- Google announced at its developer conference Tuesday it’s updating its Google News service.
- The revamped Google News will use artificial intelligence to create personalised news feeds for particular users and will make it easier for users to subscribe to publications.
- The changes come as Google and Facebook are under fire for promoting fake news and undermining the business model of traditional publishers.
In the furor over fake news and the dominance of the tech giants over the digital advertising industry, Google has seen far less scrutiny than Facebook.
The search giant on Tuesday announced steps that seem designed to make sure things stay that way.
Google is revamping its Google News service to make it easier for users to find stories from credible news sources and to subscribe to those publications. Using artificial intelligence, the updated service will automatically highlight stories it thinks users will be interested in, but it will also make it easier for them to get in-depth information on particular topics.
“We are using AI to bring forward the best of what journalism has to offer,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai while unveiling the revised service at the company’s annual developer conference in Mountain View, California. “We want to give users quality sources that they trust.”
The new service, which Google plans to start rolling out Tuesday in 127 countries, will offer a customised news feed for each user based on what the company knows about their interests and where they live. At the top of the feed will be the five most relevant articles for each user.
“It works right out of the box,” said Trystan Upstill, Google’s head of News product and engineering. The system is designed to become better attuned to your interests over time, he said, adding, “The more you use it, the better it gets.”
The service will also offer users an overview of the top headlines from around the world – not just those of personal interest to particular people. And the service will group together articles on specific topics.
Google News is touting “full coverage” of topics and easier ways to subscribe
Users who want more information on those topics will be able to tap or click on a “full coverage” button. Once there, they will see top recent headlines on those topics, timelines of events, and lists of frequently asked questions concerning the topics. Again, Google is relying on AI to collect stories and other information for these topics – and the system works in real time as events happen and new stories are published, Upstill said.
“This is by far the most powerful feature of the app and provides a whole new way to dig into the news,” he said.
As part of the updates, Google is also rolling out a new feature that will allow users to easily subscribe to publications. Instead of having to fill out their personal information or type in their credit cards, users can sign into and pay for subscriptions via their Google accounts. And they will be able to use their Google accounts across multiple publications, rather than having to create separate credentials for each service they subscribe to.
“This is one of the many steps we’re taking to make it easier to access dependable, high quality information when and where it matters most,” Upstill said.
The company plans to start offering the Subscribe with Google feature “in coming weeks,” he said.
Google and Facebook have drawn criticism for undermining publishers
The updates to Google News come amid a growing debate about the role of the tech giants, particularly Google and Facebook, in the news business. Both companies came under fire for allowing their services to be hijacked to spread propaganda by Russian-linked groups during the 2016 election.
Additionally, with Facebook and Google accounting for the vast majority of digital advertising revenue and a growing portion of all ad revenue, they have been accused of undermining news publications and other advertising-dependent businesses. Some competitors and public policy makers have started to call for regulators to intervene.
The announcements follow moves by Facebook to revamp how it handles news. The social networking company has been de-emphasising posts from organisations including news publications and is attempting to promote only those stories that come from sources that are broadly recognised as credible.
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