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Sunday, February 25, 2024

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Google News Has Major Redesign: Personalization, Sharing & "News Stream" Offered

Today, Google News is undergoing its first major redesign since being launched in 2002. Gone is the default “section” view, replaced instead by a “news stream” view of stories. Creating a personalized collection of stories has been made easier, as is the ability to share stories with friends and others via email, Twitter, Google Buzz or Facebook. Let’s dive in and see what’s new.

Old Google News

To benchmark what’s changed, here’s how “old” Google News appeared:

As you can see, the page was designed primarily to present stories in “sections.” At the top were “Top Stories,” then sections for Recommended Stories (for those with Web History enabled) as well as locally targeted news (my local area is shown). After that, there were topically-oriented sections, such as for US News, World News, Business and so on.

The New Google News

In the new look, which some have randomly seen in testing in the past few weeks, there are only two major sections: Top News and “News For You,” a new personalized section, as the arrows point to below:

The change gives Google News a solid “middle” column of news, something that Google refers to as the “news stream.” Everyone sees the same Top Stories shown above the personalized News For You section. The personalized news, of course, will be unique to each individual.

How Google Personalizes “News For You”

Google’s offered a variety of ways to show personalized search results in the past, from the aforementioned “Recommended” stories to allowing people to build custom news sections based on keywords (such as my own for search engine news, that anyone can subscribe to).

While the “Recommended” feature is now going away, the new “News For You” area gives personalization a far bigger role at Google News. Rather than it being shoved within a particular Google News section, now it is likely to be the main area of Google News that people interact with, when browsing the “front page” of stories.

Those coming to the redesigned home page will get a prompt asking them to set their personal news preferences, such as choosing the type of news (business, sci/tech and so on) they like and the amounts they want:

That mix will be used to create the personalized stories that are shown.

You don’t have to adjust anything. If you don’t, you’ll still see a News For You section, but it will be a “default” collection of stories not actually personalized to you. Anyone else who doesn’t personalize will see the same collection, Google tells me.

Getting Your Sections Back

Prefer to drill down into non-personalized news based on a particular topic. Or prefer the old-style sectional look? You can still do both:

On the left-hand side of the main home page are section links (which would be neater if they were grouped under a heading like “Sections”). The first arrow points to these, which include:

  • US
  • Business
  • Health
  • Entertainment
  • Sci/Tech
  • World

Not shown, but also available, are:

  • Business
  • Sports
  • Politics
  • Society

As for the sectional display, the second arrow above shows how you can toggle the News For You “stream” or “list” view to instead show news organized into the more classic sections.

Top Stories & Trending Topics

Also within the left-navigation area is a “Top Stories” area that lists sub-topics, such as these currently showing:

These top stories come from Google analyzing what all the news content it collects from across the web seems to be covering the most. In short, these are news trends, based on what news publications are writing about.

Starred, Spotlight & Fast Flip

The left-navigation also provides a way to find “starred” stories or Google’s “Spotlight” news section:

The “star” feature was added in February and allows people to effectively bookmark stories plus give Google a signal that you’re interested in a topic (see Google News Allows You To “Star” News Stories for more).

Spotlight is a section that was added last year and which resided at the bottom of the Google News page. Now it moves to the third, right-most column. It’s where Google’s algorithms pick stories that it feels should be “featured” for a longer period on the Google News home page (see Google Offers News “Magazine” Of Sorts With “Spotlight”):

That column also contains local weather and is topped by recent news stories that Google’s algorithms decide to feature.

Also in the right-most column, but without a navigational link, is supposed to be the Google News Fast Flip area that previously was at the very bottom of the page. This allows you to quickly flip through stories that are contained within the Google News Fast Flip area (see Google Fast Flip – Google’s Newspaper & Magazine Reader Goes Live and Google Fast Flip Now On Google News Home Page).

As for the human-powered Editors’ Picks being tested, they’re clearly not ready for prime time. They’re not offered to all Google News users as part of the new changes.

It feels odd to have some of these options kind of haphazardly scattered in the left-hand column and Fast Flip not to be mentioned at all. I’d like to see them all grouped perhaps under their own heading, like “Tools” or “Tools & Featured Content.”

Share That Story! Plus, Get More Or Less From Source

Find a story that you love? Google now makes it easier to share. Previously, this could only be done via email, but now Google offers a variety of options:

In particular, stories can be shared via:

  • Email
  • Google Reader
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz

The Facebook option is the classic Facebook “share” feature, not the new “Facebook Like” option that was unveiled earlier this year. That could change, Google tells me.

Why add these new sharing options?

“We’re finding from users that they share news topics relatively frequently with their friends. We want to make it easier for them to do so,” Ben Ling, director of product management, search properties at Google, told me.

Also note that within the sharing box is an option to “show more” or “show less” stories from a source that you’re viewing. This influences EVERYTHING you see at Google news, including both content within the News For You area and the Top Stories that  you are shown.

Who Gets It & Where?

Want to use the new version? It begins rolling out at 2pm Pacific Time today for the English-language version of Google News in the US. Google says it plans to expand the changes to all editions of Google News in the coming months.

You can also learn more about the new changes through a video from Google, below:

Google also has a blog post up on its main blog (and cross-posted to the Google News Blog) with information.

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