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Google redesigns Play Newsstand and launches it on the web

The update brings personalized content and richer media

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Google Play Newsstand
Google

Google has redesigned its news reading app, improving Google Play Newsstand to better compete with competitors like Apple News and Flipboard. This is the second app Google has overhauled just this week, following Google Play Music. The updated news app has a new design and is generally meant to make it easier to find something to read; it’s also launching on the web for the first time.

Newsstand now has four tabs to make it easier to navigate the news. The main For You tab houses both a personalized briefing and an AI-powered recommendation stream at the bottom of the screen. The app has reworked its interface to combine top stories, major headlines, and suggested articles based on a user’s interests and preferences. This blend of content makes identifying top stories simpler, while allowing for deeper exploration of potentially interesting topics. The Library, Explore, and Read Later tabs contain sites and subjects you’ve picked out, additional stories to browse through, and saved articles, respectively.

This version of the Newsstand, 4.0, also includes full-bleed images, autoplaying videos, and built-in playback controls for podcasts. In the For You tab, each recommended article or source will now be accompanied by a short justification for why Google thinks it might make a good fit, allowing users to adjust their feeds to better reflect their preferences.

Despite a host of improvements to Google’s news app, there are downsides to a feed that is constantly refreshing itself with personalized content. This technique provides readers with news they want to read, which doesn’t always coincide with the news that’s most important. A phenomenon known as the “filter bubble” on Facebook recently received backlash after many users realized they were being exposed to news that mainly reinforced their worldview. Google says its AI recommendation stream “gets better the more you use it,” but that may create its own kind of bubble.

The update is now available on Android and iOS, and a web version has launched as well.