Stop the presses! Google revamps Google News

30 Jun 2010

Google has revamped its pioneering Google News aggregation service on the premise “all news is local”. The search giant has introduced a more personalised version based on location and interests, and making it easier to share stories via social media.

It’s hard to say whether this is Google attempting to get news organisations off its back over claims by players like Rupert Murdoch that Google is contributing to the demise of news organisations, or whether Google wants to make news aggregation more transparent. My money’s on the latter.

“The new heart of the homepage is something we call ‘News for you’: a stream of headlines automatically tailored to your interests,” explained Kevin Stolt, software engineer, on the Google News Blog.

“You can help us get it right by using the ‘Edit personalization’ box to specify how much you’re interested in Business, Health, Entertainment, Sports or any subject you want to add (whether it’s the Supreme Court, the World Cup or synthetic biology).

“You can choose to view the stories by Section view or List view, and reveal more headlines by hovering over the headline with your mouse. We’ll remember your preferences each time you log in. If you don’t want customised Google News, hit ‘Reset personalisation’ to clear all personalisation preferences. If you haven’t previously customised and would prefer not to, simply save and close the ‘Edit personalisation’ box. You can always go back and change it later.”

User news control

Stolt said that to give users more control over the news they want to see, Google is allowing users to choose the news sources they’d like to see more or less often via ‘News Settings’.

“These sources will rank higher or lower for you (but not for anyone else) in Google News search results and story clusters. We’ve also added keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation, like in Gmail or Google Reader. When you’re in Google News, hit the question-mark key to pop up a full list of shortcuts.”

On the one hand, this may be over complicating news consumption because often readers like to find their way to the news, but at the same time it sounds like a damned effective filter.

“There are the subjects that interest you and then there’s the major news of the day,” said Stolt.

“To make it easy for you to find the big stories like Hurricane Alex, we’re adding links to topics that many outlets are covering.”

Google has done this by creating a Top Stories section on the left side of the homepage as well as in linked keywords above headlines.

“Clicking on a topic link takes you to a list of related coverage that you can add to your news stream. You can change your preferences any time in ‘Edit personalisation’, said Stolt.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years