News Widgets: a brief introduction

A widget is a small, single-purpose application. Widgets are a great way to deliver small amounts of information efficiently.  The widgets I’m currently most familiar with are those that reside on my Mac’s “dashboard”: a clock, a calendar, a calculator, and a display of the weather in Los Angeles.  Recently I downloaded google’s news widget, which is now the fifth item on the dashboard.  This widget has four categories, “World,” “U.S.,” “Business,” and “Sci/Tech.“  The widget culls breaking headlines from a variety of sources—right now, I see that Rush Limbaugh has been rushed to the hospital.

I installed the google news widget as part of an investigation into the news widgets available on the web.  I quickly learned that the widget landscape is ever-changing and definitely untamed.  Widgets are available for the computer desktop, for mobile phones, and for various web applications.  To make matters more complicated, some desktop widgets require a mediating application, also known as a “widget engine”  (  No single widget engine dominates the scene at the moment.  Popular examples include the Mac Dashboard application and the Yahoo!widgets application, which is free and can run on Macs and PCs.  Finally, multiple independent websites exist that collect widgets for downloading or allow users to design their own widgets. 

If you have a widget engine or platform that you already use, you can google its name and then explore the “news” category.  For example, news widgets for the Mac Dashboard are located at  

If you’re less interested in a particular platform than a certain new source, you should know that several now provide widgets for displaying their content.

Here are some links:

The New York Times (requires signing up for the website):

The Wall Street Journal:

The Washington Post:


The BBC:

One major newspaper that has not developed its own widgets is the Los Angeles Times.  For this paper, and many others, you can probably find free widgets created by third-parties with a little patience.

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