Google Reader Recommendations Swap Popularity For Personalization

Back in October of last year, Google Reader rolled out a nice little update that added a new “Popular items” feed to the “Explore” area of the service. In here, you would find items from around the web that were gaining popularity fast. Of course, one person’s gem of popular content is another person’s crappy video. So today, Google has rolled out another update to Reader, to recommend items more personally tailored to you.

The new “Recommended items” feed replaces the “Popular items” feed in the same Explore area. “With the latest round of improvements, we’ve started inserting items selected just for you inside the Recommended items section,” Google writes.

What’s not entirely clear from Google’s post is how they’re pulling together these recommendations for Reader users. I have to assume it’s the same way they’ve long recommended news feeds to you, which is by looking at your Reader Trends and web browsing history (if you have that turned on), and comparing it with other users.

A quick scan of my own new Recommended items area shows results that are pretty hit-or-miss. But maybe that’s because I’m a writer who has to scan hundreds of sites every day even if not all of them particularly interest me.

There’s another small new feature in Reader today too: related feeds. If you trigger the drop down menu on a certain feed, and hover over “More like this,” you’ll see a list of feeds for what Reader considers to be similar sites. Subscribing to them is then just a button click away.

Using Google Reader this past week has been interesting as Google Buzz has multiplied the number of users following the items I share several times over. This is of course because Buzz and Reader (and the other Google properties) share the same social graph now — the same highly controversial social graph which saw you automatically friending certain people you contact on Gmail or over IM. In fact, Google had to stop doing that.

I’m still not sure Reader, or Google as a whole, gets this whole social thing, but they’re certainly growing their graph quickly now.