With many major platform businesses like Facebook and Twitter relying on feeds to reach their users, it's no surprise that Google wants to join in on the action. Google launched a new content feed this week, which aims to deliver users content completely tailored around their tastes and behaviors.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, though, the feed is devoid of any and all social activity - it's strictly content handed directly to the user. While it sounds a little bare, Google is trying to capture more of its users' attention and keep them in touch with relevant content, ideally building fresh lifetime value.
An individual's feed is based on their search history and browsing history in its proprietary browser, Google Chrome. Google will also use data it collects from its empire of online platforms, including Search, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Android, and use that intelligence to better inform the feed's suggestions.
Every search made through Google aids the feed's ability to best determine what the user is interested in reading. For instance, a search of the score at the Yankees game makes it more likely that baseball news will find its way into the Yankees fan's feed.
Like any fresh algorithm, think of the feed like a child in need of being taught and trained before functioning completely on its own. While the feed may initially batch up news preferences, it makes up for it by allowing people to explore and follow interests, such as sports, technology, or business. The feed then enables the user to specify what kind of content is most appealing before generating more recommendations.
All it takes is a little trial and error before the feed gets a good sense of the content that is appealing to the user. The feed is even attempting to bring communities closer by showing pieces relevant to the user's location, whether it be a ice cream pop-up or a bear sighting near someone's house.
Google is completely aware that personal interests change so an algorithm is set to keep the news updated with the user's changing searches. The algorithm takes notice when certain topics are no longer being searched or read, so the feed will respond accordingly. The user also has the ability to unfollow a topic at any point.
Goodbye to Google Now. For Now?
Google Now used to serve as a personal assistant that would answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions. It also used to deliver information and updates to the users with predictive search habits, which the new Google feed essentially provides.
The Google Now brand is being retired, but all the features and functionality that accompanied it aren't completely gone, just relocated to a secondary tab in the Google app. The features are being improved and redesigned for better user experience.
Fundamentally, the new Google feed is pushing for a shift in the way in which people consume content. Instead of basing curation solely on explicit choices, Google feed is creating curation based on the user's implicit preferences and prior behavior.
This permits for broader context and deeper exploration of perspectives, stories, and information that wouldn't have been unlocked before. Google is working to change the way in which people discover information.
Will the Google Feed Be a Success?
It's true that the social aspect on Facebook and Twitter feeds adds to what makes them so compelling.
People are drawn to reading articles suggested by their trusted friends and family, as well as enjoy interacting with their network around the content. In comparison to Google's extremely solitary feed, Facebook and Twitter could feel more lively.
In the face of this stark difference, Google feed offers users the ability to read through a range of different perspectives and opinions and develop their own instead of relying on their network to form an opinion.
This could reduce the spread of fake news by curating targeted content to the user rather than having the user rely on news shared by unreliable sources, such as grandparents. Unlike Facebook, wherein a user's social feed is often biased based on the user's network, the Google feed eliminates the such narrowness and provides a slate of suggestions based on the user's tastes and actions.
Tackling the filter bubble problem will be difficult, but Google likely has something cooked up to prevent this from occurring.
Power Moves Only
Simply put, Google relies almost entirely on ads, with nearly 97% of total revenue coming from digital and display paid advertisements, purchased by over a million businesses. Even as AdWords makes gains, the search giant is running out of places to put its advertisements.
Additionally, with an abundance of businesses using Google AdWords, the large amount of ads present take away from other content platforms' traffic. Google users are drawn to the top of the search page rather than scrolling to the bottom, which leaves businesses that choose not to engage with AdWords at a disadvantage.
For now, the feed doesn't display any advertising, but it seems very likely that Google will start running ads on the feed, largely free of other distractions and probably yielding more valuable impressions for advertisers.
Lastly, as the company's blog post reads, "The more you use Google, the better your feed will be." Google has already moved to mobile, but it's not publicly clear how much traffic Google Now was bringing in.
With Google feed serving as a source for content, users will have more reason to check the app daily, perhaps multiple times a day, increasing Google's mobile interactions with users, driving up the value of its advertising and giving it more data to improve those ads.
While the feed may definitely have some long-term benefits for Google, it's focused on creating the best individual feed experience for now. This new feed looks bound for success because of its commitment to curating content based on implicit preferences and the troves of user data Google is able to collect.