Google Assistant Becomes a Personalized Local Newscaster, Expands Feature to Podcast Playlist
Google Assistant will now read out text-based local news as part of the Your News Update feature of personalized stories The stories will also be incorporated into a playlist available on the Google Podcasts platform. The expansion comes about a year after Your News Update first debuted with stories mainly from national and international sources, and expands on the localization for COVID-19 stories specifically that Google introduced in June.
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Owners of Google Nest smart speakers and other devices who ask the voice assistant to play local news or for news about their city will hear both locally relevant pieces and major national and international stories. Google Assistant analyzes the vast number of potential stories to share to find the ones relevant to the particular user. The clips will include those designed for audio, as well as text stories that Google Assistant will read aloud. The text-to-speech voices are new and are supposed to sound more natural specifically for reading the news, like having an AI newscaster.
“To help you listen to text-based stories more easily, this feature uses new text-to-speech voices that sound more natural and well-suited for reading the news—think of it as our version of a newscaster. This new voice model was trained on reading longer segments of text and goes beyond just reading words out loud by incorporating voice pitch, sound length and stress on certain words and syllables,” Google explained in a blog post. “With this new technology, we can convert a wealth of content to audio for listeners while giving it a human touch.”
Bringing the personalized news feature to Google Podcasts as a playlist to subscribe to will likely up the number of listeners too. Google has been working to grow its podcast listener base partly as a way to bring them into the Google Assistant smart home ecosystem, and personalized news will likely help with that. It’s of a piece with how it began transcribing episodes and integrating podcast episodes into search results on its website and through Google Assistant last year.
While it may have been on Google’s long-term agenda, this kind of personalized news access in both audio and text-to-speech form is particularly in-demand at the moment. Streaming audio, especially podcasts, are more popular than ever, with studies finding growth in both supply and demand for audio content as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis and people being stuck at home. A report from May found that smart speakers are becoming a more significant source for news and entertainment, including through podcasts. of people’s news and entertainment, with younger adults at the top of the list. Competition is fierce and Google Podcasts are far from the first option most people think of, so improving its local news coverage and making it accessible via podcasts is the best combo for Google as it tries to edge out Apple, Spotify, and other podcast platforms.