For many years now, it’s been possible to subscribe to persistent (“saved”) Google News searches and so build up your own custom dashboard views of news… Indeed, it was over three years ago now that I hacked together a demo news feed roller (Persistent News Search OPML Feed Roller) that let users bundle up a roll of feeds in an OPML file (sort of!) for easy viewing elsewhere.
And if OPML isn’t your thing, then services like Netvibes or Pageflakes let you easily wire up your own news dashboard:
But we all know in our heart of hearts that RSS and Atom feed subscriptions are just not popular widespread as a consumer technology. Folk aren’t knowingly using feeds, and they not unknowingly using them directly either. (But feeds are being used as wiring/plumbing behind the scenes, so RSS is not dead yet, okay?!;-)
(In the Library world, as well as the wider news reading world, this failure to engage with feed subscriptions can be seen (in part) by the lack of significant uptake of RSS alerts.)
So when Google announced last week that you can now Create and Share custom News sections, it struck me that they were getting round the exposed plumbing problem that subscribing to a feed implies, and instead making it easy to create a custom view (the output of which can also be subscribed to) with the appearance of having to do much plumbing at all – How to Create Your Own Google Custom News Section (Tutorial):
You can search the directory of already created news sections – as well as find a link to a page that lets you create your own news sections, here: Google News: Custom sections directory.
The extent to which you can create a finely tuned view of the news is, admittedly, limited. You can’t, for example, limit the search to specified publications (which you can do in a Google news advanced/search limited search) – filtering is limited to keywords and locale (I’m not sure of the extent to which the order in which you enter the keywords affects things?). But if you already know how to create that sort of filtered search, you probably also know how to set up a new search alert, wire up an feed powered dashboard of your own, and so on. And if the Google Custom News sections editor was any more complicated, I dare say it would put off the users I imagine Google are reaching out to…