Google Assistant Adds Personalized News Based on Preferences and Geography, Here’s What to Expect
Google announced yesterday the new Your News Update feature. Liz Gannes, Google product manager for news, commented in a blog post, “Your News Update will begin with a mix of short news stories chosen in that moment based on your interests, location, user history and preferences, as well as the top news stories out there.”
Your News Update is available only in English in the U.S. right now but Gannes indicated in the post that the service “will expand internationally next year.” The sources for Your News Update are varied but limited. Forty-seven news organizations are listed in the announcement which includes national news organizations such as AP, CNN, Fox News, and USA Today, along with regional and specialty news providers such as local CBS and Entercom radio stations, Marketplace, Politico, and Wired.
Obvious Comparison to Alexa Flash Briefing
It is worth noting that activating Your News Update pre-empts the News Playlist which has been in place since 2016. There are radio buttons where one or the other can be selected. News Playlist offers users the option to select a number of news outlets and arrange them in a preferred order. Your News Update takes away that curated control in favor of what Google expects to be “most relevant to a particular user’s interests.”
The obvious comparison is to Flash Briefings on Alexa which also offers users a stream of news stories in sequence. However, that sequence is defined by the user selecting which sources they prefer and in which order. That matches more closely to Google’s News Playlist. The better comparison for the dynamic and personalized audio news feed of Your News Update is Audioburst which is available through a variety of content publishers and within new iOS and Android mobile apps.
“It is good to see Google breaking away from its text-based focus to expose more people to the rich and plentiful audio news content available today. The initial Your News Update content catalog is narrow, but I suspect it will grow over time. With tens of millions of regular Google Assistant users, this opens the door to even greater audio distribution and I suspect more demand for well-indexed, short audio clips,” said Amir Hirsh, co-founder and CEO of Audioburst, in an interview with Voicebot.
It will be particularly interesting to see how Google’s competitors respond to match this move.
Hirsh added, “It will be particularly interesting to see how Google’s competitors respond to match this move. Also, pay attention to the automotive OEMs. This is the type of news service that their customers want while driving but, of course, using this service connects drivers directly with Google and keeps all of the data and personalization with Google and not the automaker.”
What It’s Like to Use Your News Update from Google
I listened to my Your News Update feed for just over an hour. It was notably segmented into a six-minute block of 1-2 minute stories followed by a “warning” that I was about to hear some longer stories. The longer segments ranged from 6-12 minutes and seemingly can go on infinitely. Below is the sequence of stories I received this morning.
Your morning news update will have fresh stories customized just for you.
- AP: Impeachment update (2 minutes)
- AP: Senate bill on Hong Kong (1 minute)
- Evening Standard: U.S. forces in Afghanistan (1 minute)
- Locked-on Podcast Network, Locked-on the Vikings: Kurt Cousins and his chances for the NFL MVP (1 minute)
- Evening Standard: Music streaming options are limited (1 minute)
Now get ready for some longer stories.
- Washington Post: Social unrest in Latin America (10 minutes)
- Newsy: Colin Kapernick NFL tryouts (5 minutes)
- Cheddar: Google Stadia (6 minutes)
- Wired spoken edition: Google AI tools (8 minutes)
- Cheddar: Qualcomm and 5G, executive interview (12 minutes)
- Marketplace: Holiday shopping, shipping, and tariffs (7 minutes)
- Daily Beast: Culture segment on “Mad About You” television show reboot (9 minutes)
- Evening Standard: Climate change
Why I’m getting three stories from a UK news outlet that are not about the UK, is hard to explain. It may be a function of a limited number of news partners at launch or lack of actual personalization. I definitely use Google a lot, but rarely for news other than tech-related news. Granted, there were four tech-oriented stories of the 13 I received, but that doesn’t seem unusual based on the prevalence of tech in news coverage.
The Rise of the Ear
Considering Audioburst’s focus on a personalized audio news feed, news this week from Spotify about customized podcast playlists, and Google’s Your News Update, it is clear that several companies believe some sort of personalized audio is attractive to consumers. Radio remains the media with the broadest reach among consumers and Edison Research found that there are now 90 million monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. After a decade of slavish devotion to screen time it now seems like consumers will have more opportunities to shift their digital content consumption to ear time. The question now is how best to deliver these new experiences.
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