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Smart speakers get smarter

“There might be a dozen great new shows hidden inside your Google Home or lurking in Alexa’s brain — but if you don’t know how to ask a smart speaker for them, by name, you may never find them.”

For almost 100 years, news on the radio has been the constant companion of billions when their eyes and hands are busy and their minds are curious. 2019 will be the year radio — at least on smart speakers — begins to change in profound ways. Soon, we’ll be able to ask our smart speakers questions and have them answered not in a robot’s voice, but by connecting us with beautifully told stories. Broadcasts will begin on our schedule, when we’re ready to listen. They’ll speak to our unique interests and answer our questions. 2019 will be the year when Google and news partners all over the world will create a new interactive “radio.” Together, we’re building a new format that can listen to questions and connect listeners with answers.

For decades, starting a radio show was hard — there were gatekeepers and new shows were expensive to launch. Today those barriers to entry have collapsed, and newsrooms around the world are reaching new audiences and giving their work a powerful new voice.

The number of great audio journalism programs is exploding, and the line between newspapers and broadcasters is blurring. In less than two years, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vox, Axios, Gannett, and The Guardian have all launched new daily news podcasts. NPR, ABC, and the CBC have expanded their digital-first work as well.

While podcasting has created a wealth of new programs, radio journalism is not dead. It’s thriving. And smart speakers still face some big challenges. There might be a dozen great new shows hidden inside your Google Home or lurking in Alexa’s brain — but if you don’t know how to ask a smart speaker for them, by name, you may never find them.

Unlike conventional radios, smart speakers don’t have dials you can flip through to find something new. There is no “Discover Weekly” for news or podcasts. Spotify’s suggested playlists don’t really exist this world…yet. In 2019, the Google News Initiative is funding 40 smart-speaker projects in 10 languages with publishers and broadcasters from 19 countries. And we’re prototyping a new way to listen to the news on smart speakers and using artificial intelligence to make the experience better every time you tune in.

We believe that together, we can build a new kind of experience will allow listeners to explore the expanding world of audio journalism — and help publishers and broadcasters discover new devoted fans.

Steve Henn is news content lead for Google Assistant.

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Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

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Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

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Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

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Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

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Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

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Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

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Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

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Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

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Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

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Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

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Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

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Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

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Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

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Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

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Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

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Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

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Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

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Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

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Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

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Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

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Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

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Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

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Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

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Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0