You’re on Google News

I’m sure this will be all over the net tomorrow, but Google News just launched customization about 5 minutes ago. I saw it flicker on about an hour ago and then disappear so it’s possible there was a quick bug that cropped up, but it’s back on now.

Very very interesting. I like Google News quite a bit, but the one thing that’s always been severely missing is customization. With the launch of this new feature today, you can add, remove, rearrange, or even create your own topic for inclusion as a standard news module on the front page. Go ahead, add yourself as a topic. See what happens. The system doesn’t seem to support phrases yet, but my article from Monday on expired domain snatching showed up number one in the “Mike Davidson” section.

Not bad.

The ability to create and track your own news topics isn’t anything Google invented, as you can do the same with customized RSS feeds on PubSub and Technorati but the way Google presents it is a bit novel. By giving user-generated topics equal treatment on the front page as most of the mainstream news, Google News is fully appreciating the individuality of its users. Most news sites, if they offer customization at all, will program at least 80% of the page themselves while offering a tiny customized module somewhere off to the side, but Google knows it’s not in the business of editorializing content, so it merely steps aside and lets you do the producing. I like that.

I don’t think this new feature makes Google News anywhere close to the perfect news site yet, but it’s a step in the right direction, and perhaps a good way to get people who don’t use newsreaders to better appreciate the power of customization.

On an unrelated note: I didn’t want to dedicate an entire post to this but I’m going to be down in Austin this Friday through Tuesday for SXSW. If anyone is interested in typography, Joshua Darden, The Wolf, and I will be speaking on the “Typography for the Screen” panel at 10am on Tuesday morning. If you’re not still passed out from the night before, come on down. The first 100 people in the door get a free copy of Arial (includes Arial Bold).

Like this entry? You can follow me on Twitter here, subscribe via email here, or get the RSS feed if that's how you roll.

15 Responses:

  1. Damn it, I can’t make it so I’ll miss out on my free copy of Arial :(

    Anyone fancy sneaking in a camcorder and sending me a pirate copy, sounds like an interesting panel.

    Like the google thing as well…

  2. Lance says:

    Thanks for the tip on the customization for Google News – it definitely is the one of the only news sites that offers that much “personal” or customer content on the front page. I think back to My Yahoo, but they still decided what articles, etc. even though you could choose the topics somewhat.

    I hadn’t had a chance to thank you on the expired domain article, as it was perfect timing for me. I read it last night and was trying to decide on a domain that has huge importance to me; the domain incidentally was expiring…today! We’ll see what happens (I have submitted a couple backorders through Godaddy and Snapnames and I’m keeping my fingers crossed!).

    SXSW! Glad to have at least one panel specifically on typography, and I plan on being there Tuesday morning, hopefully in the first 100. It’s not as hot of a topic as it should be, in my opinion. Thanks again for the great posts in the last few days, at least one of them will hopefully save my bacon.

  3. Now if we could just get Google to start offering RSS feeds for their news, it would be complete.

    I hate that I will miss your panel (flying out monday afternoon) but we still need to get a Fantasy league meet-up in sometime.

  4. Wow, I dont think that i would have seen that if i didnt read this. In fact, I did read this and still didnt find it.

    For those of you that are having trouble, look on the right, you will see big text thats says “Customize this page!” hard to miss :D.

    As Jermy mentioned, Google News RSS and we’d be set! CNN and the BBC already do it, so it shouldnt be to hard fo them to do.

    Great find!

  5. Pete F. says:

    Google Blog has just been updated with the News news ;-)

  6. What kind of license comes with the Arial font? Can I use on the web, print, and video?

    (Editor’s Note: Yes, we will be giving away special volume licenses with unlimited usage rights. Don’t miss out.)

  7. Adam says:

    Damn… I will try to make it if you throw in Comic Sans

  8. gb says:

    Silly as it may sound, but this may actually make me use Google News more often. I mean, one site to aggregate all my apple news (including all the apple news sites?)…

    (side note: Mike, I’m seeing scrollbars on every comment block in Firefox 1.0.1/Mac… umm… yeah)

  9. Ben says:

    I had to laugh when I saw that feature last night. Its pretty much identical to my senior thesis project I did in the first half of 2002. Except mine only allowed you to choose from a predefined list of topics (the only free xml feeds I could find at the time), but it was was all in Flash so you could drag the different modules around, resize them and adjust their color and control their font.

    Turns out Google has access to slightly more resources than I did as a college senior. Think I could sue and claim “prior artwork”? :)


  10. Nice. I was wondering when you’d start giving away fonts. No wait – I mean I was wondering when Google News would bring customization to the mix! (Alright, and the font thing too. Can I take a raincheck?)

    I’ve weighed in elsewhere with my $0.02 on the Google News News. On my wishlist: Ability to shift news sections in more than one direction (right now you can only shift things downward, with some possibly unexpected side-effects), and more flexibility in defining keywords (e.g., “CSS or cascading style sheets”).

    Wishlist aside, I agree – this is a big step in the right direction. Well done Google!

  11. Why do I have to fill out my name? says:

    Haha, you’re as important as the entire fields of health or science :)

  12. For all you coding pedants out there, there’s an HTML encoding problem on for the custom sections. To trigger it, create a custom section in quotes:

    “Mike Davidson”

    Save changes, then edit it again. It transforms to:

    "Mike Davidson"

    Save changes and edit again, and it’s:

    "Mike Davidson"


    "Mike Davidson"

    And so on, ad infinitum. I’ve certainly made mistakes like this (encoding in only one direction), but I’m surprised an organization like Google would make a rookie mistake.

  13. @Eric Wright: Well, Google News is in beta so little bugs can be expected, but when would a person need to use quotes around their custom sections? It seems really minor to be categorized as a “rookie mistake”.

  14. Martin,

    I would expect quotes to work the same as they do for web searches – to find news for a phrase instead of a group of words (eg, “New York University” is a specific phrase, and just finding news for New, York, and University will bring up a broader range of news stories that don’t have to do with NYU).

    It is minor, but it’s the kind of thing I always feel a little embarrased when I catch something like this in my own code. That’s why I consider it “rookie”.

  15. kines says:

    Apparently they’ve released this feature long before on other Google international pages because I’ve seen it on Google France for about a week now.

    (Editor’s Note: I posted this about a week ago. :) )

How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.


A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
- Tim Kreider’s denunciation of the cult of busyness is excellent. (via jimray)
The iPhone and Disruption: Five Years In:

Take your pick of about 20 great quotes from this Daring Fireball article. My personal favorite:

The iPhone is not and never was a phone. It is a pocket-sized computer that obviates the phone. The iPhone is to cell phones what the Mac was to typewriters.


Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

The precision and innovation that is required for space exploration just blows my mind. I did not realize that Curiosity will have to basically land on Mars completely unaided by man, but it’s so much more complicated than that.