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Google brings audio news aggregation to smart speakers, phones

Google has launched what it calls “Your News Update,” an audio news feed that you access through the Google Assistant. Sources, which Google paid to license, include ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, AP, Politico, USAToday and many others — though apparently not NPR.

Users need to set up the audio feed as a news playlist, through the Google Assistant app. This was not intuitive on the iPhone. The .gif below shows how to do it.

Algorithmic curation. Users don’t pick desired news sources, they let the Google news gods determine which sources to play. It’s very much like the Apple News or Google News mobile apps in that respect. The inputs into that algorithmic determination include “Your interests, location, user history and preferences, as well as the top news stories out there.”

‘Play me the news.’ You initiate the audio by saying, “Hey Google, play me the news” on a smart speaker or smartphone (with the Google Assistant). Shorter stories, with source branding, give way to longer stories. Each story is separated by the voice of the Assistant acting as a kind of interstitial news DJ.

I haven’t tried it yet so it’s not clear how well it works and how reflective of my interests it will be. But it will offer local stories by virtue of the device’s location.

News aggregation is a mixed blessing for publishers. It can deliver traffic, branding and (some) monetization but for some it can also reinforce usage of the aggregation site, rather than drive traffic to the source.

Why we should care. In the past few years Google has been trying to build appealing consumer news products, while also boosting traffic and revenue for publishers. It’s doing something interesting here with “Your News Update.”

I suspect it will not be as widely used on smartphones — where news stories and video are easily accessible — compared with smart speakers or other audio-centric, screen-free environments such as Android Auto.

I could also imagine Google monetizing these news clips with audio ads (and revenue sharing) at some point if there’s a meaningful audience that develops.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

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