Search giant Google has introduced a free alert feature in its news section, allowing users to monitor a topic and receive e-mail notifications when news stories on that topic appear.
The new Google News Alerts tool is currently in beta at http://www.google.com/newsalerts. Users enter a topic they want to track and can select to receive a daily notification, or bulletins as the news happens.
The alerts can be used to monitor developing news, track an industry, and get the latest information on celebrities, sports and other subjects, Google said. Alerts can be sent to any active e-mail address.
Users can also refine their topic searches through an advanced search feature, allowing them to specify recent articles or specific country news, for example.
User reactions on a Google News Alerts discussion board set up by the company earlier this week appeared mostly positive. One user nicknamed "Freaky" wrote that the service would allow him to deliver news quicker to readers on his news sites. As the service is still in beta, some users had questions on how to manage multiple alerts and fine tune them, however.
The news alert tool builds on other bells and whistles introduced by Google over the past year as it fights to stay ahead in the search engine race. Competitors like Yahoo Inc. have recently showed their intentions to get a greater share of the market, and have moved through acquisitions and the introduction of new technologies to give Google a run for its money.
Last month, Yahoo said that it was buying paid search service provider Overture Services Inc. for US$1.63 billion.
Earlier this year, the Sunnyvale, California, Internet company also updated its search engine, with extended search capabilities and a sleeker look and feel, mirroring Google's simple interface approach. Yahoo also has a news alert feature, which offers bulletins via e-mail, instant message or mobile device. Additionally, the company just expanded the alert service so users can select a topic by category, individual source or breaking news.
It remains to be seen which search provider will grab more attention with their news alerts. For now, news addicts may want to set up searches on both companies to monitor their progress.