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Feeding the News Junkie's Habit

This article has been archived and may no longer be updated.


Genie Tyburski, Web Manager, The Virtual Chase


   Originally published in Law Office Computing (August/September 2004) under the title, "Make the News Come to You." Revised to reflect resources and strategies current as of the date appearing at the end of the page.


Updated 19 June 2007. Spotting Lawyer X alone in his office, Lawyer M decides now is as good a time as any to ask him about the memorandum the Marketing Department sent around a few weeks ago (News Alerts Keep You Informed). It informed lawyers about email alerting services for current news.

"Hey, X," M greets him. "What's going on?"

Absorbed in his work, X looks up and mumbles what sounds like, "Nothing." But he could have said, "Ugh."

"Busy?" M ventures.

X nods, but gives up trying to ignore her when he realizes she succeeded in interrupting his thoughts. With a gesture, he invites her to sit down.

M shakes her head. "It looks like you can use a coffee break."

"You buying?" X asks with sudden interest.

As the lawyers walk to a nearby coffee shop, M remarks, "The memo Marketing sent out on getting news via email has the look of your work."

"I gave them a run-down of some of the services available," X admits.

"Problem is," says M, "I'm starting to hate email. I get so much spam, it's hard to weed through it to find the messages I have to read. I've even accidentally deleted client email."

After ordering coffee, Lawyer X tells M about another delivery option for current news -- XML-based news feeds.

XML-based news feeds, popularly called RSS or Atom for the different standards currently available, consist of hyperlinked headlines, and sometimes, partial or full text stories. You need an aggregator -- separate software or a Web service -- to display the feeds. It converts the XML coding into legible text you can quickly scan.

News media, such as The Washington Post, the BBC and ESPN, technology news sources such as Wired News, PC World and CNET and legal news sources such as The Paper Chase, Topix.net Law News and PRWeb, deliver news via XML-based feeds. Federal, state and local governments also have begun delivering news and information in this way. The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau makes available several feeds, including one for research issues (Wisconsin Briefs). Senator Biden provides a feed for press releases from his office. The West Virginia Supreme Court maintains several feeds for current judicial decisions. You can subscribe to all opinions of the court, or to opinions in certain subject categories.

Few feeds let you filter their news content by keyword. News feed provider, Moreover, does offer this capability. To filter news from Moreover by keyword, format the feed address like this: http://p.moreover.com/cgi-local/page?k=keyword&o=rss. For phrases, use this format: http://p.moreover.com/cgi-local/page?k=keyword1%20keyword2&o=rss. To find two or more terms in the same story, format it like this: http://p.moreover.com/cgi-local/page?k=keyword1+keyword2&o=rss. Replace the bolded keyword with your search term. Use this strategy to track news about companies or people. Be aware, though, Moreover might do away with this free feature as it moves toward commercial only access.

Three news services to enable keyword filtering since the original publication of this article include Topix.net, All Headline News and Yahoo News. Trade and industry articles aggregator, FindArticles, also lets you filter feeds by keyword. To do this, conduct a search and then look for the orange XML (This is an XML icon.) icon in the search results. Right-click the icon, and then copy and paste the URL into your aggregator. They will now alert you to new stories or articles that match your keywords.

Some aggregators enable keyword searching, which helps you plow through the sources that generate a lot of content. At present, Lawyer X prefers the free Web-based aggregator Bloglines. Because you connect to Bloglines with any computer via a Web browser, using it doesn't require the installation of additional software. Yet the service provides many of the powerful features you expect of a software utility. You can organize feeds into folders, search feeds, import, export or find feeds and subscribe to mailing lists (requires setting up a Bloglines email account). Bloglines also supports both RSS and Atom feeds.

After creating a Bloglines account -- called My Bloglines, you can begin adding the feeds you want to monitor. Bloglines provides an extensive directory of feeds, which you can browse or search. Other directories include Syndic8, NewsIsFree and 2RSS.com. RSS in Government (19 June 2007: The site appears to be abandoned.) helps you keep up with the release of new government feeds.

You can also find feeds by looking for the XML icon at sites you visit. It often appears next to a feed link. Yahoo recently joined the RSS bandwagon by highlighting feeds in search results. If a matching Web page also has an RSS address, the Yahoo search result displays two additional options -- "View as XML" and "Add to My Yahoo!" View as XML supplies the feed address, which you then can plug into an aggregator.

As you begin reading the feeds, you might want to save specific news items. While some sources archive feed content, others do not. Some feeds, such as PRWeb, generate a lot of content and archive it selectively. Others, such as The Washington Post, provide limited access to the archive.

Bloglines displays a save option following each news summary. You can also annotate an item when you save it, although the annotation doesn't display until you select the edit option next to it in the "Saved Items" folder.

Special search engines enable searching XML-based feed content. Daypop is probably the most well known among them. (19 June 2007: Daypop left the scene for several months, but now has returned.) It provides separate query options for searching RSS headlines or the full content of the feed. However, its database provides access to current items only.

Feedster, (19 June 2007: In recent months, I have found Google Blog Search and Technorati more useful than either Feedster or Waypath. Despite its name, Google Blog Search queries RSS feeds.) another RSS search engine, offers a more extensive database. Separate queries for Microsoft and Enron, for example, indicate it contains news items dated six or seven months ago.

Feedster further enables tracking search results with RSS feeds. Look for the RSS options at the top of your search results. If you prefer email to RSS, Feedster recently introduced a keyword alert service. Look for the "Get Search by Email" link at the top of your search results. Use it to monitor additions to the database that match your keywords.

Waypath provides yet another RSS search option. Its database appears to date back about six weeks.

When searching feed content, keep in mind that not all feeds provide full-text content. Some consist only of a linked headline. Others provide a headline and the first few words of the lead sentence. An RSS search engine can only query the content provided. Therefore, if a feed only produces items with partial text, you cannot search the full-text of the source via these specialty engines.

Back at her computer, Lawyer M busily adds feed after feed to her Bloglines account. So intent is she that she fails to hear Partner Gruff enter the office.

He clears his throat nearly sending M into orbit.

"Partner Gruff," she acknowledges, gathering her wits.

"Looks serious," he remarks with a nod of his head toward the computer. "What are you doing?"

After a moment, M responds simply, "Reading the news."

"A computer to read the news," Gruff says shaking his head. "What's wrong with a newspaper?"

"It's not that there's anything wrong with a newspaper," M begins, "But I can find out about key news faster. I can also sift through several news sources quickly to get to the stories I want."

On a roll, she continues. "I can save stories about clients or research matters, or email them. I can even get some legal information such as U.S. Supreme Court opinions shortly after their release."

When she pauses for a breath, Gruff harrumphs, "You've been spending too much time with Lawyer X."


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Created: 20 December 2004
Revised: 19 June 2007 (text revisions); 18 October 2007 (no text revisions)
URL: https://www.virtualchase.com/articles/archive/news_feeds.html

Suggestions: Genie Tyburski, tvceditor [at] virtualchase [dot] com