I typically associate badges with anything that is gamified, Foursquare being the best and most famous example of using badges to reward someone unlocks an achievement.
But as of yesterday in the U.S., Google has added badges to its Google News service. The badges are designed to help you keep track of what type of content you engage with most, and what you most often click-through to read.
Take politics for example: If you continue to visit Google News and consume politics content, you’ll earn a badge related to that. The more content you read related to that topic, the higher level badge you’ll receive. Badges start at a bronze level and then move up to silver, gold, platinum and ultimate. Google says it has more than 500 badges available for almost any interest. Here is a sample:
As you earn more badges, they begin to show up on your Google News page and you can then use those badges to create sections related to specific content.
Badges are private by default, but you can share them with friends and use the +1 features. To get started with badges, Google says you need to visit Google News from a signed-in account with web history enabled and then visit this page on the Help Center for instructions. Google says this is just the first step of what is possible with badges.
I applaud the effort to be different, and think it could definitely help people create sections that curate content based on their interest. Readers may unconsciously know they have an addiction to Harry Potter stories, but once the badge pops up it may be a more direct confirmation. The ability to create sections on the fly based on interest, is also great.
That said, I don’t think this is a huge step forward, either. People will always drill-down into a site to find content they want or they will use a search function to get it. While the badges are good reminders and direct links to find content we want and like, I don’t think they’re much different than simply bookmarking a section you’re interested in.
Also, in its current form I’m not sure badges are the most appropriate tool to promote this activity; badges typically are rewarded to people for reaching achievements, and I don’t see this as achieving anything. It may promote increased activity among some users, but for those who truly compete to earn badges, I think this initiative fails to address the real underlying reason people compete to unlock badges. I will be watching closely to see how this changes over time. It’s a good start, for sure.
What do you think about the new Google News badges?