Google Reader just released some new features, including “magic”! Basically, they have added another item beneath the “People You Follow” section called “Explore”. In the Explore section, there are two goodies. First is “Popular Items” which seems to list items with lots and lots of “likes”:
Now you don’t have to be embarrassed about missing that hilarious video everyone is talking about — it should show up in your “Popular items” feed automatically.
They have also moved the recommendations to a “Recommended Sources” section inside of the Explore section. This gives you a cleaner and more consistent experience when you go to preview a recommended feed.
So, Reader has been tracking your usage for a while now, and they have finally decided to do something with the data besides trying to find recommendations. Today they introduced magic. The idea is that you can sort your items in any folder or feed using magic:
All feeds now have a new sort option called “magic” that re-orders items in the feed based on your personal usage, and overall activity in Reader, instead of default chronological order. Click “Sort by magic” under the “Feed settings” menu of your feed (or folder) to switch to personalized ranking.
Obviously, this is not a huge leap in functionality, but it is further features for personalization without the user really needing to do anything except use the tool. However, this is an interesting step. Remember, they have increased the social aspects of Reader with comments, likes and followers. The next obvious step is using your network to determine popular content and better content discovery. As this all improves, it could be extended to include discovery of other people with similar interests that are not in your network.
I have to say that I am very happy with the direction the Google Reader team is taking. Instead of assuming that Facebook and Twitter will be the news readers of the future, they have decided to integrate the social features into the reader and hopefully expand Reader into an even more interesting product.