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).

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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 ;-)

    http://google.blogspace.com/archives/001607

  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”? :)

    Ben

  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"

    Then

    "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. :) )

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