a LexisNexis (ENL) , and able to leap mounds of data and sources in a single bound.
Goldman expects Inform.com to appeal to news junkies, "people who feel the pain of the problem" of too many sources and too little organization. He expects his initial market will be public relations professionals, journalists, and people in finance and politics.
Eventually, the site will carry advertising, and Goldman expects to offer paid services by the end of the year to watch what people are reading and suggest related stories.