How to “Play the news,” but with useful voice controls

I listen to the news on my Androids on the way in and out of work. There’s a list of news providers I’ve chosen all over the spectrum, but with one thing in common and that’s one annoying set of ads.

TL;DR – how it is at the beginning of 2023 on a fully Google device. How to skip forward.

I get that news podcasts are ad supported, but if I have to listen to one more buzzword bingo commercial, or Netsuite by Oracle ad, it’s … it’s not doing anyone any good. All these podcasts seem to have been financed by the same companies, which is cool and all until you’ve heard the same commercial three times in 10 minutes because you listen to 13 news sources.

Auto read, auto reading
This works sometimes, and sometimes it says sorry those lights haven’t been set up yet. “Turn off auto-reading” works today though.

You’re also in an ecosystem where text messages, game notifications, emails, etc all feel the need to notify you with the same notification intensity your Nest Fire Alarm does. You know, nothing more useful to me than to be listening to a fascinating interview while driving and have it almost mute for five seconds to let me know that I can crack open a piggie bank in a game I’m playing, that I can’t play while driving.

Play the news in Driving mode, or in Do Not Disturb mode

To get rid of nonstop app notification turn on driving mode, or do not disturb mode. Driving mode I believe by default still will notify you of texts and calls. DND mode may need to be tweaked to allow things you want through (I want calls and texts personally.)

Additionally driving mode has a feature called Auto Read. This is useful if you have friends who are capable of putting information into a single text, however when they start line-spamming you it’s terrible.

You Google commands to start the above are

  • Hey Google Driving Mode
  • Hey Google turn on do not disturb

To stop these actions

  • Hey google stop navigation
  • hey google turn off do not disturb

Don’t want to use auto read by still want to know what the text message was?

  • Hey google read my text messages

Getting texts / messages (driving mode)

One of my least favorite things is getting texts while driving. But sometimes I have to due to the nature of my job. The first one’s always a doozy because it knocks out 13-15 seconds of whatever I’m listening to… “……….auto read is still on… if you want…” followed by the name of the group text, phone number, contact, or however it’s identified.

There is no way as of this writing I can find to disable or enable autoread until you’re in driving mode and get a text… I’m pretty sure last week I was able to enable and disable auto read, but now unless I’m in the context of getting a text it’s just not here….

The commands were

  • hey google turn on auto read
  • hey google turn off auto read

Maybe it’s just not hearing me today.

When a text message is read to you it will ask if you want to reply. Say yes or no and get ready for a frustrating experience if there’s a reasonable amount of car noise.

You’ll find there’s no voice command to mute a particular conversation, at least I have not found it. This is problematic when you have a group chat with 20 or so people going on in Facebook Messenger about event planning. Turning auto read off is the only solution I’ve found other than to pull over, open Facebook Messenger, and manually mute the conversation for 2 hours.

You can attempt to respond to texts and messages with your voice, but that’s a hit or miss every time and on every phone I’ve been on. On a Pixel, running current software, it locks up attempting to send messages quite often. Just nonstop spinning madness.

Skipping ads, getting to the point

  • Hey Google, skip ahead X seconds/minutes.

I believe skip forward, and skip X seconds/minutes also work.

According to this Google support page you can also change to play slower or faster by saying “play at 2x speed,” “play faster or slower,” etc. however doing this straight up doesn’t work (for me, January 2023). You’ll be told to do this in the app.

image 31 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here
While listening to a slow talking podcast I asked to speed it up, nope. I can use the app to do it but not driving I can’t.

As Google uses AI and loves to change up results, your results may vary.

Here’s hoping for a good “tell me the news” experience for ya. If you’ve got any tips on how to control your news/podcasting experience better via voice let me know.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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