¿Quien Soy?

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I’m Brenda Patricia Salinas Baker. I’m a trilingual public radio producer living in New York. I was awarded the highly competitive Kroc Fellowship at NPR in 2012. Since then I have reported pieces for NPR’s flagship programs, Marketplace and PRI’s The World as well as a number of podcasts including Life of the Law. I have a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University and I’m pursing my MFA in Creative Writing from The Writer’s Foundry. I was one of the founding producers of the Texas Standard, a daily news magazine show that broadcasts state-wide from KUT in Austin. I helped re-launch NPR’s Latino USA as a full-hour show and have reported original stories for the show as a freelancer. I was a founding producer of the personalized radio start-up 60dB where I reported original stories and helped publishers bring their print-pieces to audio life. I’m now working at Google where my team is re-imagining the future of radio.

I’m committed to building a media landscape where every woman of color has the power to tell her story. I am proud to be an NPR Next Generation mentor, a board member on the Association of Independents in Radio, an Advisory Council member of the PRX/PRI Podcast Creators’ Program and a coach to young woman breaking into the world of public radio. The world needs our stories.

Want to know more? Follow me on Twitter or shoot me a note. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Press: Ways to Stay Informed on Coronavirus News

I’m proud of the work my team is doing at Google to surface high-quality coronavirus news. As an audio content strategist at Google, I worked on the audio efforts highlighted in bold below.

Get the full story on Google’s Keyword blog. 

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Around the world, people are turning to the news to understand the evolving coronavirus pandemic. We’re working to help people find and engage with quality news across our products to stay informed on COVID-19 developments.

Surfacing the latest authoritative coverage

The new COVID-19 experience on Google News pulls together and organizes all the latest news at the global and local level and provides easy access to the latest guidance regarding prevention, symptoms, and treatment from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other authoritative sources. This feature is available across iOS, Android and web platforms in more than 20 countries and will be coming to more in the upcoming weeks.

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When people look for coronavirus information on Google Search, we show the latest news coverage at the top of their results. Given the fast-moving nature of coronavirus news, we’re working to ensure people receive the most up-to-date stories from broadly trusted sources in their Search results. These news results are part of our comprehensive COVID-19 experience in Search, which provides easy access to authoritative health information and data.

On Google Assistant, we’ve expanded our coronavirus news coverage to provide the latest updates in more languages. Now when you ask, “Hey Google, what’s the latest news on coronavirus?” Google will give timely updates from relevant news providers. This experience is available globally on mobile devices and in more than 10 languages on smart speakers and smart displays.

Providing context to understand the full story

With so much new information about COVID-19 constantly coming online, it’s important not only to understand the latest news but also to gain context on various aspects of the story.

The Google News COVID-19 feature organizes stories by topic such as the economy, health care and travel—as well as by region so people can better understand the pandemic’s impact around the world. We’re also experimenting with how to best include a dedicated fact check section in this COVID-19 experience to highlight fact-check articles that address potentially harmful health misinformation.

Podcasts provide a way for people to engage more deeply with different aspects of the coronavirus story. In the past several weeks, dozens of new high-quality podcasts about coronavirus have launched, and many established shows have focused their coverage on the virus. As part of the recently redesigned Google Podcasts app, we’ve added a dedicated carousel in several languages to connect people to these podcasts to help understand the coronavirus’ impact from a variety of perspectives.

Highlighting important local news and information

Local news plays a critical role in informing people about the virus’ impact in their communities. The COVID-19 feature in Google News puts local news front and center with a dedicated section highlighting the latest authoritative information about the virus from local publishers in your area. This feature is available today in more than 10 countries and will expand to additional countries in the coming weeks.

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In Search, we’re surfacing Tweets from local authorities, as they provide important announcements about the virus to their communities. On Google Assistant, we’re working to help people access coronavirus news about a particular location, and we’re now able to provide more specific answers to requests in English like “Hey Google, play news about coronavirus in New York.” And in the past month, more than half of listens to our audio news feature Your News Update have included a coronavirus story from a local news outlet.

We’ll continue to work on highlighting high-quality, relevant news about COVID-19 for people around the world over the coming weeks.

Press: Public Media and the Limits of Diversity

I was thrilled to be interviewed by activist and journalist Lewis Wallace about my perspective on the limits of diversity initiatives in public media.

Get the full transcript of my interview here.

Former public radio reporter Brenda Salinas and former public television producer Cecilia Garcia reflect on how far public media hasn’t come on “diversity” in the last forty years—and why. Also: how producers of color can protect their magic. Lewis and Ramona share their experiences in public media, and suggest a different framework for thinking about “diversity.” Salinas, an NPR Kroc Fellow and a producer at KUT Austin, describes how she was pushed out of public media by racism and sexism; Garcia, creator of the bilingual Latino newsmagazine Para mi Pueblo, sat on a task force in 1977 calling for the kind of diversity public media still struggles with.

Exciting News: Google Launches ‘Your News Update’

The Google product we’ve been working on in the two years since the 60dB acquisition launched this week. I’m so proud to be a part of this important step forward in the future of radio. For more information, check out our Google blog post.

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Podcasting and digital audio are booming, but in many ways the audio web is like the text web of the 1990s. When newspapers first came online, their early sites were hard to navigate and search, didn’t link stories together and often published stories on the web after they went to print. Audio is similar today. It’s an evocative, powerful, massively popular and convenient medium—but because the digital experience has lagged, it’s difficult to find things, especially timely, relevant stories that are meaningful to you. 

At Google, we saw an opportunity to help move digital audio forward by focusing on audio news. By analyzing what’s being said within a given audio file, we can apply our understanding around what text articles are about, how news stories evolve, how topics link together and what might be most relevant to a particular user’s interests.

Today, we’re introducing Your News Update, a smarter way to listen to the news hosted by the Google Assistant. You can try it today by updating your Assistant news settings.

 

Your News Update settings

When you say, “Hey Google, play me the news” on any Assistant-enabled phone or smart speaker, Your News Update will begin with a mix of short news stories chosen in that moment based on your interests, location, user history and preferences, as well as the top news stories out there.

If you’re a Steelers fan who follows the stock market and lives in Chicago, for example, you might hear a story about the latest “L” construction, an analysis of last Thursday’s Steelers game and a market update, in addition to the latest national headlines. Keep listening and the experience will extend into longer-form content that dives deeper on your interests. In between stories, the Google Assistant serves as your smart news host that introduces which publishers and updates are next.

In 2016, we launched our initial News on Assistant product, with news briefings from top publishers. In 2018, we enhanced this functionality with the ability to get spoken responses to news queries on your Google Home—like “Hey Google, what’s the latest news about Brexit?” Your News Update expands on that work by creating an experience that’s fresher and more tailored to you.

Collaborations with publishers from around the world over nearly two years have helped us imagine the future of audio news, and have reinforced the importance of building a healthy ecosystem for both listeners and publishers. And of course, the high-quality stories our partners provide are critical to creating a comprehensive yet intimate news experience for listeners. 

Partners for Your News Update

Your News Update is now available in English in the United States, and will expand internationally next year. You can find Your News Update in Assistant settings: Under the You tab, navigate to News and switch your News playlist format. Then say “Hey Google, play me the news” or add news to one of your Assistant Routines.”

Check out what other people had to say about our exciting launch:

USA Today: Google debuts personalized news feed

Fast Company: After conquering print, Google News is invading audio

Fortune: Google Partners With Media Outlets to Launch a News Update Audio Service for Assistant

The Verge: Google is putting an algorithmic audio news feed on its Assistant

TechCrunch:  Google Assistant introduces personalized playlists of audio news

Search Engine Land: Google brings audio news aggregation to smart speakers, phones

CNET: Google partners with publishers to bring audio news feeds to the Assistant

Venturebeat: Google Assistant will prioritize briefs over longform audio news

Android Authority: Google Assistant audio news clips will be better catered to you

9to5Google: Google Assistant launching personalized audio news feed w/ shorter stories & updates

Thurrot.com: Google Assistant is Getting AI-Powered Audio News

Radio and Internet News: Google Assistant launches personalized news stream

Seeking Alpha: Google Assistant launches personalized news playlists

Engadget: Google Assistant’s latest feature is a personalized audio news feed

Android Central: Google’s Assistant can now present you a curated selection of audio news

Slashgear: Google Assistant gets personalized audio news feed feature

AllAccessMusicGroup: Google Launches ‘Your News Update’ Briefing For Google Assistant

 

What a ride! And it’s only the beginning. Stay tuned.

The Future of Radio

In 1962 a cartoon called The Jetsons premiered on American television. The premise was simple: what would life look like for an American family in 2062? 

The protagonist, the family patriarch was named George Jetson. This is George Jetson’s commute to work. This is how George jetson walked his dog, Astro. How he brushed his teeth. How he got his news.

This is George’s wife, Jane Jetson. In the 50s, the men who created The Jetsons, and they were men, imagined a future with flying cars, video conferencing, smart watches, electric toothbrushes, But they couldn’t imagine a future where a mom worked outside the home. I mean, Jane had a robot maid, what exactly what was she doing all day?

All this to say, as futurists we’re very good at dreaming up new technology. But we’re not so good at predicting all the ways the technology we build might change us. 

That’s what I want to talk to you about. You’ve likely been hearing all about new technologies that might change the way you reach your audience. Now, I want you to challenge you to imagine how that same technology might affect your newsrooms and the work they do from the inside out. Come on this time-hopping journey with me. 

I love this tweet. It reminds me that humans have been telling each other great stories as long as we’ve been around as a species. Our reptile brains didn’t evolve to read and write. They evolved to tell each other stories. The earliest examples of literature, like The Odyssey or the Epic of Gilgamesh, were oral traditions meant to be performed in front of a crowd. 

In the 1890s when Marconi created his radio, the crowd you were performing in front of suddenly got a lot bigger. It was world changing technology. He unlocked the story’s potential to travel across the air. All of a sudden you could broadcast your voice to people miles and miles away. 

Radio is magic. It captures our imagination and inspires us to consider experiences and perspectives other than our own. We gather around it in our living room. That was true in the 1930s, and it’s true today. The research we have shows that families gather around smart speakers in their living rooms, kitchens and cars. 

And do you know what’s one the most common things that people ask their smart speakers to do? Tell me a story. Like Marconi’s radio, this technology is world-changing. Think about it. We have these affordable, high fidelity speakers everywhere that make all the audio in the world searchable, and they actually understand what we say. It’s amazing.

But it’s still VERY early days. The world of audio looks the way the World Wide Web looked in 1996 – this was the Wall Street Journal’s home page. It’s clunky: no links between stories, it looks bad, not user friendly, we don’t really know how it’s going to shape out. Here are problems that technologists say they’re solving for right now: 

  1. Giving creators new tools and platforms to tell better stories
  2. Getting the right story to the right listener at the right time. 

But I want to fast forward to the future, let’s imagine what the Radio of the Future might look like once these problems are solved. This is what I see when I close my eyes and think of the future. Radio that’s more on-demand, data-driven and interactive

What you see when you close your eyes might be a little different, that’s okay. I just want to show you how I go from the technology to its creative implications, and like a science fiction author, I want to invite you to do the same with the technologies you’re most excited about. So let’s hop in to my imagination. 

You might ask yourself, why are tech platforms obsessed with audio all of a sudden? Radio has been around forever. Here’s some context. In the last few years, improvements in machine learning have powered automatic transcription that’s cheap, quick and accurate. That transcription makes it possible, with enough computing power, to treat mp3 files like text. Before ML, mp3 files were like black boxes. Now it’s possible for computers to know what an mp3 file is talking about without the use of metatags. 

If we can treat mp3 files like text, we could link between them. What might it be like to fall into an audio rabbit hole? What would it look like to have programming that expands and contracts depending on how much time a listener has or where they are in their day? With better personalization what’s news to me might be slightly different than what’s news to you. It used to be that you had one giant antenna for your whole audience. Now, as a broadcaster you have many antennas for many audiences

In a future where you don’t just have one big audience, but many, I think having a diverse newsroom is more important than ever. Look around your newsrooms right now, what talent are you overlooking? Who could you start developing right now? I think you could future-proof your newsroom by hiring more people that look like your audience and training them today! 

In the radio of the future, the role of editors might change. They’ll still be really important, Editors are the ones who decide what’s news. But it used to be that one of the main functions of an editor was choosing which stories went into the circular file – the trash can. You only had so much air time. But with dynamic on-demand radio, they won’t have that problem. In this version of the future, I think the best editors won’t be the gatekeepers. They’ll be the champions. The advocates. And they’ll have an incredible tool in their tool belt: data. 

With data, we can overcome our personal biases to make better informed editorial decisions. It’s no longer I like this, I don’t like that. A savvy editor could learn about their audience and what works for them. We can use data to tell better stories. With second by second analytics, we’ll make better choices about our craft. We could A/B test a lead, for example. We can question everything! 

Lastly, in the future, I think listening to a great piece of audio will no longer be a strictly passive, linear experience. We have platforms that speak to back to us and understand what we say. 

Here’s another example I mocked up. My friend and colleague Lewis Wallace’s beat is LGBTQ+ issues. He’s found that when he’s telling a story for his own community, he tells it one way. But when he’s talking to a general audience he simplifies it, changes it. What if he didn’t have to? What if when I didn’t understand something, I could interrupt him and ask, just like when we have a conversation in real life?

Now, I don’t want it to sound like I’m reinventing the wheel. The idea of interactive radio is not new. Think about the ubiquity of call-in shows. They’ve been around forever. The first interactive radio show in the U.S. was called America’s Town Meeting of the Air. It aired in 1935. 

Go ahead and listen to it. You might feel like the topic of the show sounds familiar: “Will the Machine Dominate Man?” Will the Machine automate man? No! It wasn’t true in 1935 and it’s not true today. Great storytelling isn’t going anywhere, because the art of telling a story hasn’t changed for thousands of years. We are about to enter a Golden Age of Radio.

If you’re someone who is creative, intellectually curious and game for experimentation, I think the future of radio is going to be great for you. I know because we are going to build it together. 

 

 

 

 

A colony of feral parakeets has invaded London

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Get the full story on PRI’s The World.

London is at the center of a very loud mystery. A colony of feral parakeets has taken over the British capital. Nobody knows how the small, green birds originating from South Asia and Central Africa came to be in the capital city. While some Londoners consider the foreign birds to be a threat to native birds, others have adopted the colorful parakeet as an unofficial city mascot.

Parakeets are a type of small parrot that is frequently kept as a pet by people all over the world. But in London, if you want to play with a parakeet, you can skip the pet store and go straight to a park.

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Since moving to London from Australia, Alysia Micali feeds the parakeets in Hyde Park every week. “I love birds, and I think it’s just really awesome to hang out with them and feed them,” Micali said. “It’s just fun to do in the city that you don’t find anywhere else and they’re wild, so they’re not in a cage or anything.” Micali warns that the birds can get a little bit aggressive if you run out of food.

After living in London for nine years, writer Nick Hunt realized that the number of parakeets was rapidly multiplying. At the last official roost count in 2012, researchers counted over 32,000 feral parakeets living in London.

Hunt teamed up with photographer Tim Mitchell on a book called “The Parakeeting of London: An Adventure in Gonzo Ornithology.”

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Hunt and Mitchell first set out to debunk some of the urban legends about how the parrots first came to London, like the story that musician Jimi Hendrix released a breeding pair on Carnaby Street after a wild night in the 1960s. “Nobody seems to have known him to keep parakeets,” Hunt said. “I think one of the reasons this myth is so potent is that they can have a kind of Jimi Hendrix quality, they’re kind of bright, garishly dressed and they have a harsh kind of grating sound that hasn’t really been heard in the city before.”

Another urban legend states that the parakeets were released on the set of the film “The African Queen” in 1950. Mitchell thinks that’s bogus. “We’ve fastidiously watched that film and there’s not a single parakeet in it,” he said.

The true origin story is significantly less dramatic. The social birds probably escaped from Victorian aviaries and adapted to city life. That has happened in many other places around the world, like Brussels and San Francisco.

“Geographically, they have a very broad range,” Mitchell said. “And we have loads and loads of trees in the cities in this country.”

Pubs, rugby clubs and even a local beer company have adopted the feral parakeet as a London mascot, but some Londoners see the loud birds as an invasive species. “People who don’t like them say they’re a threat to native British birds,” Hunt said.

The rapidly multiplying parakeets compete with smaller birds for resources like nests and food, and they’re a nuisance to local food crops. However, the British government has decided they’re not a big enough threat to cull the flock.

Hunt and Mitchell believe human activity is a bigger threat to the native bird population than the introduction of foreign parakeets. “The reason why I think kingfishers and woodpeckers are in decline isn’t because of a few tens of thousands of parakeets,” Hunt said. “It’s habitat loss, climate change and pollution.”

London’s parakeets also benefit from the warming climate. In the last 20 years, London has seen 19 of the warmest winters on record. “We got into some interesting thoughts and conversations about the meaning of what is native,” Hunt said. “Does it even make sense in an age where climate is shifting to have this idea of native?”

No matter how they originally came to London, feral parakeets are likely here to stay and to squawk, proving it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you thrive.

Wimbledon, Steeped In Tradition, Embraces Artificial Intelligence

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Get the full story on NPR.

Match highlights at Wimbledon are selected and assembled by robots. Artificial intelligence is used to pick the most dramatic moments, making those judgments by crowd noise and player gestures.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Wimbledon is in its second week, a tennis tournament steeped in tradition and also embracing artificial intelligence. We should note that a company that makes AI, IBM, is a financial supporter of NPR on our way to letting you know that Wimbledon is using AI to produce highlights of the most exciting moments much more quickly than a human producer. But how does a computer program know what makes for good tennis? At Wimbledon, Brenda Salinas explains.

BRENDA SALINAS, BYLINE: Fans from all over the world are gathered around 18 grass tennis courts cheering on their favorite players.

(CHEERING)

SALINAS: In this match, Russian Daniil Medvedev faces off against the Italian Paolo Lorenzi.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Twenty, 15.

SALINAS: But I’m not watching the tennis drinking a traditional Pimm’s cocktail. I’m in a basement where engineers use that very sound you’re hearing to power an artificially intelligent program.

ALEXANDRA WILLIS: We are in the room affectionately known as The Bunker.

SALINAS: Alexandra Willis heads up digital marketing at Wimbledon. She shows me the IBM dashboard that can automatically determine what parts of a tennis match are the most exciting for fans to watch. Every match is automatically clipped and ranked according to three categories.

WILLIS: The first is the noise of the crowd. So how they react to that particular point.

SALINAS: The computer program knows what point in the match it is.

WILLIS: So was it break point? Was it an ace? What kind of point was it?

SALINAS: And lastly, the tricky bit, what emotions the human tennis player is feeling.

WILLIS: So are they fist pumping? Are they actually looking in complete despair?

SALINAS: That’s right, the computer can tell whether a tennis player is celebrating or wincing in despair.

WILLIS: For a while, player gestures, it was picking up this movement – wiping your face – and thinking, is that some kind of celebration? Actually, it was the player saying, I want my towel. So that’s the whole beauty of this, is that we have to test it and learn it constantly.

SALINAS: Wimbledon has been using this technology for three years, but this year, it says it’s smarter than ever. The highlight reels get distributed all over Wimbledon’s digital properties, including on the Jumbotrons and its YouTube channel. IBM engineer Dave Provan shows me how it works.

DAVE PROVAN: Good crowd reaction on the volley. Looks like a set point. So the highlight will automatically do the set points, match points and other points like that.

SALINAS: The polished highlights reel comes together just two minutes after a match has ended. That’s about nine times faster than a human video editor. Plus the program can analyze matches across 18 courts. No human can do that.

So did this just come to you like this?

PROVAN: Yeah. It comes fully edited like this together.

SALINAS: No human input at all?

PROVAN: There’s human review to make sure that it looks good, but yeah, it’s basically an automatic system.

SALINAS: Tennis always follows the same structure, but the story of every match is different. That’s why Courtney Nguyen is skeptical that robots can capture the most important parts of the game.

COURTNEY NGUYEN: Yeah. That’s nuts. (Laughter).

SALINAS: Nguyen hosts a podcast for the Women’s Tennis Association where she analyzes the texture of the game.

NGUYEN: I think that when you’re actually cutting a highlight package that tells the true story of the match, there could be, you know, in oftentimes, in those situations, something very different happening that maybe even a crowd completely misses, or even a player doesn’t even notice is happening, could turn a match.

SALINAS: Computer programs are sophisticated enough to capture the emotions of a crowd or on a player’s face, but they’re not smart enough to capture the tiny moments that can make a match. At least, not yet.

(APPLAUSE)

SALINAS: At Wimbledon, I’m Brenda Salinas.

Press: Google’s Thoughts On The Future of Audio

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I was thrilled to be a feature speaker at Radio Days Europe in Lausanne, Switzerland this year. Radio Days Europe is the largest radio conference in the world.

Get the full story at Radio Days Europe.

“Everyone has been talking about Google this year, this afternoon it was their time to take to the stage.

Brenda Salinas, from Google News, eased delegates into her thoughts on the future of bringing audio to audiences with a hilarious and informative presentation.

She outlined three fundamental aspects of radio in the future: on-demand, interactive and data driven.

Firstly, Brenda talked about how Google is using data to customise radio for individuals. She reminded delegates that radio was designed for an antenna that would broadcast to many people, so one programme would be designed for a large and diverse group. However, with the internet serving people at an individual-scale, this homogenising is not necessary and, actually, is a barrier to connection.

Brenda went on to explain how interactivity will likely be central to the future of radio. Interactivity can be thought of in the context of how radio has traditionally “interacted” with audiences. However, in the future interactivity could literally provide an opportunity for audiences to converse with a voice coming through their speakers – interrupting and asking questions. This might sound scary but actually it is exciting, as listeners can supply the answers to live questions right there and then.

Brenda leaves the auditorium with a positive thought: “Radio isn’t going anywhere because the art of telling a great story has stayed the same for thousands of years”.

Another insightful and practical example of what audio might look like in years to come.”

Google is launching a voice-driven version of Google News for smart speakers and phones

I’m excited to finally be able to talk about what we are working on since the acquisition.

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Get the full story from Neiman Lab

“People like smart speakers, but there are a lot of things they don’t like about news on smart speakers.

As recent research by Nic Newman — published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and written up by us here — shows, consumers aren’t the biggest fans of the sort of news briefings that publishers have been pushing out. Common complaints: The briefings are too long. They’re not updated frequently enough. They’re too repetitive; when bulletins from different news providers run together, stories get duplicated. And it’s hard to skip stories you’re not interested in — or hear more of the kind that you are interested in.

Google is hoping to address some of these concerns with a new experiment, announced today, that will deliver more personalized audio news feeds through Google Assistant. “We are combining Google News with the interactivity and voice experience of Google Assistant,” said Liz Gannes, a former reporter for Recode, Gigaom, and AllThingsD who is leading the initiative. The company has spent the past year working with around 130 publishers to build a prototype of a news radio station that customers can control — using voice to skip stories, go back, or stop and dive further into a given topic. It’s built using each story as an individual chunk, rather than a briefing of stories chunked together. This video helps it make more sense:

“Imagine if you ask for news and get a quick update on the stories of the moment, then you get stories that speak to your personal preferences and interests. It’s like your radio station,” said Gannes. If you tune in in the morning on your phone, you might get a quick update. If you listen in your car — or anywhere else throughout the day — stories you heard earlier won’t repeat.

“To benefit the industry as a whole, we have together drafted an open specification for single-topic story feeds,” Google wrote in a blog post announcing the effort. “We have also worked closely with publishers” — including the Associated Press, CBS Local, and KQED — “to develop ways for an aggregated audio feed to serve as a discovery platform for their owned-and-operated sites.” Google is now looking for more publishers to submit their single-topic story feeds and try the technology. Being part of Google Assistant means this product could end up available on millions of Google Home speakers, Android phones, and a range of other devices for the home and car. But for now, Google says, it’ll “only be heard be a very limited number of people on phones and speakers,” only in English and in the United States.

Longtime observers of podcasting may recognize some of this new effort’s DNA from a couple other recent projects. The idea of assembling a rolling, radio-like feed out of individual stories and segments was key to the startup 60dB, which promoted itself two years ago as a “service for high-quality, short-form stories,” with an emphasis on short. (No two-hour bro-chats about movies here.) There the connection is genetic — Google acqui-hired 60dB’s team, including Gannes, a little over a year ago, and this is something of a successor product. As Nick Quah wrote at the time, the aim of 60db — a company started by former Netflix employees as well as NPR veteran Stephen Henn — was

some combination of solving the inefficiencies ingrained in the traditional broadcast radio experience — if you’re hearing something that you don’t want, your moves are either to switch across a relatively limited selection of channels or wait for time to pass within the confines of a specific station — and the newer inefficiencies that have emerged from the theoretically infinite choice horizon introduced by the Internet, including breakdowns in discovery and curation. The nature of the solution is twofold: (1) to usher in an audio creation environment in which the atomic unit of content is not an individual episode (whose lengths, as any podcast listener can tell you, range widely) but a short, individual story piece; and (2) to match listeners with appropriate stories through ‘algorithmic personalization’…

The theoretical upside for publishers is also familiar: in theory, these short-form audio pieces, should publishers choose to produce them, will (presumably) be consumed by more listeners as a result of these solved inefficiencies.

The other clear antecedent to Google’s effort is NPR One, the public broadcaster’s popular app that also itemizes individual stories into streams that can be personalized based on user behavior. (We first wrote about it way back in 2011, in its previous iteration as the Infinite Player. Yes, enjoy that rarest of moments: Google catching up to an idea public radio had 7 years ago.) About 19 percent of NPR streamingnow goes through smart speakers, up from just 4 percent a year ago. NPR One, though, is mostly (if not entirely) about the broader public-radio universe of audio; Google’s effort has no such boundaries.

“News on smart speakers is not living up to the promise of what it could be,” Gannes told me. “Publishers are super savvy about smart speakers, but they don’t necessarily feel that they have the development resources to build the whole thing for themselves.” Smaller outlets, for instance, may not have been able to experiment with voice because of the infrastructure and skill required to produce audio; the hope is that if Google helps on the tech end, more publishers will be able to get their content out.

Google will offer participating publishers some analytics — to start, how and where people are listening. Some advertising will also be added eventually. “We have made a commitment to participating publishers that we do expect to monetize this product and support their existing monetization methods,” Google spokesperson Maggie Shiels told me.

Like Google News, this audio venture will ultimately be available to pretty much any news publisher that can work with Google’s open standard and adheres to Google News’ basic (and vague) content standards. In other words — from what I can tell at this early point — it isn’t impossible that some garbage news will slip in.

But “we want to balance inclusivity with making sure that we’re delivering a real news product and not something that misleads users,” Gannes said. “We’re balancing personalization and giving people what they want with the fact that this is a news product, so we want to tell you what we think are the top stories of the day, based on what the top outlets are telling us are the big stories of the day.”’