It's not a particularly useful product. To the extent that I want location-based news aggregation at all (meet me in the next paragraph for more on that), I want it at a geographic level that's actually of some unique use or interest. Cities and ZIP codes don't fit that bill. Anything grouped at or above the ZIP code or mid-size or larger city isn't any more local than what old-fashioned local newspapers already offer, even in print. And anything more narrowly focused than that - a small town, say - in Google News' local feature returns an approaching-useless mishmash of not-local-enough content with the occasional nonsensical result mixed in.
1. It's hard to tell whether newspapers will be happy about this development or not given going local seems to be one way for newspapers to survive. If Google is providing local news, this may not be a good thing for newspapers. Or it might drive more traffic to newspaper Web sites.
More important, Google Local is clearly another way Google wants to drive local advertising. The market, so far, has been a tough nut for everyone, including Google, so perhaps this is a way for Google to drive deeper into the market.
Google News is working hard to either kill your local newspaper or make you read it more often. While Google News has typically gathered the top stories from news sources across the web and presented the top world and national stories, you can now get local pages for pretty much any major city.
For lots of people I know (including me, I have to admit) Google News has effectively become their online newspaper. I don't know where it stacks up in terms of news portals, and whether Yahoo News or MSN have bigger market share, but for many the day starts with a browse through Google's version of the newspaper -- and now that paper will include local news as well as world news. Can the 800-pound gorilla make local work? And does that help or hurt newspaper sites?
The feature worked well when I tried it out for Orlando and a few other cities. I'd say this bodes well for small and mid-size publications, since this feature will finally let folks easily find local headlines. Before, Google News was mostly a mishmash of nation and world stories, with online editors hoping to hit on a national story that could get picked up by the aggregator.
While we're not the first news site to aggregate local news, we're
doing it a bit differently -- we're able to create a local section for
any city, state or country in the world and include thousands of
sources. We're not simply looking at the byline or the source, but
instead we analyze every word in every story to understand what
location the news is about and where the source is located.