Rupert gets mad, Google News gets sectioned

Google News got kudos earlier this week on the roll-out of their new sections option.

While this is a welcome development in a service which has long been out-innovated (from semantic technologies like Silobreaker, to social discovery via Facebook and Twitter, to superior browsing navigation via NewsNow), there is nevertheless a lingering sense that it could have been so much more.

For example, you can’t personalise, tweak, or clone any of the (admittedly impressive) pre-set sections offered, which is a major let-down in terms of satisfying niche news needs. In a world of long tails and short attention spans, we all need more options.

And while the option to drill down to culturally-specific language when setting up your own sections is great (i.e. football when searched within a European section will bring results on a different sport to the same search in an American section), the fact that you can’t use the full range of advanced functions (i.e. refining by source and byline) is pretty limiting.

You expressly can’t create your own ‘sections’ in the conventional news sense, because the system won’t let you specify exactly which sources you want, or don’t want.

Then again, offering your audience a convenient digital news bundle while traditional media is still working out how to tie up the loose ends of falling readership and revenues, might just have seemed a twist of the knife too far.

And it doesn’t help when uncle Rupert’s breathing down your neck.

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