Google Lets Users Tailor News

Google’s news site, perpetually in beta, got an upgrade this week with the addition of a customization feature.

The news aggregator site is programmed with an algorithm that sorts through more than 4,500 English news sites and calculates which are the most relevant.

The site, which has been in beta form for more than three years, reprints the headline, first sentence and perhaps a photo from a news story and creates a link back to the original source. The site, which is reorganized every 15 minutes, also groups related stories together.

Bundling the News

Now, Google News users can choose which news is most relevant to them bycreating their own news sections, adding and deleting topics of theirchoosing, designing a front page tailored to their interests or developingsearches to deliver news on specific topics of interest. Thesecustomizations can then be shared.

Individualizing content is bound to increase traffic to the site, oneanalyst said.

“Offering customization is certainly going to attract news users to GoogleNews. If you look at the popularity of services from Yahoo and Ask Jeeves,you can see that customizing your online content is always enticing forusers,” search engine analyst Andy Beal of WebSourced told TechNewsWorld.

No Human Intervention

Google News is source-neutral and is sometimesperceived as unbiased because the choice of top stories is made by computer.”Instead of having to go to the Web sites of traditional news sources, youcan go to one central location and read the news that interests you,” Bealsaid.

“With the new customization options, you can now truly filter out newsthat is of no interest to you. It’s like setting up an RSS aggregator butwithout having to go out and find feeds,” he added. “I think Google has hit a home run with the customization options,” he said.

Even so, it’s not perfect.

An RSS aggregator is one thing the Google News site does not have. Usersstill need a Web browser to access content, and cookies and Javascript must beturned on.

Beal has other questions as well. “How many people actually visit the homepagefor Google News? I expect most people simply search Google News from theirGoogle search bar or have Google News Alerts e-mailed to them,” he said. “I don’tnecessarily think this new feature will drive more people to the Google Newshomepage, but this could simply be a step in the direction for a My Googlehomepage that competes with My Yahoo and My Jeeves.”

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