Google is rolling out Google Discover — a personalized feed of news stories — on mobile devices in the US, following the search giant's announcement of its mobile homepage redesign in September, per The Verge. Google Discover is the third iteration of...
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Google is rolling out Google Discover — a personalized feed of news stories — on mobile devices in the US, following the search giant's announcement of its mobile homepage redesign in September, per The Verge.
Google Discover is the third iteration of its previous personalized news feed, initially called Google Now and later rebranded as Google Feed, this is the first time the company will feature the personalized feed so prominently on its homepage.
The feed will appear on Google's mobile app and the mobile browser version of google.com. It's still unclear how or when the company will roll this out to desktop or countries abroad. Google Feed has 800 million monthly active users worldwide, per Google.
The change appears to hit several goalposts for the world's dominant search platform:
Search becomes more personalized, which could boost engagement. The Discover feed will recommend stories based on a user's interests, informed by personal data like web activity, device information, location history, and location settings. The feed will be algorithm-driven, but users will be able to manually customize the feed by telling Google their interests. The redesign includes several new features that will let users customize their experiences: a "topic header" button that suggests related articles, another button that will let users indicate whether they want to see more or less of that type of story, and the ability to follow specific topics of interest.
Search becomes more visual and, therefore more mobile. The Discover feed will display a stream of news "cards." The change prioritizes a more visual display of information over text alone. Card-based content delivery is not new in the world of web design, but it is a particularly useful method of display for mobile devices, given the reduced real-estate afforded by smaller screens and the relative clunkiness of thumbs versus pointers.
Search becomes a more passive form of content discovery, which could boost time spent. The new feed makes the search experience a more passive form of content discovery, since it will display stories of likely interest to users without them having to explicitly prompt Google. The transition to a more passive search experience on mobile devices could encourage users to spend more time on the platform, as the homepage becomes an even bigger launchpad for content discovery versus rival platforms like Facebook, Apple News, and Twitter.
Search mimics social, and therefore could be an even bigger source of referral traffic. By displaying content automatically on the homepage, Google mimics the experience of social platforms that supply a scrollable, algorithmic feed of content. This could further fuel Google's growth as a source of mobile referral traffic to publishers, particularly as users become more habituated to finding interesting content there. In May, Google search surpassed Facebook as a top source of mobile referral traffic for the first time, which was at least partially attributable to Facebook's algorithm change in January and the rise of Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) on Google News, per Chartbeat. With its homepage makeover, Google could steal even more referral traffic platforms send to publisher sites: overall, Google search now accounts for 52% of all major referral traffic, followed by Facebook with 25%, Pinterest with 2.6%, and Twitter with 1.6%, per Parse.ly.
Google is already the biggest recipient of digital ad dollars, and is likely in a mindset to protect those dollars from platform rivals — Amazon in particular. Tech platforms are racing to win over mobile users, and own a bigger piece of the digital ad pie as dollars increasingly migrate from desktop to mobile.
Further, Google may feel pressure to make search more engaging, as search diminishes as a share of global digital ad revenue: in 2013, search had 57% of the global digital ad market, which is set to fall to 42% by 2023, with dollars flowing more to social and video, per Business Insider Intelligence estimates.