Smart speakers have no idea how to give us news

One of the most interesting things about a new kind of device is how it does not know how good it is. At this point we basically know what a smartphone can do, but the possibility of an Internet-enabled speaker that works with voice has not yet been tested. There are many ideas, good ones and bad ones.

According to a new report from Reuters Lab, current news apps may be bad ideas. The institute's survey shows that users simply do not enjoy news briefings and support more specific features such as information search and immediate action. Forty-six percent of users in the UK had regular briefings, but only 1 percent mentioned it as the most valuable feature, and many people expressed specific complaints about excessive programs and confusing controls. As Nieman Lab said, there was not much love for the news content.

I am particularly embarrassed because so many features are intended to solve this exact problem. Alexa offers several Flash Briefings to quickly organize everything that happens with ___'s 90 second audio report, such as Marketplace and Axios. Google Home has a full custom news order designed to skip stories or find stories about a specific topic.

Reuters reports provide some hints on why. Many issues are content itself. Sometimes reports are outdated or messed up by old text or a voice-over program. The other report was too long, so I spent 5 minutes in the story when 30 seconds was better.

Other problems seem to be a simple result of the voice interface. People have to be careful where their news comes from, but it is difficult to track who is listening through the audio-only interface. Most listeners do not know how to change the defaults, so even if you have a receptacle that you can enjoy, you could not find it.

But the biggest problem is simply that we do not know what we want. Smart speakers are not radio, and podcast-style shows are not suitable for interfaces that interfere with navigation and library production. The assistant is very good at dealing with specific questions such as "Who is Alexa, Governor of Wisconsin?" But walking the most important events of the day is another. Smart speakers may not be very good.

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