If you visited Google News today, you'll have noticed the addition of badges — app-like icons that let you "track what you're reading, create a more personalized experience on Google News, and share what you love with friends," according to the Google blog post announcement.
The implication is that Google users aren't reading enough, with a statistic cited that on Google News, "the average reader of political news has read 20 articles about politics in the last six months." Six months? Time to make reading the news more fun!
In trying to make consumers engage more with aggregated content, Google is bring gamification to its news service.
While badges are nothing new to Foursquare users, for instance, this isn't so about checking in but showing off. The idea is to let you "see how voracious a news reader you are by earning Google News badges as you read articles about your favorite topics. The more you read, the higher level badge you’ll receive, starting with Bronze, then moving up the ladder to Silver, Gold, Platinum and finally, Ultimate. We have more than 500 badges available, so no matter what kind of news you’re into, there’s a badge out there for you."
Only visible at present to Google News uers in the US, the badges are private by default (despite the Google+ push), but the reasons for public badges are sure to endear you to your Google+ social network. According to Google, "if you want, you can share your badges with your friends. Tell them about your news interests, display your expertise, start a conversation or just plain brag about how well-read you are."
Feeding those bragging rights are messages such as, "you've read 10 times more than most readers!" (Coming soon: an audio clip of clapping and a voiceover saying "Good job!" to go along with that user recognition.)
The more practical feature is to help personalize the Google News interface: "You can also add custom sections by hovering on a badge and clicking 'add section' to read more about your favorite topics." But wait, there's more!
"This is just the first step—the bronze release, if you will—of Google News badges. Once we see how badges are used and shared, we look forward to taking this feature to the next level." The post continues,
"In the spirit of continually trying to improve Google News, we have heard loud and clear from the many of you who asked us to separate our Sci/Tech section into two distinct sections. We are happy to report that we have now done this for all English editions, with more languages coming soon. We also combined some personalization settings from the 'News for you' and News Settings menu into one handy sidebar at the top right corner of the home page, so you can easily tell us what you want to read on your Google News."
Bo-ring! Did we mention there are 500 badges? And other 50,000 news sources on Google News?