Memeorandum Beats Google News

Gabe Rivera’s Memorandum, a favorite of bloggers almost from its inception, has gotten some love fromThe Guardian.

If you want to know what’s happening in the world, then Memorandum will tell you — at least in a couple of areas. It’s an automated news clipping service, known in the trade as a “news aggregator”. It provides headlines and short texts updated every few minutes, with links to the original sites, much like Google News.

Memeorandum is based on the idea of “memes” or ideas that spread across the web (along with a pun on memorandum). Someone publishes an interesting story, other people find it, discuss it, and link to it. That’s how the web works. Small stories come and go quickly, while big ones generate lots of comment and dominate the page for hours.

The developer, Gabe Rivera, says it’s all done in software. He provides a list of publications as “seeds,” but the software still finds stories on sites he’s never heard of. It’s just a question of following links, and then trying to assess the contents. The algorithms are, obviously, secret.

Google also follows links and assesses content, but Memeorandum is embarrassingly better than Google News. Google reckons that the more coverage a story gets, the more important it is. Unfortunately, broad coverage takes a long time to develop, so Google News can run hours or even a day behind Memeorandum. This is fine for casual consumers, but if you’re a news junkie — or a journalist — it’s hopeless.

I’ve been using Memeorandum almost since its beginning in September 2005 and, indeed, found this story there.  I still use Google News and Yahoo News for finding specific stories, especially European news, but Memeorandum has long been my first stop to see what stories people are buzzing about.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. fester says:

    I use Memeorandum as my pointer and Google News as my ‘deep’ quick resource or if there is something from a couple of days ago that I want to write about, but I can not remember where I saw the link. My biggest issue with Memeorandum’s system is that it tends to pick up on some really insider small ball circle jerks amongst various blogging networks so the signal to noise ratio and prominence to value ratio could be improved.

    NB — there is something about both OTB and esp. the Newshoggers that the Memeorandum algorythm loves for the ‘interesting’ post of the minute sidebar — still have not figured that one out yet.

  2. Bithead says:

    NB — there is something about both OTB and esp. the Newshoggers that the Memeorandum algorythm loves for the ‘interesting’ post of the minute sidebar — still have not figured that one out yet.

    I sometimes wonder how much of it is manual.
    That said, I pulled their widget out of my sidebar a week or so back after a year of no link love from them. Time was, I used to get all kinds of traffic from them. No clue what happened.

  3. glasnost says:

    I sometimes wonder how much of it is manual.

    So do I. I wouldn’t be surprised to be dead wrong, but it sure as heck seems like a lot of subtle decisions are made about what to or not to favor. It’s not unusual for me to come across blog posts from reasonably well-known blogs that are not considered in a memeorandum list on the same topic – someone is making manual decisions not to list every single relevant blog entry.

    And the people who decide which, of 10,000 little stories that have *not* gotten any echo chamber bounceback yet – those individual stories with no 2nd/3rd/4th links – which 8 of those make it to the page? That almost HAS to be human.

    Last, but not least, there’s no rhyme or reason to which blog or which angle on a story gets the “lead” while other ones are left as mere hyperlinks. I suppose it could be based on hits – but I doubt it.

    I agree, there is a ton of small-ball wankery, as well as a consistent rewarding of frantic speculation. Nevertheless, it’s a great barrel in which to shoot fish, can’t deny that. Has its uses.