Katie Couric, via search feeds

Yesterday, my editor at Poynter Online, Bill Mitchell, asked me for ideas for covering how Katie Couric’s debut last night as the new CBS Evening News anchor is playing online.

Well, I honestly didn’t watch her show last night. I was really tired and went to bed early. I almost never watch TV news anyway. However, the net is indeed abuzz with commentary and more about Katie Couric this morning.

When I’m trying to follow buzz or monitor conversations or topics online, one of my primary tools is to set up a group of search feeds.

Many online services allow you to save a search as a feed (what the geeks call "RSS"). This is helpful because then you’ll receive in one place (your feed reader) a fairly organized, chronological list of the latest content that matches your query terms. In other words, you don’t have to keep looking for new results — they keep coming to you. At the Society of Professional Journalists conference a couple of weeks ago, I listed search feeds as an indispensable tool to help reporters cover a beat or a specific story.

If you haven’t ever used a search feed, the current Katie Couric buzz provides a great example. Since she’s famous, her name shows up in all sorts of places. However, this is also a not-so-great example, because searches for her name turn up so many hits that it takes considerable sifting and fine-tuning to make a meaningful assessment of what people are thinking or saying about her.

This morning I assembled a collection of search feeds for the query "Couric" drawn from nearly a dozen online sources. Only one of these directly represents mainstream media (sort of, it’s from the CBS Couric & Co. blog). The rest are mostly from sites that aggregate mostly non-MSM content, such as blogs.

Search feeds are a great way to follow the "live web." First-generation search engines such as Google and Yahoo crawl the web, index much of its contents, and deliver results based mainly on relevance. Often, older content makes the top of the list. In contrast, web 2.0-focused services such as Technorati quickly index new content that gets delivered to them by feed, so their results tend to be more up-to-the-minute than Google (although often more varied in relevance).

So if you want to find out what people are saying about something right now, look to Technorati or any of the other sources I’ve used below — not Google or Yahoo.

See my other blog, The Right Conversation. There, I’ve posted my collection of Katie Couric search feeds and a sample of current results from each…

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