News is far and away the feature I use the most with Google Assistant. Every morning, I ask the Assistant “what’s in the news,” and it dutifully cycles through some pre-recorded news briefs from NPR, CNN and the like. It does the job, but it’s not much for specificity.

Google, however, is introducing tools to help developers target specific content based on queries. Per the example given in a new blog post, publishers can highlight a snippet of a story that will be read aloud when a user makes a request along the lines of “Hey Google, what’s the latest news on NASA?”Assistant will then read that portion aloud. The link to the full article is sent to the user’s mobile device and, once done, Assistant will ask if they want another.

It’s interesting to watch companies like Google and Amazon play around with these news reads. It seems no one has quite figured out the ideal length for audible news digests, but it appears to fall somewhere between a headline and full story. Or maybe it’s something more akin to bullet points, with the option to read on if the user wants more information.

Organizations like NPR and CNN do appear to have something of a head start, since a smart speaker briefing isn’t entirely dissimilar from getting your information from cable news or public radio. Short, distilled snippets certainly seem like the way to go. As more people use the service and the AIs become more advanced, it will be easier to tailor that information to specific users.

At the very least, this should provide a way to further customize those feeds — not to mention giving Google even more insight into what its users are searching for. The feature will only be available for U.S. English speakers at launch. 



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