Google announced a major update to Google News today, focusing on a more personalized experience. When you head to Google News today (at least in the English-language version), you’ll see a new section called “News for You.” It’s the heart of Google’s new strategy.
News for You is designed to provide users with a more personalized set of news. If you consistently ignore any sports news, but obsessively read every update about the new Supreme Court nominee, you would typically do a lot of skimming and searching. But News for You asks a few simple questions to figure out where a user’s interests broadly lie, and then customizes the stream of news accordingly.
You can rank any of several broad categories as something that “always,” “sometimes,” or “never” interests you, and you can also add any keyword topic to be monitored, like the Gulf oil spill or pretty but incompetent Russian spies. You can even pick which specific news sources you prefer (I’d recommend this site–the quality of writing is absolutely stellar), which will then be ranked higher.
But you can never predict what you’ll be interested in–major news can be unexpected–so Google is putting the major news topics of the day up at the top of the left-hand column. Click on one of those keywords and you’ll be given the option to follow that story, or just read more about it.
There’s also a new emphasis on local news. Google will rank stories higher that take place where you live, as well as adding a little weather widget. Oh, and you can now easily share stories via the usual suspects (Twitter, Facebook, Buzz, Google Reader).
I really love the new changes–Google’s merely adapting to the patterns we already have. We all care about local news, we all pick and choose stories, and we’re all essentially lazy. The redesign addresses all of those concerns. And, of course, if you don’t like the changes, you can pretty much ignore them.