Google has updated its Your News Update news aggregation tool to create a more fluid listening experience. The service, which was launched in November 2019 and includes content from news and news/talk stations owned by iHeartMedia, Entercom and public radio operators, gathers news clips from numerous outlets and plays them back in a continuous audio feed. The skill is launched on voice-activated devices with the command, “Hey Google, play me the news.”
The tweaks to Yours News Update will now have the playback sounding more like a radio newscast, Wired reports, with “short clips about the big headlines up front that gradually shift into longer, more detailed stories.” Your News Update has been added to the Google Podcast app with the new features, allowing users to “listen to a mix of short news stories chosen in that moment based on your interests, location, user history and preferences,” Liz Gannes Product Manager, News wrote in a blog post.
Gannes said the enhanced tool “is made possible by applying Google News’ deep understanding of news stories to the audio format and personalizing what you hear… This technology enables us to create playlists of stories that are always up-to-date and customized for everyone who’s using Your News Update. This format helps people hear stories from a variety of local and national publishers all in one place.”
Users of voice-activated devices can still access the tool with the exiting command, or by saying “Hey Google, play news about [your city],” which will access a mix of native audio and text-to-speech local news stories.
The previous version of the tool announced the news outlet and date of the story prior to playback using the default computerized voice assistant. “Now the service comes with its own ‘newscaster’ voice, which was developed with the goal of capturing some of the nuance and emphasis you’d hear from sentient news anchor,” the Wired piece explains. Text-to-speech stories are read by one of eight new male and female voices.
“It's a bunch of stories, but we don't want it to feel like we're just pulling stuff out of a hat,” Hannah McBride, a conversation designer at Google told the tech publication. “So, we have this voice that is sort of connecting it all. It introduces each topic and, in some cases, will even be really specific about what the story is about. It will guide you through the experience.”