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Google Adds News Personalization 242

downbad writes "ZDNet is reporting that the Google News home page is now customizable, allowing you to add or delete main news categories (such as business, sports and so on), as well as increasing or decreasing the number of headlines within a section. They've also introduced a feature that lets you create your own section using keywords for a topic that interests you."
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Google Adds News Personalization

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  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:13AM (#11898550)
    Being that I'm a mobile web user most of the time I really appreciate the addition of text only [] It's not that the page didn't load fast enough as it was but the text only version is left justified and is rendered a lot better than it normally is.

    While you can modify the layout to left justify almost everything now it still doesn't remove the "customize this page" box and a couple of stories (from Top Stories) on the right side. Oh well it's still in beta ;)
    • I browse on a mobile phone, and its screen is teeny tiny (think 128x128 pixels). Google is clever enough to sniff the user-agent and provide a small, 5-result version for me, which I think is rather nice of it.

      It's a shame this only works for web searching, not Groups or News. News returns a file too big error, even with the text-only version you mentioned. Is there a way to get a mini-version of the news site as well?
    • HTML !=TEXT/PLAIN (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      i hate it when search engines say "text version" when in reality its just "less html", look at the google "text" page bullshit
      it has images,colours,tables,fonts,css,script, in fact all the things that somebody expecting a "text" doesn't want, its pretty obvious they fail to see the whole point of having a "text" mode

      call it "lite html version" but "text version" it certainly aint

    • Shameless plug ahead: my newsbot [] (which predates Google News BTW), has a text version [] which is not only geared for thin devices (PDAs/phones) but also links to news article versions that are also lightweight. Try it out.
    • I agree, I've always used the text option on all of my computers. I've always been for more information and less crap on a page. (The same with slashdot- haven't seen the full blown puke green layout in 5 or 6 years.)

      The problem so far is that after you customize the news, it's not custom on the text page. They could let you choose which headings to view and the number of stories in each heading. That would be cool.

      More function, less form.

  • Google devotion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by northcat ( 827059 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:14AM (#11898565) Journal
    Would slashdot have reported this if it was Yahoo (or something else) which did this instead of Google?
    • No (Score:4, Informative)

      by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:17AM (#11898592) Homepage
      No because it wouldn't be news, sinc eyou have been able to do this at for going on 3 years now. As well, My Yahoo! leys you add RSS feeds... Google doesn't (although they let you add custom search feeds, which is different).

    • Re:Google devotion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Simon (S2) ( 600188 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:18AM (#11898602) Homepage
      Would slashdot have reported this if it was Yahoo (or something else) which did this instead of Google?

      No. Because if Yahoo! did it, it would be cluttered with ads and unusable, but if google does it, it is a new useful service that is interesting and makes intelligent use of new implementation of current technologies (like the drag&drop customization of the news items that interest you).
      • I'm not sure whether you're being sarcastic or serious.
      • Re:Google devotion (Score:4, Insightful)

        by weierstrass ( 669421 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:27AM (#11898672) Homepage Journal
        No. Because if Yahoo! did it, it would be cluttered with ads and unusable, but if google does it, it is a new useful service that is interesting and makes intelligent use of new implementation of current technologies
        This is exactly the attitude that has turned the front page of /. into adspace for any new crap google think they're going to dominate the world with this week. Google provide a pretty decent search engine. In fact it's probably the best. This does not mean that their 'beta' email system is any better than anyone else's, that they are a benevolent company who love technology for it's own sake, that they are the future of the Internet, or indeed that they are trying to do anything other than maximise shareholder value by providing marketable web services.
        • Re:Google devotion (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Bobman1235 ( 191138 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:20AM (#11899178) Homepage
          This does not mean that their 'beta' email system is any better than anyone else's, that they are a benevolent company who love technology for it's own sake, that they are the future of the Internet, or indeed that they are trying to do anything other than maximise shareholder value by providing marketable web services.

          While I mostly agree with what your'e saying with regards to google's benevolence, you CAN'T argue that when they do things, they do them pretty well. They DO have the most useful and least obtrusive search engine. Their email system has the best interface I'VE ever used for a web client, and it's lightening fast compared to all the other biggies (yahoo, hotmail). Their new map system is really fast and easy to use - missing a few features, not ready for primetime, but still faster and easier than mapquest or yahoo! maps.

          The Slashdot community is acting like a bunch of little fan-boys--big surprise--but that doesn't mean that they're not at least in part correct. As long as google keeps doing things right, WHATEVER their motive (which is obviously to make money), peopel are gonna continue to love and praise them.
        • I think you should explore your user preferences. You can shut off topics, whether it be news about Google, Wireless, Linux, etc.. anything you think there is too much of, you can make disappear.

          Of course, I like the google stuff on slashdot, but you'd expect that.

          Chris DiBona

      • My page has I think one ad on it and is seems to have a lot more features than google news. I will admit that I am going to play with google news but the yahoo news page is still very useful.
        • The thing I like about Google News' new features is the ability to create a custom block based on keywords. The first thing I did was to create one for Firefox, and then one for Thunderbird. That's how I found out that Thunderbird 1.0.1 is almost out.

          There was one small bug in the interface, I've reported it and also found a workaround, so it's all good.

          Anyway, my point is: if MyYahoo has the custom block (based on a keyword or phrase) feature, then it's hideously buried, because in my five years of using
      • Re:Google devotion (Score:2, Informative)

        by filmmaker ( 850359 ) *
        That's not true!

        There was a time, certainly, when it was true, but not anymore.

        I've been playing around with lately. The level of customizability and ease of use is on par with anything Google does*. Not knocking Google, but only giving Yahoo! its due credit.

        To answer the grandparent, of course not! I know this because, well, Yahoo's been doing this for a while....I didn't see a headline. Anyone else?

        * the irony is that Firefox + RSS is just as, or even more, capable than
      • Talking of usability, that's one area where Google News scores well over Yahoo for me. I've tried My Yahoo [], but I prefer Google News for it's simple and clear layout.

        Observe how it neatly colour codes the different sections, gives a photo for most stores, and is generally pleasing to the eye. They make it very easy for you to quickly skim over the headlines to look for something you're interested in.

        There is still plenty of room for improvement, but I hope they focus on making it easier for users to get n
    • Re:Google devotion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skraps ( 650379 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:27AM (#11898677)
      Speaking of Yahoo, is anyone else afraid that Google will turn into Yahoo if they keep adding services?

      Every time they come out with something new, everyone says "oh cool, i'll use that!" But look at Yahoo's homepage after ten years of that business. I'm sure there are some good services in there, but it's hard to find them among all the ... other good services.

      • Re:Google devotion (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shawn0122 ( 866574 )
        That is a constant worry because when companies try to cover everything like Microsoft, they seem to stop innovating on the products that made them what they are in the first place. Google is much better then Yahoo by having many built in functions accessed through the search field instead of displaying them on their home page.
      • So you would rather Google not create new good services so as not to confuse you?

        • Yes! I would rather they have a handful of very useful services.

          Everyone says that Google is different than Yahoo, because Google's new services are innovative and have cool high-tech interfaces. Well, back when Yahoo was in full-bloat grow-mode, their services were pretty cool and innovative too. But then they were left to maintenance and became, without changing, the old and crusty services we expect from Yahoo today.

          Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying Google has already succumbed to that fate, or eve

      • Re:Google devotion (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Thundertje ( 664614 )
        But look at Yahoo's homepage after ten years of that business. Take a look at Google's homepage after 7 years. Still the bare minimum.
      • > Speaking of Yahoo, is anyone else afraid that Google will turn into Yahoo if they keep adding services?

        Is that a question?
        Go figure - their market capitalization is (say) about 50 billion. As the point of investing is making money, they'd better return 5 billion a year to make that about 10% ROI, otherwise they're screwed.

        Now, 5b a year - that's 13mil a day, or in other words quite hard. They need to show more ads, get more viewers/visitors, etc.

        They'll keep adding all kinds of crap, what else do yo
      • What does "turning into Yahoo" mean?

        Afraid that Google will turn into a place with many varying services?

        Well if they hold the same quality as so far, I'm all for it.

        As much as I'm all for Yahoo introducing any useful services.

        What's this deal with "they offer too much useful services" thing so they're now evil on Slashdot? That's two separate things to me, something of all companies that Google has shown most in modern times.
  • by Hamfist ( 311248 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:15AM (#11898573)

    I think it's great. I'm a Canadian, currently in Chile, and in preparations for a move to Mexico. I am interested in US News, Canadian News, Mexican News, and International News. I could care less about Sports, Entertainment, and Health News, so I get rid of them. This is even better than workspaces for me.

    Good work google.
    • Same thing here, I used to switch between the Swiss, French and US google news sites. Now I can use a single page with the news I am interested in.

      One nice feature would be able to select news geographically (in particular for local news). Countries are not really a good granularity when you are close to the border. I suppose the ideal solution would be to have new geo-tagged, but we are not here yet.

      • That's an excellent idea, you should develop it some more and sell it to Google :) I'm sure they's find good use for it. As I find myself moving about in this world, being able to get the information most relevant to my situation is becoming more difficult.

        One example would be very useful, I think, would be the ability to select one or more countries to search in from the main Web search. Currently Google does this for the country specific subdomains ( lets me restrict search to Chilean pages)
      • I also wanted local news. What I did was create two new categories with keywords of the cities I live in. The keywords work really well and I see mostly relevant content. Give it a try.
    • US News, Canadian News

      Isn't that pretty much the same thing?

      Sorry, couldn't resist. :)

      • Hehe, that's fairly funny. Hope it get's modded up.

        On the serious side, the news that shows up for Canada and the US is wildy different from google news. I get tidbits of news from the cities where my family lives. I don't think anything that happens in Calgary will make the US news page unless it affects US Interests.
    • The first thing I did was think "yeah, this could be a really cool way to compare news bias..."

      So I added two sections side by side: one from the UK "World News" section, and the other from the US "World News" section.

      Top stories in the UK World News were

      and yet neither story was mentioned on the US side. The top story in the US world news was:

    • I have to agree with you. I got ride of the useless sports and entertainment, and added corporate scandals, government leadership, and Corporate Governance. Way to go Google. Anyone else think that eventually Google will become the web? (chuckle, chuckle).
    • I'm another person who reads news from more than one region.

      But there's one feature I could really do with in Google News: the ability to customise news sources. Currently they link to stories from all sorts of new sources, and some of them I prefer not to use for one of various reasons (sites that always require registration are annoying). It would be great if they allowed users to create a whitelist or blacklist of news sources they want stories from.
  • I created a custom section that searches for movies. What has everyone else added?

  • by orlinius ( 181137 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:16AM (#11898580) Homepage
    What's exactly the news here?
    Yahoo's been doing this for years.

    Ah, I forgot, it's Google. Anything as much as a difference in the atmospheric pressure around the Google campus makes the front page on slashdot.
  • One Word (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:18AM (#11898600)
    They've also introduced a feature that lets you create your own section using keywords for a topic that interests you."


    • Don't bother. I tried. All you get are stories about Jacko and guys with similar interests.

      I added categories for "Heidi Fleiss", "Anna Nicole Smith" and "Tonya Harding" which accomplishes the same thing I'd LIKE a "Porn" category to accomplish, but avoids nasty topics that are very bad for my libido.
  • Business Direction (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Puls4r ( 724907 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:19AM (#11898609)
    News, Maps, etc. It certainly appears that Google is poising themselves to become a one-stop internet site.

    However, they won't be able to do so without becoming an ISP. So the question is, where and when will Google break into the ISP market so they can capture a gauranteed customer base to compete with Yahoo and MSN?

    Is there a likely company for Google to partner with?
    • by odano ( 735445 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:27AM (#11898681)
      Why does google need to be an ISP?

      I don't think google is worried about capturing a guaranteed customer base, because they already have one. If somebody is doing a web search, the plurality of users already come to google. As long as they keep adding more features, I dont think they are going to have to worry about losing these users to Yahoo/MSN.

      Also, if somebody wants to switch search engines from yahoo->google, they just change the URL. But if google gets into the ISP market, what incentive is there for people already happy with their Yahoo DSL service or Verizon/MSN Service to switch? They may save a few bucks (assuming google can even field a more competitive price), but they have to go through the entire hassle of changing ISPs just so they can have google automatically be their homepage?
      • Pardon my ignorance, but Yahoo DSL service? Aside from their webhosting foray, my impression was that the extent of the Yahoo name involvement is little more than co-branding. My own case as an example, SBC provides the service, and Yahoo provides a portal which I'm supposed to find use for.
      • I think google should be concerned about a guaranteed customer base...a good article on pointed out today that some students in Shanghai could come up with a better search tommorow and we would switch (we all switched from Webcrawler, to alta vista to yahoo and then to google...i personally have no loyalty). All these new features they are putting out now are attempts to get people locked into their services. Not that an ISP would be the way they would go, but if it works for yahoo they may.
  • Now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ailure ( 853833 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:21AM (#11898630) Homepage
    I hope i'm not the only one who want a such featuree on Slashdot too. Wouldn't that feature be quite useful here?
  • by altek ( 119814 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:26AM (#11898661) Homepage
    Google Switches to Slashcode, Hostile Takeover of Slashdot In Planning Stages ;)
  • Support for Opera (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheJavaGuy ( 725547 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:26AM (#11898662) Homepage
    Customized news requires you to have both Javascript and cookies turned on. Your browser must be Internet Explorer 6.0 (or newer), Netscape 7.1 (or newer), Mozilla 1.4 (or newer), Firefox 0.8 (or newer), Opera 7.54 (or newer), or Safari 1.2.2 (or newer).

    Wow, Google finally relased a product/update that works on the Opera browser. It took a long time for Google: Suggest, Maps, etc. to work properly on Opera.

    Kudos to Google.

    • It took a long time for Google: Suggest, Maps, etc. to work properly on Opera.

      Let's see...Google maps was unveiled on February 8. Opera (and Safari) support was added on February 28. Oh yeah, that's a horrendously long time...
  • I've been able to do this for years with The latest incarnation of this site allows me to not only customize the home page, I can also add specialized content pages. In addition to my general home page which includes traffic reports, weather, headline news, and Slate editorials amongst other things, I have pages for more in-depth coverage of local and national news, sports, a comics page, and a movie listing and reviews page. has content from hundreds of sources from content providers li
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:30AM (#11898699)
    New, from Google!

    Tired of unfiltered news from the democratic infodels of the world cluttering the mindset of your nation's population? Worry no more!

    With only a few clicks of the mouse, you can customize the news categories, topics, outlets and reporters that you wish to be provided to your nation. Even better, use our genius inline search and replace system that lets you manipulate simple regexes to substitute chosen phrases with your own!

    Just another service from your friends at Google!

    (Well, it's an idea...!)
  • Sub-Par (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hamlet2600 ( 739627 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:31AM (#11898712)
    I honestly believe google is doing amazing things with internet based UIs, but this one leaves a lot to be desired. Its not very intuitive and I find it kind of hard to use. Its not nearly as elegant as gMail or as easy to use as Maps. I wonder why this one seems to be a shotty hack.
  • personalized news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:32AM (#11898719)
    "They've also introduced a feature that lets you create your own section using keywords for a topic that interests you."

    Can you say "Targeted advertising"?

    • It's not advertising at all. The section just does a regular google news search for some terms you specify and puts that in its own section on your news page. For example if you are really into the Michael Jackson trial you could make that its own category and it will display X number of articles containing those keywords.
  • Share preferences (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ronnie Coote ( 251572 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:33AM (#11898731)
    You can also share your preferences with others, because Google will show you a URL which will generate your selected view. At bottom of the page, hit 'Share your customized news with a friend'.

    Presumably, the code provided in the URL is a reference to a great big lookup table that they keep with everybody's preferences (custom search terms, layout etc). I have set up lots of custom search terms, and the URL is certainly not long enough to contain them all.
  • ok (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TOWebstress ( 855727 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:33AM (#11898735)
    This is okay, but I'd rather see Google do what Google does best -- that is, break new ground and not just re-package what other portals have been doing for years. Call me nuts, but I would have expected more of an "oh cool" factor coming out of Google on this.
  • Diamond Age (Score:5, Informative)

    by IceFox ( 18179 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:35AM (#11898747) Homepage
    This reminds me of little tidbit from Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. Because "in the future" all the common people got high targeted newspapers containing stories that they would like and it was a sign of status to actually read the normal full New York Times rather then to only get the articles it knows you are interested in. Kinda like /. already. Those who read only /. eventually think that everyone reads /. and cares about issues that are on /.

    -Benjamin Meyer
  • Finally (Score:2, Redundant)

    by sapped ( 208174 )
    Does this mean all the
    "Google is about to..."
    "Google is thinking about..."
    "Google is blah-blah..."
    stories can now be moved to the Google page and off the Slashdot page?
  • Alternate reason? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by STFS ( 671004 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:46AM (#11898861) Homepage
    Maybe I'm pulling BS out of my ear here but does anybody know if this kind of personalization is being used to "sort" search results to personalize them as well?

    I mean, Google (or MSN, Yahoo or whoever does this sort of thing) should be able to find out some "personal preferences" of people depending on how they sort their news website, what they filter out and so on.

    Even worse, are they using this to personalize Google Ads?
  • by tkjtkj ( 577219 ) <> on Thursday March 10, 2005 @10:48AM (#11898888)
    yes, it amazing .. Here is an entity, Google, which seeks to gather all the info in the world, to associate it with particular users (gmail, etc) , to store it forever, and to fail to gaurantee privacy!! Read the 'Privacy ' statement, people!! Yes , they'll keep it sort of private WHILE THEY OWN THE DATABASE!! The COULD have said that no future sale of the company to another owner would not include that enormously valuable database, but they did NOT say that. Wake up!! This is a monster in the making, gearing up potentially to have devastating power over just about everyone.
    • by TheFlyingGoat ( 161967 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:29AM (#11899292) Homepage Journal
      Just like almost any other web service out there, if you're uncomfortable using it, don't sign up. That's pretty simple.

      Google News is good enough on its own without requiring the user to login and customize the search, so it's not like they're forcing you to provide your data. It's 100% opt-in.

      Additionally, since a free email account can be 100% anonymous (unless they subpoena your name from your ISP, which they can't do on their own), there's no way to link all that data to an actual person. Think Google is invading your privacy? Change your account once in a while or don't sign up to begin with.

      You tinfoil hat types need some common sense.
  • Some of my changes would continuously fail to take effect. Deleting the U.S. section seems to have made the problem go away.
  • I had been checking every couple weeks on wind and solar energy stories... so now I just added a "Renewables" custom section with the following search:

    "solar energy" OR "solar power" OR "wind energy" OR "wind power"

    There's probably a more elegant way to state the search- but hey, I'm extremely lazy. I know I could have gotten alerts, but those just clutter my inbox... this format is quite a bit more convenient. Nice execution too :)

  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:01AM (#11899010) Homepage Journal
    YES! Now I can at long last get rid of that stupid, pointless Sports category!!

  • by starman97 ( 29863 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:03AM (#11899035)
    It's the one thing tha most annoys me about Google News.

    I'd like to filter out all the sites that require some sort of registration to view them.
    If Google did that and made it prominant, a lot
    of those sites might change their policy since
    poeple would be ignoring them. If not, then too bad
    for them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    the news itself. Like Bill Gates switches to KDE with Firefox
  • by the_argent ( 28326 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:15AM (#11899135) Homepage
    Epic 2014 []
  • by mntgomery ( 620581 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:25AM (#11899236)
    If so, you can just add keywords "Google", "Apple" and "Linux" and call it Slashdot.
  • Google ads? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TuringTest ( 533084 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:33AM (#11899330) Journal
    Did someone read the title as "Google Ads new personalization"? I was already thinking that I could personalize the ads that I could get from Google...
  • I wish it'd let me remove the Top Stories section or send it somewhere else. I rather have the news that interest me the most (custom searches and entertainment) at the top. I don't care about what's going on in Lebanon or some killing in Chicago.
  • by plasticmillion ( 649623 ) <> on Thursday March 10, 2005 @11:41AM (#11899417) Homepage
    When I saw this story my initial reaction was to jump for joy. I'm an avid Google News user particularly because it's so "Googleized"; i.e. they use statistical methods to cluster stories together and figure out which ones to display where and in what order. Others may do this as well, but Google News does an exceptionally good job.

    So when I saw that they had added personalization, I assumed it was going to be something along the same lines, something that does my thinking FOR me, thank you very much. For example, wouldn't it be cool for the news page to adapt organically in response to stories you click on? So it would realize that I'm a golf fan (yeah, yeah, I'm even dorkier than the average /. user) and stop displaying all those NFL and hockey stories in the Sports section that I couldn't care less about.

    Instead, we get the same basic layout customization and keyword matching that Yahoo has had for years (as many others have pointed out). I scratched my head for a few minutes about keywords I could use, but frankly my tastes are a bit too subtle to sum up in this way.

    This could be a real story, but only if Google works a little of their statistical magic instead of taking a me-too approach.

      • wouldn't it be cool for the news page to adapt organically in response to stories you click on?

      Have you seen []? That's exactly what it does.

      It's a personalized news site. It learns from what you read and builds a personalized front page. Click on a few stories about golf, go back to the Findory front page, and Findory will show you articles related to golf.

      [Disclaimer: I work at Findory.]
  • Whats the point? They still give me crappy sports stories on English Soccer and Indian cricket.

    Let me customize where I get the news from, then I'll be happy. Choosing how many stories I'd want to display just isn't enough.
  • The best part about this feature is maybe finally my front sports page for Yahoo will have American sports instead of Cricket, Euro league soccer, and whatever random sports are played elsewhere in the world that for some reason come up in the US version of the news portal. I remember the day after the Red Sox won the world series, it wasnt even on the front page cuz Indonesia beat India in a cricket match or something.
  • I used to love google news.

    I found the online format nicer then other news sites and a LOT nicer then dealing with a newspaper.

    Then I read the articles on slashdot about Google having a built in political bias as to which sources show up on google news and Google censoring itself on their Chinese site at the request of the government of the PRC.

    I also noticed that with American news outlets that South America does not exist and other countries only exist when they have direct dealings with the US ( a

  • I've stopped reading for that reason.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Thursday March 10, 2005 @01:23PM (#11900642) Homepage
    Just a few years ago, customized news was supposed to be one of the much-hyped big-money profit opportunities of the Internet, and... I'm trying to recall the names of some of the companies pursuing it as a business model... Individual?

    The theory was that busy executives with no time to read the whole Wall Street Journal and no interest in serendipitous discovery of significant news items would gladly pay to get the news filtered so that they only saw items in the preselected categories of interest.

    Yep, [] still exists and appears to be operating on a business model of free-as-in-beer.

    May the potlatch continue!
  • I'd really like to not see the freak shot of the day with the latest Michael Jackson story. The guy goobs me out and if I could say 'if story about Michael Jackson then don't display' that'd be nice.
  • Boobie links as

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.