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Google partners with publishers to bring audio news feeds to the Assistant

The search giant will use its algorithms to tell you the news.

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- 02:04
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Google updated a news feature for its smart speakers and phones.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Google on Tuesday said it's bringing personalized audio news playlists to its Assistant software. The new feature will use the search giant's algorithms and vast amounts of user data to tee up a feed of news stories tailor-made for individual people, based on their interests.

People can set up the feature in their app settings.

Google

For the tool, called Your News Update, Google partnered with several publishers, including The Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, and CBS Local (one of CNET's sister properties). To use the new feature, people can ask their Google Home smart speakers or phones to "play me the news." Google's software will then play a mix of stories for the listener, like an international news story or a sports update. Before each story, the Assistant will tell you the name of the news outlet that wrote the story that'll be playing next. 

Previously, Google Assistant had news updates, but they were generalized and based only on what news organizations people already listed in their preferences. Now Google is tapping into its personal data on consumers to try to predict what they might want to hear. However, Google said users can choose between the new and old news formats.

The heavy emphasis on algorithms could spark concerns about "filter bubbles," the idea of reinforcing a worldview that someone already holds because they aren't exposed to anything else on a social or tech platform. 

Reached for comment, Google pushed back against the suggestion that the product could perpetuate filter bubbles. The company said picking news stories by topic instead of publication could expose users to certain news stories they wouldn't have previously asked for. Google also said it's partnering with news sources across the political spectrum. 

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Google partnered with several news organizations.

Google

The update comes as tech giants have made bigger investments within the news industry. For decades, publishers have bristled at platforms like Google and Facebook, complaining that tech giants have distributed their content but undermined their advertising business model. 

Last month, Facebook partnered with publishers to launch a tab dedicated to news stories. Apple in March launched Apple News Plus, a $9.99 subscription service that shares revenue with publishers. But since its launch, the service has reportedly struggled to gain new customers.

Google's new audio news feeds are now available in English in the US. They'll expand to other countries next year.