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Digital Media

Google News app now taps AI for better personalization

The updated app was unveiled at the Google I/O developer conference Tuesday.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai at Google I/O 2018.

James Martin/CNET

Google updated its News app on Tuesday, adding artificial intelligence to help users find personalized stories and trustworthy sources.

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The new version of Google News will scan millions of articles, videos, podcasts and comments from around the web using AI to assemble them based on your interests, Trystan Upstill, an engineer working on the News product, told the Google I/O developer conference. He said the app wouldn't require users to give it their preferences, saying it would learn what users were interested in as they use it.

"Our AI constantly reads the firehose of the web for you," Upstill said.

Google News has become crucial to publishers looking for readership, so the revamped app could help them draw more eyeballs. Relying on Google for traffic, however, could create problems for publishers, as it did for publications that leaned on Facebook for clicks only to see the social network deemphasize news stories in its newsfeed.

The relationship also creates a natural business tension because most publishers rely on advertising dollars to fund their businesses, putting them in competition with Google and Facebook, which now control most of the digital ad spending in the US.

The new service starts rolling out on Google's Android, Apple's iOS and the web today. It is expected to be available in 127 countries by next week. 

The new app includes a feature called "full coverage" that will bring together tweets, timelines, fact-checks, analyses and additional content to offer a fuller perspective of the news. Upstill said the full coverage section will include the same information for all users and won't be personalized, which may help reduce the echo chamber that can be created by curated newsfeeds and news apps. 

A newsstand section will let users follow or subscribe to publications, with the help of Subscribe with Google, a new feature that's rolling out in the coming weeks. Subscribe with Google will allow people to sign up for paid newspapers and magazines without having to fill out a form or punch in payment information, instead simply logging in and paying using their Google sign-in information. That feature could please publishers, especially if it helps bring in more subscribers.

CEO Sundar Pichai  said the process is designed to help readers find reliable information more easily.

"At times like this it's more important than ever to support quality journalism," CEO Sundar Pichai told the crowd. "It's foundational to how democracies work."

Ad Age last week reported that a new Google News was on the way and would incorporate elements of the digital magazine Newsstand app and YouTube.

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