Thursday, July 14, 2011

Google News Badges: Mixed messages for users, potential threat to MSM

Spotted on Hacker News this evening, a link to a new Google feature: Google News Badges. The following video explains how it works:

My reaction on Hacker News:
It's being marketed as something that helps people track articles and find new content, share content with friends, and spark conversations, but it's also framed in terms of earning/leveling up. I think there is a bit of disconnect there. People who appreciate the game-like elements may not get so much value from the discovery/social features (and vice versa).

If the badges result in significantly higher usage of Google News, some large news organizations will feel threatened. Making an aggregator more attractive means fewer people starting their search for news on CNN, BBC, Fox, and large local news sites like On the other hand, smaller/niche publishers that are featured on Google News will welcome more traffic.

I've been using Google News for many years (see "Google News: Biased or broken?" and "Xinhua finally becoming a "world news agency"?") so I might derive some value from the badges, but I think to make new users it will be a confusing distraction. There are already enough pictures, links and boxes; dropping cute chicklets on the page isn't going to make it easier for new users to quickly grok what's going on.

In addition, people come to Google News and other "headline aggregators" like Techmeme to find content and leave. Encouraging them to stay on the page and start conversations goes against the spirit of quick content discovery.

Some of my other posts about the online news industry:

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