Google News Reaches for the Stars

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Google News Reaches for the Stars
A new Google feature now lets you bookmark topic groups (with a star) in Google News and is designed to help you keep track of a particular news story as it progresses throughout the day. This is just the latest feature Google has introduced to merge traditional print-style news stories with the more flexible medium of the Web.

Starring Google News

To the left of every Google News group--a cluster of news stories that share the same topic--you'll see a star next to the top headline. Clicking on the star bookmarks that topic, and copies it to a new 'Starred' section in the left column of Google News. From there you can view your 20 most recent starred news stories.

In Google News, whenever any of your starred topic clusters receive a significant update, the top headline for that cluster will be put in bold allowing you to stay current as the story develops.

Google News Developments

The new starring feature is designed along with other recent Google News tweaks like the Custom Sections Directory that help you build a more personalized Google News page. The starring feature also reminds me of Google's Living Stories project that dedicates a separate Web page to track the development and growth of a particular story. Google also has similar bookmark features in Gmail, Google Reader and the Chrome browser.

While the new Google News bookmarking feature is a great addition it does have some downsides. For one thing, you can only star topic clusters instead of specific stories, which means you can't use Google News to bookmark a particular item to read later.

It's also odd that your Starred section doesn't necessarily show the same story you bookmarked on the main page even if you check it just seconds later. For example, I bookmarked a story cluster on Obama's 2011 budget headlined with an ABC News story, but when I got to my Starred section the cluster featured a blog from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Google my also have had a different idea for what the topic cluster was about than I did. The headline from ABC was "Tax Proposals in the 2011 Budget: What's In It For You?" But the Sun-Times blog that topped the same cluster in my starred section featured the President's schedule for Tuesday, and didn't even mention the budget. So while I thought I was bookmarking a cluster on budget and taxation, apparently the cluster was general news about the President. Google News is usually pretty good at separating new topics, but it's not uncommon to see stories in the same cluster that are just barely related to each other.

Nevertheless, the new feature adds more personalization and added functionality to Google News. Will the new feature encourage you to use Google News more often, or is this just another feature getting in the way of your daily reading?

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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