Press: St. Joseph’s Student Telling Stories Across Platforms

Get the full story at St. Joseph’s College, the setting for my new journey.

Brenda Salinas Baker, who's attending The Writer's Foundry.

It all comes back to her desire to tell stories.

That’s why Brenda Salinas Baker wanted to be a professional dancer when she was a kid — so she can tell stories with her body. It’s why she became a radio journalist. And it’s why she decided to join The Writer’s Foundry at SJC Brooklyn, so she can fulfill her dream of earning an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.

“I would like to hone my gifts as a storyteller and be able to tell page-turning, blood-curdling stories that make people reflect on larger issues in the world,” said Baker, whose favorite journalistic book is “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote.

Fine-Tuning Her Passion

Baker, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and moved with her family to Houston when she was in first grade, knew from a very early age that she wanted to tell stories on the radio.

Baker reporting a story on feral parakeets in London, with interviewee and author Nick Hunt.

“After interning at my local public radio station in Houston over summers, I was awarded an NPR fellowship for aspiring public radio producers, and that is how I started my career,” Baker, 30, said.

It was while she was in high school that Baker realized she specifically loved stories about economics.

“It was my first academic experience with the social sciences, and I loved that you could use rigorous methodology to point to larger trends in the world,” said Baker, who earned a B.A. in Economics at Columbia University. “A great economics story pairs this research with the real people who are affected by it, like this story that I reported for Marketplace.”

Now, Baker enjoys the work she does for Google as an audio content strategist.

“I look after all of the content on our audio platforms, and I make recommendations to our product and partnerships team based on these insights,” Baker said. “I also manage the Google Podcasts Creators Program, an accelerator program for early-stage podcast producers, which is my favorite part of my job.”

Taking Her Next Step at SJC Brooklyn

Most interested in writing fiction, Baker decided it was time to make a move.

“Pursuing an M.F.A. has always been a dream of mine, and I am finally in a place professionally where I can pursue it,” she said.

A resident of Brooklyn, Baker knew once she started looking at graduate programs that it was important to find one that would allow her to attend part time, so she can continue working.

Brenda Salinas Baker and her mom.

“I wanted to find a program with a diverse cohort of people, because the social aspect of a graduate education is important to me,” said Baker, a native Spanish speaker who is also fluent in English and French. “The more I researched The Writer’s Foundry, the better a fit it seemed.”

When it comes to the person who pushes her to be the best she can be creatively, Baker thanks her mom.

“My biggest inspiration is my mom because she is a wonderful storyteller,” Baker said. “I am inspired by her faith and her ability to keep learning and evolving.”

Baker is enrolled in four classes, two remote and two land-based, and she’s already enjoying the start of the semester at SJC Brooklyn.

“(The classes) have been fabulous,” she said. “It’s a wonderful experience to feel intellectually and creatively stimulated in a community with other writers.”

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.

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. 

 

 

 

 

Press: Google’s Thoughts On The Future of Audio

Salinas

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.”

Some News – 60dB joins Google

60dB has some exciting news. From techcrunch.

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“Short-form podcast app 60dB will be shutting down next month and its team will be joining Google in an apparent acqui-hire.

“Today, we’re announcing we’ll be shutting down 60dB on Friday, November 10th, and we’ll be joining the team at Google,” a Medium post signed by the 60dB co-founders read. “As we considered next steps for 60dB, we came to the conclusion that to accomplish our goals we’d be better positioned if we joined someone with scale who shared our vision for what was possible with digital audio.” The note was first spotted by Business Insider.

Tiny Garage Labs, which created the app, launched its podcast platform for iOS, Android, Alexa and the web last year, allowing users to access personalized short-form audio pieces inside the app. The team said it worked with more than 80 media institutions to produce “hundreds of audio stories in the past year.”

What does that mean for me? I’ll be showing up to work at Google’s Covent Garden offices in London. I am so excited to see what this journey means for me creatively and professionally. Stay tuned!

Press: Nieman Lab

NiemanSo happy to have gotten a Nieman write-up for the Texas Standard.

Here’s an excerpt:

“As a first-of-its-kind effort, if Texas Standard works, it will set a standard for a number of larger states, and perhaps attract the kind of new funders that public media needs. To be sure, many of the top public radio stations have built their own collaborations. What distinguishes Texas Standard, says Oregon Public Broadcasting general manager Steve Bass, is “having a group of stations on board before they launch.”

Press: Current Magazine

curent

It’s awesome to be the cover story in the latest issue of Current magazine.

An excerpt:

‘“We see Texas Standard as a collaboration among stations within Texas, as a Texas platform for stories that are coming out of communities all over Texas but have impact on residents beyond the community in which the story is taking place,” said Stewart Vanderwilt, KUT g.m. “It’ll serve that role for our state similar to how Morning Edition serves that role for the country.”’

Want to know more? Check out the full Current write-up or follow @TheTexasStandard on Twitter.