As smart speakers proliferate and enter people’s homes, voice as a platform continues to develop and mature. Google is now exploring the “future of audio news” on Assistant with Google News and publications around the world. Asking for news on phones or Google Home will become more personalized and better at delivering updates throughout the day.
Google notes how “radio has been a one-size-fits-all medium” for the past century. It lacks context — a big trend in today’s personalized technology — because listeners are “dropped into a show at a moment in time — regardless of what you already know, where you are, or what you’re interested in.”
Imagine instead if you could have your own radio, one that’s available on-demand, accessible throughout your day, and brings you news about the world and your interests.
For the past year, Google has been working with publishers around the world on the future of audio news. This includes the Associated Press, Hollywood Reporter, Universo Online, South China Morning Post, and 16 other publications.
The result is an audio news feed that “brings the artificial intelligence of Google News to the voice context of the Assistant.” At the moment, Google allows users to customize what sources they hear, but the news is essentially whole, short-form podcasts from publications.
The new experience assembles a news playlists specifically for you “in that moment” based on your interests and what you have previously followed. It is comprised of single stories and topics rather than an entire show or briefing.
It starts with a briefing of top stories and updates on topics you care about, and extends into longer-form content that dives deeper into more stories.
However, the feature truly excels when users want to learn more throughout the day with Assistant able to provide updates to the stories you have already heard.
At any point in your day when you want to listen to the latest news — as a morning wake-up, during your commute, or while jogging — the Google Assistant will be ready with new stories and updates to the ones you’ve already heard. Plus, using your voice, you can easily ask the Google Assistant to skip a story, go back or stop.
Google created an open specification for any publication to participate, with the current prototype focussed on “single-topic stories — segmented out from newscasts or shows — to contribute to the audio news feed.” English-language publishers can begin submitting content for inclusion in the new Assistant experience.
This effort is a part of the Google News Initiative and reflects the company’s work to support journalism.
To help with this, the Google News Initiative provided funding to a number of news organizations, such as KQED and McClatchy, to support building out more audio capabilities for the industry as a whole.
This revamped news experience for Google Assistant will roll out first to a limited number of people via the Google Assistant in the United States and English.