Google announced a new Google News feature, in what appears to be an attempt to make news reading more fun (whether it actually is fun or not remains to be seen). Readers can earn badges based on the kind of reading they're doing.
If a user reads more, they will earn a higher level badge. The scale is: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Ultimate. There are also badges for all kinds of different topics (like Harry Potter, Chicago White Sox, or US Elections). There are over 500 of them so far.
"This is just the first step—the bronze release, if you will—of Google News badges," says Google News engineer Natasha Mohanty. "Once we see how badges are used and shared, we look forward to taking this feature to the next level."
Clearly Google is getting more social, with the release of Google+. As Google ties more of its products into its new social network, it will be interesting to see how it integrates Google News into it.
In the video at the top about the the badges, Google says, "You can share them across your social network if you want to find shared interests with friends or spark conversations around certain topics."
Did you catch that "spark" in there. Google+ has a content discovery feature called "Sparks," also aimed at "sparking conversations." Perhaps a tie in here is in the cards.
To use the badges, you have to be signed in, and have web history enabled. The help center has more.
Google News users may also be interested to know that Science and Tech are now separate sections.
"In the spirit of continually trying to improve Google News, we have heard loud and clear from the many of you who asked us to separate our Sci/Tech section into two distinct sections. We are happy to report that we have now done this for all English editions, with more languages coming soon. We also combined some personalization settings from the 'News for you' and News Settings menu into one handy sidebar at the top right corner of the home page, so you can easily tell us what you want to read on your Google News."
Google News has over 50,000 sources.