I currently have a news addiction for which I am not being treated; I follow news sites on Twitter, I subscribe to their RSS feeds using Google reader, and I have apps on my phone for various news sources. As a former journalist, I can’t seem to get enough of it – despite the fact that I weep regularly at the poor quality of today’s news.
Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t often use Google News, mostly because of its tendency to include non-news sites – specifically blogs and press releases. I don’t really care what some blogger has to say about breaking news, nor do I care about some press release someone has shamelessly sent out seeking free publicity. I’m also disgusted by many blogs trying to pass themselves off as news, when they actually spend more time covering celebrity gossip and weight loss tips (I’m looking at you, Huffington Post).
Well, a new feature for Google News is going to make my addiction even worse.
A few weeks ago, Google added a few customizable settings for its news aggregator; users can now include sources from which they’d like to see more, less or no news (I’ve added HuffingtonPost.com to that last category), as well as being able to say how many blog and press release results they’d like to see – None, Fewer, Normal, or More. There is now also the option to automatically reload the page every 15 minutes. These options are only available if you’re signed into your account, and can be changed through your account’s settings.
The first thing I thought of when discovering these new features was actually the Personal Blocklist plugin Google released for Chrome which allows you to block specific domains or hosts from all of your search results – suggesting the company is moving toward a more customizable experience for all users. This new Google News feature seems to be taking that a step further by not just allowing you to block domains (which you can, at least in essence, do by listing something in the “No news from” section) but also tell Google which sites you would like to see more news from.
Google has mentioned that they’ve begun using information they’ve gathered through Personal Blocklist for general search results, and one can imagine they’ll be doing the same for the information they gather via Google News.
All of this being said, while these new features may be great for people like me who want real news from real news sources, it may prove damaging for websites who count on their own pseudo-news content for traffic. For instance, a blog may comment on a current news story or give its own perspective on a current event, hoping to get some traffic from that day’s news. Or a company may practice some heavy press release marketing, hoping to get links from other sites interested in their release and improve their link profile.
While each of these strategies will still work, they may not be as effective as they once were. My guess is that most users who become aware of these options are going to opt for fewer or no results from press releases and blogs – the exception possibly being those who are interested in specific industry news. With those results coming up less and less, those efforts may be shifted elsewhere.
So as is often the case, we’ll have to wait and see just how big an impact this seemingly small update will have. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my non-news-free news.
About the Author: Scott Spjut is a writer and editor who has been featured in various magazines, newspapers and websites – including Newsweek, the Washington Post, CBS News and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Scott currently works with PMI Education helping people change their lives.