Your guide to the new AI-powered Google News app

16 May 2018

The Google News app is now available on Android and iOS. Image: Alexander_G/Shutterstock

The revamped Google News app aims to make finding tailored news easier for users.

The plethora of news sites and media outlets coexisting online can be overwhelming for even the most engaged current-affairs readers, but Google hopes its newly polished News app will make things easier for users who want to keep up to date with what matters to them.

While the new app launched on Android a few days ago, it was added to the App Store for iOS on 15 May and is available in 127 countries around the world.

Filtering the news manually seems like a mammoth task at times, so the AI element of Google News aims to learn from what you read in order to serve you a better content selection as time passes.

A better user experience

The app, which replaces Google Play Newsstand, has a clean and easy-to-navigate layout. On first opening, the ‘For You’ tab shows you the top five stories of the moment with selected opinion articles and longer pieces to read below the bulletin.

‘Headlines’ is more of an in-depth look at the latest news, covering all the usual topics from technology and politics to entertainment and science reporting. Selecting a story means the user is greeted with a range of stories, videos and other content as well as a useful timeline of events. This feature means users will not solely be served a biased selection of news, but will be exposed to the same stories as everyone else.

‘Favourites’ is a way for users to customise Google News without the use of AI. It lets you choose topics you enjoy, as well as selecting locations relating to you. A useful option allows you to save your searches and stories for later.

Making subscribing easier

‘Newsstand’ aggregates media and will eventually offer thousands of magazine titles users can follow by subscribing or selecting a start icon. Publications featured here will support the Google AMP standard, meaning pages will load swiftly and you won’t be jumping from the app to your browser.

In an effort to work more collaboratively with publishers, a new feature due soon called ‘Subscribe with Google’ will let outlets and websites offer subscription-based content. Users can use their Google account to avail of these offers once the feature is rolled out.

The dramatic redesign of the News app may lure people away from the popular Apple version, but time is needed to gauge the general reaction to the new offering.

Google creates storylines

Trystan Upstill, Google News engineering and product lead, said: “The reimagined Google News uses a new set of AI techniques to take a constant flow of information as it hits the web, analyse it in real time and organise it into storylines.

“This approach means Google News understands the people, places and things involved in a story as it evolves, and connects how they relate to one another. At its core, this technology lets us synthesise information and put it together in a way that helps you make sense of what’s happening, and what the impact or reaction has been.”

He told Digital Trends: “If you load it up out of the box with nothing in it, you’ll get an experience which you can begin to customise. In terms of how it works out of the box for a logged-in user, we use your activity from your Google account.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects