5 things Google News can do to make me hate me a little less, but probably won’t
Look, I have a love-hate relationship with Google News, and so far I’ve been biting my tongue. It provides a simple and easy to use experience for aggregating current events and by all accounts it is doing very well. However, as with other Google services like Gmail, I feel like all they really do is “great” – never excelling or reaching their full potential. I only dealt with News because it’s from the tech giant, but I’ve never really found it so user-friendly. The “For You” aspect never really played out, in my opinion. Over the years, it has become less of a must-have solution for me and in its place, I have instead switched to tools like Feedly.
Today I wanted to review five things Google News can do to make me hate me a little less in the future. Of course, it eventually returned to dark mode after removing it a few years ago, and its barebones approach keeps things in place – damn it, it’s even one of the first Google apps to become a PWA on. the Play Store, but are we looking for an app that does the bare minimum? I’m not.
Biggest problem with Google News
First of all, I want to greet the elephant in the room. You’ve probably even thought it out yourself and dismissed it, but I’m going to call it the biggest complaint I’ve ever had with service. Google News is upside down in its approach to content curation. Instead of letting users add sources to follow and just recommend others – like, oh, I don’t know, Google Reader was doing it – it dumps a million unrelated sources to your location, interests, and more. in a pool and requires you to sift through and hide things one by one.
When you use a Google Account that is focused on gaming, business, or any other creative activity and constantly getting the headlines about what’s going on in politics, the war, the local murders, and what celebrities have taken to the kid – lunch before complaining that it wasn’t served on gold spoons, it really throws you out of your zone. I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but like all subjects, they have their place. Just because I don’t want to read about them right now doesn’t mean I think them less vital to our society – well, aside from the golden spoons.
Everyone has at least two sides of themselves and curating content specifically around their professional and casual personalities is vital if they are to extrapolate relevant current events to grow and transform as people or entities, or to educate and entertain as content creators. I’ve already hidden nearly 200 news sources in the “Headlines” section of the app and used the “thumbs down” icon to get fewer stories relevant to these aforementioned topics, but Google seems determined to put them at the top of my diet every moment of every day.
There is currently no way to hide or remove this “Headlines” section, and the only solution is to scroll through the dark and depressing and less relevant stories to access the content I have chosen to follow. These are usually three to four stories lower. I’ll say it again because it’s very clear to me – Google literally doesn’t care that you don’t want to see something – it’s going to force you to watch it if you want to use the app at all.
I mean, the “For You” section should be filled with stuff you chose to follow, but even that includes bullshit you never chose to subscribe to. Yes, they’re a little more relevant than the headlines, but why, oh why, did Google choose to build News in such a way opposite to Reader? I never thought I would be on the Google Reader bandwagon as I have an obsession with pretty apps and very visual information delivery – something Reader has always done wrong – but it’s ridiculous .
I said I didn’t want to see this story!
Okay, now that I’ve complained enough, let’s move on. News does this thing where it shows you a carousel full of articles from different sources on the same news headline. You can swipe left and right to see them, and they play automatically if you don’t. If you tap the three-dot “More” menu to select the option to hide or remove this story, the entire carousel will not accompany it. Instead, you are forced to delete each one – one by one. You would think Google would catch your drift and remove them all at once. Since there is also usually a mixed tweet, you have to skip it. You can’t delete it manually – it disappears on its own once you delete the other five stories from the carousel. Talk about inconsistent.
Just link it to Discover, already
Some time ago, Google Discover received a “Full Coverage” button for some stories. It’s not consistent, but sometimes the colorful newspaper logo pops up, letting you see other sources that have covered this topic so you can make up your own mind. It’s a great tool – one of the only things I feel News has done well over the years, but why does it only appear in Discover sometimes? Plus, why doesn’t Google just combine Discover and News in the same experience?
The two services offer an almost identical layout, but they remain separate to this day. If Google News is so important to the business, why doesn’t it put it right into the phone launcher instead of Discover and keep making it better? They could make changes to make it act more like Discover, and readers would have a much more consistent experience across the board. Sadly, this is Google we’re talking about, so that just won’t happen. News has been around forever and is a big deal for publishers and readers, so why is it getting the tree while Google makes a second tool?
On that note, why doesn’t News include a heart icon to tap and let him know you want more of that specific content? This is a great new addition to Discover, and it would make News more personal for you. If he has any hope of letting you control what he does with the content, this is one way to do it. Who knows, maybe that would force me to hide a few hundred sources less per week.
Read later … maybe
I just realized that I saved hundreds of articles in my “Read Later” section in the News app. I’m talking about super old content that isn’t really relevant anymore. I have a lot of thoughts on this, and it’s definitely my fault that I saved things and didn’t read them back, but let me just say this: Google is now a lean company. AI and machine learning, and everything is going well. lengths to automate putting data in front of our faces lately, so why isn’t there a section in Google News – maybe even in place of those silly headlines – that says “Remember not to read them “. I’m sure they could find a better title, but that’s the gist of what I’m looking for. Call the saved articles once a week and remind me to read them.
While at it, why hasn’t the app linked the Read It Later articles in the “Read Later” section of Chrome or Google Collections yet? Who is responsible for intentionally separating these tools with the exact same name at headquarters, and why haven’t they crossed paths in the elevator yet? It worked for Square Enix and Disney – that’s why we got Kingdom Hearts. I’m sure the Read Later and Read It Later teams could have a similar experience since they work in the same company and in the same building, right?
Videos and podcasts just suck in Google News
There was a time when Google News tried to integrate podcasts… sort of. If publishers set things up correctly – as we did – their podcast can appear as a tab on their dedicated page. I felt like I could listen to them right in the app, but instead it forces you to directly visit that webpage and stay there. That’s right, you’re stuck there if you want to listen to podcasts in the News app – you can’t browse other news. I’m pretty sure there was a time when it narrowed the podcast down to an in-app player and allowed you to keep looking around, but it was short-lived.
The same goes for Youtube videos. Not only is the video watching experience completely zero in the Google News app – it’s basically a web based Youtube player (yuck) – it also suffers from the same problem of not being able to play backwards -plan or in a minimized reader while you read other news. I don’t know about you, but I’m a multitasking machine – even though multitasking is a myth and we just jump between tasks quickly. Even though it’s bad for your mental health, it’s a fact of our current culture. I want to listen while I read – plain and simple.
I have news for you … it probably won’t improve
There are a few other consolation improvements that I would like to see with the app, in particular the addition of comments in Shared & Activity, video autoplay in the news feed with an option to turn it off, the ability to to create a news source and collections of topics like Feedly offers, and more, but the things I described above are my main gripes. Unfortunately, they’ve been a problem for years, and I just don’t see them improving – ever. Google is a half-baked business. It’s a perpetual beta machine, and it intends to stay that way.
Even more unfortunate, he’s taken a stand on some of his long-standing services like News to stop improving them and stop treating them completely as beta products – Google News sucks, and it will stay that way. I know this is a bleak take on it, but their MO seems to be “If it ain’t broke (for most people) then don’t fix it”. I find all of these things completely boring and feel like they destroy the experience no matter how much I return to the app for simple news. Because I always go back, it will be enough for Google to just sit on its hands and do nothing – you know, what good it is. It may sound very harsh, but deep down you know I’m right. If he really wants to subvert expectations and bring News into the modern age as a competitive aggregation tool, he should heed those comments and make some changes.