Google introduces a new Google Assistant service called "Your News Update". It takes away the idea of an algorithmically defined news feed – the kind you get from Facebook or the news feed – and turns it into an audio stream. To play it, just ask Google's smart speaker or phone assistant to "listen to the news."
Google uses the information it has learned about you over the years, along with your location, to build a bespoke series of short stories news updates from partners from whom he has licensed audio. He hopes to promote an ecosystem he calls the "audio web," according to Liz Gannes, Google's audio news product manager. These aren't podcasts as much as news bites, like hourly news updates that can be heard on the radio.
Updating your news replaces the current way of receiving news updates from Assistant, which consists of a direct list of news sources. With this system you have to choose which sources you want and what order to play.
You will first need to ask for the news and hear an hourly update from NPR, then The Daily by The New York Times then CNN (or what news sources you choose ). You will now hear individual topic-specific news from Google Partner News. And instead of riding on a daily basis, he will play based on these topics.
Google says that once your news update launches live, users will be able to choose between the new system or the original.
Google has licensed audio from a variety of news sources, including ABC, Cheddar The Associated Press CNN, Fox News Radio, PBS, Reuters WYNC and a bunch of local radio stations. He can then identify the content of the news stories of these outlets by reading specific metadata they create for their stories and using their computers to listen to the stories themselves. Google has paid its partners to work with the company to create their stories in this format.
Audio in hand, then Google can rank it in a news feed, just as it puts news feeds on the web. Each story reads the output that produced it before it begins. It starts with the highest national or international history or two, moves on to local stories, then tends to play stories that are more likely to be relevant to your interests. (For me, that meant stories about the Vikings in Minnesota and technology.) After a while, the stories went from short updates of one to two minutes to longer podcast-like stories.
If that sounds a lot like what you get from the NPR One app, it's because it is. But Google pulls from a larger set of sources, and NPR is not one of them. This is one of the reasons for not using the new Google system.
But the main problem I have with this type of news feed is that while an algorithmic story list makes sense on screen, it is incredibly annoying when there is a linear stream of audio. You can scan quickly on the screen and read titles and sources by selecting and choosing what you prefer. In an audio feed, you should constantly bark "Hello, Google, skip" if you get a story that is not a good match.
I also have concerns that, as with news feeds on the web, new audio news feeds will boost the filter bubbles. Gannes says that "the purpose of this is actually a filter burst, in a sense, because it does not hear all the news from a single vendor." I have heard from news sources that I have never actively sought in the past.
Google's long-term vision is delightful. He hopes to create a live ecosystem of openly accessible audio news on the web so that audio stories can begin to be as revealing as text stories. But there is a significant problem with chicken and egg: while there are no more sources that work with Assistant and it can learn enough for users to provide the right stories, it cannot coincide with trying to just choose your preferred news provider and get it take
In theory, if you miss enough stories or sources, Google's algorithm will learn your preferences. You can also digest the Google Assistant system and impervious settings to find preferences for updating your news and prioritize or muffle different news sources.
Maybe if enough users do this, Google may be able to start a virtuous cycle of offering and searching for audio stories (and hopefully a better way to monetize this will come about) ). As much as I like this vision, the last thing I want to do before drinking my morning coffee is to participate in an early version of it that feels more like a beta test than a news broadcast.