A new app from the Microsoft Garage, News Pro, is designed to help you search for information about the latest developments in your industry or field, with access to locate articles from more than 10,000 publishers and bloggers. This highly personalized experience is available on the Web and as an app on iOS.
“While we can easily locate top headlines that keep us in the know with trending events, it’s harder to search for insightful news under the hood about my company, its competitors, and their products that may not be interesting to the general public but significant to me and a handful of people,” says Yumao Lu, a principal dev manager whose team works on Bing news products. He and a few others from that team came up with News Pro. “Users might be able to find general news, but if they’re coming from a small company or some segment that is more niche, they may have a hard time locating information they need.”
Inspired by this, the team dove deeper into the area of helping users search for news about very specific, narrow topics.
“There’s a gap,” Lu adds. “Many small publishers – thousands – write news about small and narrow, thin segments, but they can be difficult to locate using traditional search methods.”
The app also includes personalization options to assist users in searching for news about more than 100,000 companies big and smaller, such as Facebook, Huawei, Tencent, Microsoft, Kabam and Waze. In aviation alone, 266 companies are covered as personalization options, including well-known brands like American Airlines, to lesser-known ones like Mega Maldives or Sunwest Aviation.
News Pro also suggests new topics to search based off your current interests, helping you discover new websites and areas that may benefit you.
Users can sign in using their Facebook account, and from there the app will provide personalized news highlights that are relevant to their work and career.
“I’ve already formed a habit of browsing my search highlights and clicking through websites to read the articles that are relevant to me,” Lu says. “Otherwise, I would fear missing something major.”
Using Bing logs and learning the dynamic relationship between a million news topics, his team was able to create this stream of hyper-relevant news highlights and rank news articles for the app’s users.
“Ensuring the user receives quality news highlights in the first page was one of our biggest obstacles,” says Ling Li, the lead engineer who’s been driving the project for six months and is also its release manager. “Locating the most relevant and interesting articles for each individual user according to their interests – as well as making sure the search results are for fresh news – is really hard. We did lots of refactoring, improved the ranking logic and leveraged different types of storage to get the search results you see now in the highlights page.”
The Garage gave the team the experience and structure they needed to ship their product.
“The Garage is very critical, very important to the success of this product,” Lu says. “It’s not only simplified but it’s very structured. You pitch the idea, then they provide clear guidance, a clear checklist. I’m an engineer, I’ve never released an app to the App Store; the Garage provided everything. It made the release process painless. The whole project end to end took very little time.”