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During May 2018’s Google I/O developer conference, one of the most headline-grabbing announcements was the imminent arrival of a new Google News app.
In this article, we are going to take a quick dive into some of the newest features you need to know about. Keep reading to find out more. Note: The app is identical on both Android and iOS, so this article is applicable to both platforms.
1. Local and World News Powered by AI
The big headline is the arrival of AI-powered news.
The goal of the AI is two-fold. Firstly, it wants to show you more of the news stories you care about. Secondly, it aims to improve quality by only showing you articles from trustworthy sources.
This is a big step forward. Remember, there’s no editorial team at Google News; the app is not a hand-picked, curated list of content. Instead, Google has always relied on algorithms to deliver the most pertinent content to readers.
It’s those same AI algorithms which have become even more front-and-center in the new Google News.
However, since the announcement of the new app, we’ve not known how the increased focus on AI would translate into the user experience. Now we do. Let’s have a look.
2. You Can Train the AI
The first step towards getting the most out of the new AI functionality is to tell the app about your interests. Taking the time to set up this part of the app correctly will let it start working for you in a much shorter timeframe.
To begin, open the app and tap on the Favorites tab. The section is divided into four areas: Topics, Sources, Locations, and Saved Stories. If you’ve used Newsstand in the past, the first three sections will already be pre-populated with your previous preferences.
For any of the three sections, you can add your own selections. Click on View all and manage to get started. The app will offer suggestions based on your viewing history and other topics you’ve already subscribed to.
If you don’t see your desired topic, source, or location automatically listed, you can search for it using the box at the top of the window.
When you’ve finished customizing the various sections, it’s time to move onto the other tabs and see the AI in action.
3. For You: A Personal Daily News Brief
The For You section is the default greeting screen that you’ll see every time you open the new Google News app.
At the top, the app shows your Briefing. The briefing includes five news stories that the news algorithms think will be the most relevant to you, along with a weather forecast.
The algorithms use both your interests and your location to make the decision about what to display. The five stories will change throughout the day as news developers. The stories are a mix of global headlines and local news.
As you scroll further down the page, you’ll see more personalized news stories. The page offers infinite scroll, so you will never run out of things to read.
For each story you see, you can tell Google News whether to show you more or less content in a similar vein. You can also prevent a certain publication from popping up in your feed.
To provide the app with feedback on its recommendations, tap the three vertical dots in the lower right-hand corner of the news story’s card. On the context menu, choose either Hide all stories from [publication], More stories like this, or Fewer stories like this.
Note: To unhide stories from a particular source, go to Settings > Hidden in For You and unblock the content as appropriate.
4. Headlines: Read the Top Stories of the Day
Continuing through the tabs at the bottom of the screen, we come to the Headlines link.
Unlike For You, Google News does not customize the content Headlines section to match your interests. Instead, it offers all the top stories of the day across a number of broad categories. The stories can come from any source, even ones you’ve previously blocked.
Theoretically, the section tabs at the top of the screen should coincide with any customizations you made on the web app version of Google News.
However, the web app has been plagued with bugs since its redesign 18 months ago, and one of the features that often went awry was the customized tabs. It seems there are still issues; during my testing, the app was not picking up my preferences. Perhaps you will have better luck.
5. Full Coverage: Get the Full Story
Full Coverage is another of the app’s new features. It’s available on any story by tapping on the small multi-colored box icon in the corner of the story’s card. Tapping on the icon will take you to a dedicated page about the story in question.
The dedicated page offers readers five sections. They are Live Coverage, Top Coverage, Videos, From Twitter, and Timeline.
When using the Full Coverage feature, all users will see the same content. It is free of AI and machine learning.
One assumes the uniformity is part of Google’s intention to clamp down on fake news. Plans are still hazy at this stage, but we know the search giant has teamed up with First Draft and is creating a “Disinfo” lab to be used during elections and other contentious news events.
6. Newsstand: Follow the Sources You Trust
The final tab forms Newsstand’s new home. In case you’re not aware, Newsstand lets you subscribe to your favorite magazines and download them onto your device. Most of the subscriptions require a monthly fee.
When choosing a subscription, you can pay using your existing payment details that Google has on file. It’s part of the broader rollout of Subscribe with Google. The service will allow you to subscribe and pay for content directly from a publisher’s website using your Google payment details.
Partners already include The Financial Times, The New York Times, Mexico’s Reforma, Italy’s La Repubblica, The Telegraph, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
Is This the Next News Revolution?
When Google News came out of beta in January 2006, it changed the way we consumed news forever. Publishers and content creators were falling over themselves to get listed in the index, and more and more readers started heading straight to the app to get their daily fix of current affairs.
Since those early days, online news’ public image has taken a battering. Too many dubious sources and the outbreak of the fake news crisis has eroded the public’s trust in what they read online.
But maybe the new Google News and its AI-powered algorithms offers the perfect remedy. There’s a chance that it will change the news landscape in the same way that its predecessor did all those years ago.
And remember, if Google News still isn’t right for you, there are lots of other reputable news sites and sources out there. You just need to know where to look.