News has traditionally been a top-down affair, with editors and reporters selecting relevant information before sharing it with the public, but as Yahoo! is demonstrating, new technology means it can increasingly be led by the type of content readers want.
The New York Times said the company has harnessed techniques associated with internet marketing services, such as tracking popular topics, words and phrases, to inform the content of its latest news blog, the Upshot.
Yahoo! Media vice-president James Pitaro told the newspaper that what separates this venture from its competitors is the company’s ability to aggregate and analyse this data.
He pointed to a Yahoo! Sports story from the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an example of how search technology can lead news content.
Analysis of users’ queries showed that many were asking search engines why divers shower when they exit the pool. Its writers investigated and produced an article with the answer – the warm water keeps their muscles loose.
"So while our competition was covering a lot of the bigger, broader topics, we were covering topics that were a little bit more behind the scenes," he said.
According to comScore, Yahoo! sites accounted for 18.3 per cent of the US search market in May.
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