The logic behind these new Google News Badges is simple – the more you read, the more you earn. But what exactly are you earning? Well, nothing really, just a colorful virtual badge (and a sense of satisfaction?). While the badges offer a roundabout method of personalization (I’d rather do it the old fashioned way and manually select topics I prefer), the new feature also somewhat surreptitiously forces you to sacrifice more online privacy by requiring you to enable your web history. So I guess both parties gain – you get a virtually useless colored icon and targeted article suggestions and Google gets to see everything you search and use it to its advantage. Wait, something doesn’t seem fair.
While the deal may not be so fair, the psychological desire to earn these badges, otherwise known as gamification, might have more of an influence than you’d think. What’s better than competing with Google, even if the search engine mastermind always ends up the real winner? News Badges are yet another Google attempt to increase interactivity, create a social community, and encourage readers to stick with Google News.
Here’s how the News Badges work…
Google explains, “The U.S. Edition of Google News now lets you collect private, sharable badges for your favorite topics. The more articles you read on Google News, the more your badges level up: you can reach Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and finally Ultimate. Keep your badges to yourself, or show them off to your friends.” The badges will only show level and the number of articles read, not the specific titles. There are more than 500 badges available ranging from “Harry Potter” to “the stock market” to the “Dominican Republic.” Both desktop and mobile clicks will contribute to your badges.
Rather than reading hundreds of articles in a single shot, it’s more effective to stick with a few each day. Rome wasn’t built in a day just as it will take you time to appear smart in the eyes of Google. The search engine can see right through the “ridiculous amount of articles in a day trick” trick, but who says you have to actually peruse the article in order for it to “count?” A few clicks (no reading necessary) a day for a few weeks (consistency is key) and you’ve got yourself a badge. If the goal of the badges is in part to showcase who is in fact, an actual expert, doesn’t this glitch make such a title worthless? Google has certainly been criticized for its failure to accurately portray the “news IQ” of a given user. That’s not to say people will waste their time with such a scheme, but if you’re badge hungry, I’m sure this method would fly.
Now, Google does not force you to take part in News Badges and a simple click will allow you to opt out. In addition, the default setting for the feature is that the badges are only visible to the individual user. That user can choose to share all badges or select a few (only the most impressive ones, of course).
And now, I’ve been avoiding the obvious – hasn’t the whole badge thing been done before?! Frankly, I’m over it and I think many people would agree. Note to Google – with your reputation, shouldn’t you be wowing us, especially now that you know EVERYTHING about us. Maybe, just maybe, Google won’t win with this one?