Google launched some new features for Google News today. The most obvious change is that on the front page, after the top section, you will no longer immediately see story clusters, but rather a single article from a single source, until you click on the box the story sits in, which expands it to show more related stories.
But that’s not all. Google outlines the new features in a blog post:
- Click-to-expand: Each story cluster is collapsed down to one headline with the exception of the top story. When something grabs you, click nearby anywhere but the title to expand the story box.
- Labeled diversity: For stories you’ve expanded, you’ll see genre labels for some of the additional articles that explain why they were chosen and how they add value. For example, you might see something labeled as an “Opinion” piece or an indication that an article is “In Depth.”
- Multimedia and more: Within each expanded story box, you’ll find a sliding bar of videos and photos, links to related sections and easier-to-use sharing options, so you can quickly digest the sights and sounds of a news story, dig into different types of publications and share what you find interesting with one click.
- Personalized top stories: The Top Stories section is expanded to six or more stories from three to give you more topic diversity. The first three stories remain unpersonalized and the same as before. The rest may be personalized based on your interests. To personalize your Google News experience you can click on “Edit” under “News for you.” You can choose the “Standard Edition” if you don’t want personalization.
- Less is more: The default view is now the popular “One Column” (formerly “Section”) view. We merged List View into Top Stories, as described above. You can still switch to “Two Column” view, which resembles classic Google News.
In addition to these changes, Barry Schwartz points out that there are some new options in Google News Settings, which allow users to filter blogs and press releases in their Google News experience. You can set it for normal, or select none, fewer, or more blogs and/or press releases.
As Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan noted, this may cause some concern among some publications that Google has labeled a blog. A couple years ago, Google started trying to differentiate between blogs and actual news sources in its Google News search results. Among those labeled blog were publications like WebProNews, Mashable, Search Engine Land, ReadWriteWeb, etc.
There were no real criteria given for what made one publication a blog, and one not, and like Sullivan says, it didn’t matter so much until they made it an option for these publications to be filtered out. This changes things. That said, Google has changed some of its labeling, as it is no longer labeling WebProNews, Mashable, Search Engine Land or ReadWriteWeb blogs.
It is still unclear how Google is making the distinction. Some of those carrying the “blog” label have the word “blog” in their URLs – such as blogs.domain.com/… or domain.com/blogs/.… This is true for some of the stories from publications like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Not all of the publications carrying the label use these formats though.
As we’ve said in numerous articles, it seems silly to differentiate between blogs and non-blogs when it comes to news. There are plenty of blog-style publications breaking news frequently. Their writers get press passes at events. They interview people. They review products. They cover news in real time (or close to it). There are plenty of mainstream media publications that cover news much later after the story broke on a blog. It goes both ways. Are the labels really necessary at all? If a publication has been accepted by Google News, isn’t that enough?
Like Sullivan says in his article, it’s as if blogs are being treated like second-class citizens now. At least, Google seems to have let more people into the club.