Many people may not remember that over five years ago, Google had an iGoogle service that gave viewers snippets of news clips and the like on their personalized Google home page. The iGoogle service met its end in 2012, where it was replaced by the Google Now app for mobile. Now, Google is retiring the Google Now name and bringing back some of the old iGoogle features to create a personalized news feed for users of the Google App.
The news feed feature for the Google App will have cards with information about recent websites and articles that will interest the viewer. The system uses algorithmic, machine learning to determine what topics a viewer is most likely to find interesting. Because of this, some commentators have likened the plan to the news feed on Facebook.
While it’s likely that Google hopes this plan will still a little of Facebook’s thunder, Google is quick to point out what makes their news feed on Google Apps different than Facebook’s.
According to Gary Sterling of Search Engine Land, “At a briefing Tuesday in San Francisco, the Google Team, lead by Ben Gomes, was asked several times about how these changes compared to the Facebook News Feed. The answer was: this is about you and your interests, not topics your friends are engaged with.”
The “feed experience” was first introduced in December as part of Google Now. It features topics in one tab and a second tab for personal information and updates, such as travel plans and meetings. In the updated version now available for mobile devices, that two-tab structure is preserved, but the feed is becoming richer and more controllable.
Besides the topics chosen by the algorithm, users will be able to follow content directly from mobile search results and have that surface on an ongoing basis in their feeds. The current plan also includes some content from locally trending topics. But unlike Facebook, these trending pieces won’t be based on user contacts or social connections.
In many respects, this change is more important for end consumers than it is for business owners and marketers. Google hasn’t announced plans to monetize the content on the news feed (i.e. promoted content for the news feeds), so these changes mostly help people use Google more often and with better results.
“With these updates to the feed, it’s easier than ever to stay in the know about exactly the things you care about and see more content to inform, inspire and entertain you,” the company explained in a blog post announcing the roll out. “You’ll spend less time and energy trying to keep up with your interests and more time enjoying and cultivating them. Whether you’re a pet-loving, Nietzsche-reading, sports fanatic; a hip-hop head and burgeoning brewmaster; or anything in between, your feed should fit your fancy.”
This new feed feature is only available in the U.S. and Canada for now, but Google plans to expand into different markets in the future. Similarly, the feature may find its way onto Chrome browsers for desktop users.
While there is no direct benefit to marketers yet, making it easier for people to find topics they are interested in benefits content marketers by reaching new audiences. And though there’s no guarantee, there’s a good chance Google will find a way to use the feed for search ads. We’ll just have to wait and see.
For more information on changes to Google, read this article on a plan by Google to use credit card data to measure the effectiveness of ads.