I’ve been using Google News for years. It’s really good at what it does, which is to simply crawl the web and aggregate news stories from variety of sources around the world. Based on the content, Google groups stories together that are about the same topic. Google has been in court several times over the practice, with publishers arguing that what they’re doing is abusing fair use and that they should pay a royalty to do so. So far, Google has prevailed in its argument that its simply doing no more than searching the web like it has always done. I in particular agree with this stance.
However, Google News is not perfect and there are a number of ways to improve it. Somehow, Google engineers either do not agree or are not farsighted enough to do. I believe someone doing exact the same thing as Google News with these few additional features would have a great killer app on their hands.
So what are these features? They’re pretty straight forward and in some instances Google has some implementation of them, but not all.
1. The ability to include & exclude sources with fine grain control. Google allows you to specify a source that you want to see more of or less of and that’s great. However the number of sources appear limited. If this feature is expanded to allow an unlimited number of sources in the list as well as better controls of more, less or even never, this would be a huge addition.
2. Expanding on the above is the ability to limit topics. This goes beyond saying you’re interested in news, world news, technology, entertainment, sports, money/finance, etc. Those are sector based. I think the ability to permanently not hear a single thing about Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian would be a killer feature. For people who are really interested in reading the hard news, this would be a welcomed feature indeed.
3. The ability to include or exclude news stories that are purely video. It’s irksome that some news stories are short video clips when I really want to read something more in depth. It’s worse when the story has a video that always auto start. I’m looking at you ABC News and CNN. Whoever thought that having video auto start on page load should be shot.
4. The ability to show only longer articles on any topic. I personally love to read longer, in depth articles and opinions. The really short stuff isn’t for me but for the younger generation that has permanent attention deficit disorder. The option to only read longer articles would be most welcome.
5. The ability to include to exclude paywall sites completely. Right now Google marks those sites but I’m not interested in bringing them into the feed period. I respect the rights of news sites to charge for their content. If they think they have good enough content to warrant payment, kudos to them. I just don’t want to pay and the culture of the Internet is such that most people expect information to be free (relatively). I know most are already monetizing their sites with ads, etc. and that’s fine. But when you want to monetize and charge, then I want to be able to skip over you completely.
That’s it really. If anyone has something like what I’ve described above, I’ll be all over them in a heartbeat and I bet many, many others would as well. Google doesn’t seem to care so there’s a niche market out there for someone that’s interested.