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Google News revamps with “news for you” angle

A few moments ago, the Google News homepage rolled out a redesign — a revamp meant to make the algorithm-driven news site “more customizable and shareable.”

“There’s an old saying that all news is local,” writes Google software engineer Kevin Stolt in a blog post announcing the design changes. “But all news is personal too — we connect with it in different ways depending on our interests, where we live, what we do and a lot of other factors. Today we’re revamping the Google News homepage with several changes designed to make the news that you see more relevant to you. We’re also trying to better highlight interesting stories you didn’t know existed and to make it easier for you to share stories through social networks.”

In other words, the new site is trying to balance two major, and often conflicting, goals of news consumption: personalization and serendipity.

The more specific purpose of today’s changes, Google says, is threefold: first, to have consumers tell Google what stories most interest them; second, to help those consumers keep track of ongoing stories; and third, to help them share stories with others.

Among the changes being implemented, per Stolt’s explanation of them:

Customizable interest areas: “The new heart of the homepage is something we call ‘News for you’: a stream of headlines automatically tailored to your interests. 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.”

Customizable news sourcing: “To give you more control over the news that you see, we’re now allowing you to choose which news sources you’d like to see more or less often. You can do so in News Settings. These sources will rank higher or lower for you (but not for anyone else) in Google News search results and story clusters.”

An emphasis on local news: “And then there’s local news; we’re now highlighting weather and headlines about your city or neighborhood in their own section, which you can edit with whichever location you want to follow.”

An increased emphasis on the Spotlight section: “We’re also more prominently displaying the Spotlight section, which features stories of more lasting interest than breaking news and has been one of our most popular sections since we introduced it last fall.”

Communal (read: non-customized) story highlights: “There are the subjects that interest you and then there’s the major news of the day. 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. You’ll find these topics in the 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.”

(This is also a nod, I’d add, toward serendipity — a goal Google News has expressed interest in before, most notably through its Spotlight and its Editors’ Picks features.)

The changes are pretty fascinating, all in all (especially in the context of Google’s rumored move into Facebook territory); we’ll likely have more to say on them later on. In the meantime, here’s more on the changes, from the horse’s mouth:

                                   
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  • anonymous

    It sucks. I used to have customized sections, with a specific layout and number of news items in each section.

    The new layout throws everything up in random order, in one very very long column, without any sections.

    And it forces me to read a very very very long list of Spotlight items that don’t interest me. I can’t seem to change the number of items in Spotlight, nor the location of it (very prominent on the right hand side column).

    I hate the new Google News. I really really really hate it.

  • sylvie

    I HATE the new Google News re-vamp. Put it back please.

  • sylvie

    Just adding that I agree with the poster above–the News For You section makes no sense whatsoever and also does not interest me in the least. How dare Google tell me how I must like my news!! I really HATE it.

  • Anonymous

    And Google has completed the Moron Trifecta for 2010!

    1) Buzz forced on all GMail users, without a working opt-out button.
    2) Pictures on the homepage forced on all users, without a working opt-out button.
    3) New Google News format, roundly panned by testers, forced on all users, without a working opt-out button.

    Remember when Google was sane and intelligent? You know, 1996-2009?

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  • texaslawyer

    I hate it too. Google, please put it back the way it was!

  • r

    i despise the new google news. i dislike the way they topics “slide” open when i mouse over.

    i’m not using it anymore. i also don’t like what i see google doing and will probably be ditching my tmobile G1 this winter for something NOT android related.

  • R

    Agree with earlier comments – hate the new format – wish to get rid of everything on the right – prefer to format my own page

  • Dale Gentry

    I would like to say I immensely dislike using the new Google news format. I believe I understand the several different rationale for the change. One reason I like the old format is precisely the opposite of the common (Google) definition of personalization. I relish finding new, and interesting, topics that diverge from my usual interests. With the old format, I could complete a quick survey, then look at the more extensive list of stories within each category, also while noting unfamiliar content. (This is my personalized mental way of organizing – big picture to little picture, and divergence, not convergence). I cannot do the quick flip between screens that many might, because I have the latency of satellite service; the new format takes me much longer to view and read the news. And, as Google itself knows, a long latency in response to a viewer means dropped contacts. My suggestion to Google would be to go ahead with the planned changes, but allow users also to select the old service. If the old service is truly better, over time, the new format will dominate and the rest of us will have to yield.

  • Dale Gentry

    Correction:If the new service is truly better, over time, the new format will dominate and the rest of us will have to yield.

  • chuck

    HATE IT !!! Everyone go over to their Help Forum and complain. 100% negative feedback. Or go to Kevin Stolt’s FB page and send him a message

    http://www.facebook.com/kevin.stolt

    HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT !!!

  • Fuready

    How to ruin a perfectly good cup of morning coffee: Open the new Google news page.

  • ANONOMOUS

    Put the old format back or at least provide us the option for OLD or NEW.

  • rich

    It’s bad , I’m out! What is next, must I replace gmail as well because someone at goggle is bored??

  • Lauren

    The new format is terrible. Where to start: Way too busy, can’t find anyting, visually unappealing.

    Yuck! bring back the old one, I am already looking for alternatives!

  • Brent Kitchen

    I can’t believe the stupidy in the minds of businessmen who think things like this are a change for the better.

    Long lists of random news stories undifferentiated by categories is supposed to be an improvement? You’ve GOT to be kidding.

    If the news isn’t presented attractively in an easy to read format, it’s a big turn off. And Google’s new format is HARD to read and UNATTRACTIVE.

  • Susan Clizbe

    I’m with #1 above. I had a completely personalized page, and I especially liked the 2-column format. I could skim 4 sections per page-down scroll, and easily remember what was where. Now the news sections are presented in one column with the other stuff down the right. The only things over there that appeal to me at all were already on my page: the local section with weather and the top recent stories.

    Forcing readers to track all the way across the 3/4 page width to read 2 lines of text is ridiculous. It takes me twice as long to scan through my page, and I’m more likely to miss something interesting with the long eye travels.

    Finally, the first warning of changes to come was earlier in the week, maybe even last week, when a big blob of crap about the World Cup plopped down on the right side of my page uninvited. It’s still there now, even though I confirmed for the page’s benefit that I HATE sports and want to see NONE.

    I don’t know what I would replace Google News with for my home page and frequent touchstone, but for the first time since it was introduced, I am looking for that replacement, hard. What a total debacle.

  • ANONOM

    I really dislike the new layout

  • Anonymous

    It’s unfortunate that they don’t have the personalization of the old Google News, but http://news.ask.com/news at least has the right layout

  • DrDUH

    Congratulations Google, It now takes 5 pages to see the news that used to take 2. Boy, if I had your designers in my Human Factors course…

    (aside from the fact that I selected Google News to give me a general view, not a “personalized” viewpoint.

    Please bring back “Classic” as an option.

    Professor W…

  • DrDUH

    … oh, and narrow columns are much easier to read (for all, but particularly for speed readers

    and here’s that missing “)” from my last posting :)

    Prof W…

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  • Jennifer

    I also do not like the new layout. I like being able to scan various topics and not have my sports, world news, tech, medical, EVERYTHING mixed in together. Sometimes I feel like looking at the top entertainment stories first, sometimes I want to look at medical news first. Everything now is just jumbled together and I am suddenly forced to read headlines that maybe I am not all that interested in this moment in time.

  • Steven

    Really bad move, Google. The new layout takes away personalization and moves a set of (to many people) unwanted sections at the top of the page. The new column layout means twice as much scrolling to see the sections I really want. I don’t care about incorporating Twitter, Facebook, or any other service; news is news. Bring back the old layout, please.

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  • todd elco

    yuk! Please give us the option of using the old format.

  • Bastian

    the new layout is useless and the arrogance of google with which they force it on us is unbelievable.

  • Josette Kirby

    While I understand the reasons for the new layout, it’s horrible to use. I *don’t* want my news personalized. I want to see everything so that I can decide what to read and what not to read.

    I do not want to read mountains of text under a headline that I (according to the “news for you” credo) am apparently wanting. NO! I don’t want! I just want single grab lines – that is, the way it was before. No photos. No fancy pants. No bells & whistles.

    Please Google, leave it just the way it was. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective.

  • Mark B Shaw

    The news page is a disaster. It is not of any value to me anymore. Looks like I’ll have to find an alternative. I am looking.
    Mark S.

  • wib

    I am switchingh to Monitor and other web news outlets. Google is on the way downhill. Will they see it? Or have they gotten too big.

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  • Randy

    I hate to seem like I am piling on, but the new Google News format really sucks. It has been my home page, but I have now fixed that. Wonder if we can opt into having the old format back??

  • Irritated

    Like everyone else, I too am irritated about the change. I can’t use it at all, and I honestly tried more than once. I’ve tried other news sites, but even if you get one with a good layout, it’s lacking the variety and complexity of the old Google News, and most times it will have a link to a page that doesn’t exist or won’t load. One of my biggest irritations with the new site is not being able to remove the crap ‘sections’ that I don’t want to see and can’t even enter the correct zip code or city that determines my weather and ‘local’ news. Right now they have it listed as a city that is well over 600 miles from my location and I can’t change it at all, even if I wanted to see weather and local news (which I don’t). The satellite companies pull this crap, too. Instead of giving me the local channels from the city that’s 160 miles away and has the same weather patterns, they give me ‘local’ weather and news from a city over 600 miles away that doesn’t even cover a part of the state I live in, much less my area. It’s useless, but just like the new Google site, I can’t get rid of them. I can, but if I want the basic ABC, NBC, CBS channels, I’m stuck with news and weather that has nothing to do with me. It makes no sense. I understand why Google did this, but why can’t they have separate sites like other sites do: one for the classic Google news, and one for mobile or ‘social’ Google news? With iPads, I would think that the old Google news would actually be a better layout. It seems like a very simple solution and gives Google much more flexibility in the market. The problem is, I don’t think they are listening and I hate the idea that I have to ‘login’ to leave a comment on their site and even more irritated that I have to login to ‘customize’ the news page. How many websites do you have to login to? Why can’t I just purchase something online without creating an account? Wasn’t it nice when you could just go into a store and pay for something without someone asking for your phone number, e-mail address, and first born? I fear this is the way Google is heading. I don’t think it’s deliberately done to piss people off; I just think that they think that’s the way of the future and that’s the way they’re going to do business, too. It’s so terribly unfortunate.

  • Former Google News Lover

    I have had to find new source for my news because:

    *1* The new page is a jumble of information, it’s impossible to find anything.

    *2* My carefully constructed page disappeared overnight replaced by this jumble.

    *3* Personalization results in stories from Los Angeles being featured even though LA is over 700 miles from where I live and has no relevance to us here at all.

    *4* I could care less about sports, but the World Cup dominated the page for days.

    Watch my stats, google. I’m done with your jumbled-up mess of what was the best news aggragator in the world. So, from the comments above, are many other of your loyal followers and we’re only the ones who care enough to try to stop your leap off the cliff.

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