In its first major design change since its 2002 launch, Google News has been revised to encourage users to take a greater editorial role.
Such tinkering matters to news publishers: Google News sends 1 billion clicks per month to news sites worldwide. A change in the stories that Google News users see and share will change the flow of ad revenue.
Google software engineer Kevin Stolt says in a blog post that the revision aims to make news more relevant, to expose previously unknown stories, and to make articles easier to share. This last goal is consistent with Google's broader effort to make search more social.
Previously, Google News was separated into sections, such as Top Stories, World, Sci/Tech, Sports, and so on, each of which could be customized in terms of page placement and number of stories.
The new version, which began rolling out in the U.S. on Wednesday and will be available elsewhere in coming months, takes a more fluid approach. Google describes it as, "News for you," a stream of headlines automatically tailored to your interests. Users are invited to use the "Edit personalization" box to specify how much news from established sections or corresponding to specific keywords should appear and how it should appear, in Section view or List view.
Personalization is optional, as it was before, but now it's clearly encouraged.
Users also now have the ability to choose whether stories from particular news sources should appear more or less often. "These sources will rank higher or lower for you (but not for anyone else) in Google News search results and story clusters," says Stolt.
At the same time, the Spotlight section, a selection of stories that Google deems to be worthy of note, is being featured more prominently, along with locally relevant weather and headlines.
The Top Stories section on the left-hand side of the the Google News homepage will gain links to topics that a large number of news outlets are covering and relevant keywords now appear above headlines.
The new Google News also emphasizes sharing through a drop-down menu in the top right-hand corner of story clusters that connects to e-mail, Google's Buzz and Reader services, as well as Facebook and Twitter.