Google makes it easier to find local news through Podcasts and Assistant

Google Nest speakers will read you local news, even if it only appeared in print.

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While news podcasts are increasingly popular, most focus on national and global news. It tends to be harder to find local news, especially in an on-demand, audio format. Google wants to change this. Today, it announced plans to bring Your News Update to Google Podcasts and to make it easier to listen to local news via Google Assistant.

If you subscribe to Your News Update in the Google Podcasts app, Google will offer a mix of short news stories based on your interests, location, user history and preferences. The tech should provide local and national news all in one place.

You’ll also be able to find local news through Google Assistant. When you ask a Google Nest smart speaker to “play local news” or “play news about [your city],” you’ll hear local news stories in both native audio and a text-to-speech voice. Google says you can think of the latter as its version of a newscaster — that could help fill the void of local audio reporting.

“This new voice model was trained on reading longer segments of text and goes beyond just reading words out loud by incorporating voice pitch, sound length and stress on certain words and syllables,” Google said in a blog post. “With this new technology, we can convert a wealth of content to audio for listeners while giving it a human touch.”

As part of its ongoing Google News Initiative, Google has been looking for ways to support local news. The company has worked to develop sustainable business models for local outlets, directed users to local COVID-19 info and created a dedicated sports hub. Tech giants like Google and Facebook have realized that it’s hard to find enough news to fill their local news services. While Google and Facebook likely played a part in the demise of local reporting, they haven’t given up on it just yet.