Google News Changes to Reflect Your Feedback

Chris Beckmann, the Product Manager for Google News, posted “Google News changes reflect your feedback” on the Google News Blog. And it appears that the folks at the Googleplex have been watching and listening to your comments.

The redesign of the Google News homepage that was announced two weeks ago was the biggest since Google News was launched in beta in 2002.

By and large, Search Engine Watch readers had few complaints about the enhanced customization, personalization and sharing features. And according to Beckmann, “The positive usage data we saw during our months-long tests of the redesign has continued since we introduced it to all users of the U.S. English edition, and hundreds of thousands of you have already customized your Google News homepages.”

But the vast major of comments about the new look and feel of Google News — on my blog posts and in the Google News Help Forum — were negative. That’s why I asked, “Is the Google News Redesign a Repeat of the New Coke Disaster?” And according to Beckmann, “some of you wrote in to say you missed certain aspects of the previous design, such as the ability to see results grouped by section (U.S., Business, etc.) in two columns.”

That’s an understatement.

But let’s give the folks at Google News credit where credit is due. As Beckmann says, “At Google, we’re all about launching and iterating, so we’ve been making improvements to the design in response to your feedback. For example, we’re now showing the entire cluster of articles for each story, rather than expanding the cluster when you hover your mouse over it. We’ve given you the ability to hide the weather forecast from your local news section. We made the option to switch between List view and Section view more obvious. And today we’re adding a third option in “News for you”: Two-column view, which shows the three top stories from each section and looks like this:”

Google News two column view.jpg

Beckmann concludes, “A key goal of the redesign was to give you more ways to personalize your Google News, and these changes add even more choices. A heartfelt thanks to all of you who have shared your thoughts with us. Please keep letting us know what you think, and we’ll keep working to make Google News even better.”

So, what’s the moral of this story? The Google News redesign was a repeat of the New Coke disaster. Let me remind you of the key points that I made back on July 3:

  • Coca-Cola had conducted taste tests before launching New Coke back in 1985, and most tasters said they would buy and drink it. But about 10-12% felt angry and alienated at the very thought of changing the flavor of Coke, saying that they might stop drinking it altogether.
  • Coca-Cola downplayed the opinions of this small minority.
  • New Coke was introduced on April 23, 1985. Production of the original formulation ended that same week.
  • Despite New Coke’s acceptance with a large number of Coca-Cola drinkers, a vocal minority of them resented the change in formula and were not shy about making that known — just as had happened in the focus groups.
  • Coca-Cola’s director of corporate communications, Carlton Curtis, realized over time that they were more upset about the withdrawal of the old formula than the taste of the new one.
  • Coca-Cola executives announced the return of the original formula on July 10, less than three months after New Coke’s introduction.
  • The subsequent reintroduction of Coke’s original formula, re-branded as “Coca-Cola Classic,” resulted in a significant gain in sales, leading to speculation that the introduction of the New Coke formula was just a marketing ploy.

So, it looks like Google News moved even faster than Coca-Cola did 25 years ago to consumer feedback. Now, I’d say that’s a happy ending to the story.

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