Spotify is personalizing more playlists to individual users

Spotify is starting to algorithmically personalize some of its curated playlists, making a major change to how people discover music on the streaming service.

Spotify is already known for having some of the best personalized playlists in the industry, which automatically present songs based on what each listener enjoys. But it’s also known for having excellent human-curated playlists, like RapCaviar, which have become musical tastemakers due to their immense popularity.

Those curated playlists have, until now, not included any personalization — there was one canonical playlist, and everyone received it. But now Spotify is going to make some of those playlists part curated, part personalized. Human editors will still pick and choose which songs fit on which playlist, but every song will no longer show up for every listener. Instead, Spotify will automatically adjust the playlist to better fit a listener’s tastes.

Spotify says it’s been testing this out, and listeners seem to like it more. People seeking out songs after discovering them through a playlist is up 80 percent on these personalized ones, and track saves are up by 66 percent.

The change isn’t being made just for listeners, though: it’s also for music labels.

Major music labels have been complaining that they aren’t featured enough on Spotify’s playlists, Business Insider reported last year. Nearly one-third of listening on Spotify is done through curated playlists, according to the report, and streaming music overall now accounts for three-quarters of music industry revenue. So labels have a lot to gain by getting their artists on Spotify’s playlists.

By personalizing the playlists, Spotify is able to put more artists and songs on each one, since they won’t all appear for everyone. Spotify says the number of artists on each playlist goes up by 30 percent and the number of tracks goes up by 35 percent. While labels may not love that songs will be hidden from some listeners, their songs will theoretically be put in front of people who actually want to listen to them.

For now, Spotify isn’t saying which playlists are gaining the personalization feature, just that “some” of them will. Artists may be able to help figure out which is which, though — when their song is added to a personalized playlist, they’ll be given a custom link to share with their fans that will place their song at the top, ensuring they can hear it. Playlists that aren’t personalized will just have a single public link.

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Why it matters that Madam Secretary is fighting vaccine misinformation

Measles appeared as the villain in the latest episode of the CBS show Madam Secretary. The story arc captured the risks of vaccine hesitancy — and it showcases the power of a fictional TV show to communicate facts.

The episode is timely given measles’ presence in the news lately. Outbreaks have been spreading across the country, and tech giants Facebook, Google, and Amazon have come under fire for allowing anti-vaccine misinformation to spread on their platforms. But the timing is just a coincidence, according to the show’s executive producer David Grae. Even before measles started making news in 2019, the Madam Secretary team had an episode about vaccine hesitancy in the works. “We all know about this idea of anti-vaxxing and how dangerous it is,” Grae says. “The idea that we could lose our herd immunity — we really need responsible leadership around the world to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

One of the main storylines in the episode centers on the Secretary of State’s press coordinator Daisy Grant (played by Patina Miller), who comes back from a cruise only to wind up in quarantine with her young daughter Joanna. They discover that Joanna’s friend, another child on the cruise, hadn’t been vaccinated and became infected with measles during the trip. Joanna had received one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, which the show explains is 93 percent effective: Joanna falls into that remaining 7 percent. She pulls through, but Joanna’s unvaccinated friend suffers from a measles complication called encephalitis that gives her brain damage.

Madam Secretary is, of course, fiction. But fiction may be a good vector for fact — at least, when it’s done right, according to Beth Hoffman, a research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health. Hoffman and her colleagues are looking into what viewers learn from medical storylines on television. And in a few different papers, they report that TV shows are especially good at engaging students and the general public, for better or for worse.

In one paper, they dug through the scientific literature to find a handful of studies investigating what viewers take away from medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy. There aren’t many studies out there. But their review of the research, published in the journal Health Education Research in 2017, reports that people do absorb medical messaging from TV and might sometimes even change their behaviors based on what they see on screen. “Entertainment narratives have an effect on viewers’ perception, knowledge, and ultimately their health behavior,” Hoffman says. While she doesn’t know of any studies about vaccine messaging in particular, she says, “There’s good reason to think that storylines about vaccine-preventable diseases can have a positive influence on individuals’ perception of vaccination.”

Madam Secretary’s Grae says the whole team felt that responsibility and wanted to get their facts right — particularly when they surround a contentious issue like vaccines. “It wouldn’t be artistically responsible to leave room for, ‘Oh well maybe it’s okay not to vaccinate,’” he says. “And when you want to get it exactly right, Googling isn’t enough. It’s never enough when you have real-world issues.”

So the show’s writers turned to Hollywood, Health & Society, a program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Norman Lear Center that helps bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and experts in health, science, and security. (There’s also a similar program at the National Academies of Sciences called the Science and Entertainment Exchange.) “We understand it’s fiction and we have to take some liberties,” says Kate Folb, director of Hollywood, Health & Society. But it’s important for public health information to be as accurate as possible, she says. “We don’t want to misinform audiences, because we know that they’ll act upon it.”

There are a few theories about why that is, Folb says. One is that immersion in a plot helps lower viewers’ intellectual defenses. “You’re rooting for your hero, you’re running through the forest with them. You’re right there with them,” Folb says. “So if and when information is presented, it sinks in on a much deeper level.” The other theory is that viewers may identify with and believe characters they connect with on TV shows, she says — which is why it’s so important for public health and science information to be as accurate as possible. “Because it’s soaking in when you’re watching it,” she says.

Vaccine expert Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says he’s consulted with Hollywood, Health & Society before, but wasn’t involved in this episode. And save for some minor quibbles — such as about the low likelihood of Joanna contracting measles even though she’d had a single dose of the vaccine — he applauded the way the episode handled measles and vaccine hesitancy. “It was really helpful that they showed measles as it is: as a serious disease,” he says. “They didn’t try to dismiss it as a benign illness or just a rash, and that’s an important point.”

The episode tackled a lot of important issues surrounding measles and vaccines, including misinformation, Hotez says. In the episode, the mom of the little girl who suffers brain complications from measles explains why she didn’t vaccinate her daughter. She’d thought measles had been completely eradicated from the US, and she was afraid of vaccinations because of articles she’d read. “There were all these articles about possible harm from vaccines, and then a study saying there was no proof, and then you read another article — and you don’t know what to think,” the mom says in the show.

The show’s writers and the characters they created treat this family with kindness: the parents aren’t blamed for infecting another child, or ridiculed for believing anti-vaccine propaganda. They’re treated as parents who want to do what’s best for their child, and who were misled by the proliferation of scaremongering anti-vaccination propaganda that’s out there. That was partly to stay true to the show’s recurring characters, and partly a conscious choice the Madam Secretary team made after talking with the experts at Hollywood, Health & Society, Grae says. “You don’t reach people by scolding them. You reach people by kindly explaining the truth without scolding or telling people they’re stupid.”

Reaching people is something TV is especially good at, says Hotez, who wrote a book about being a vaccine researcher and the parent of a child with autism called Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism. “Let’s face it. At the end of the day, many more people are going to watch this episode of Madam Secretary than are going to read my book,” he says.

The episode ends with a public service announcement, where Téa Leoni, who plays the Secretary of State, tells viewers to go to https://www.unicefusa.org/vax for more information. Ultimately, the team’s goal is to make a dramatic show, but in this case, they also had the chance to educate people. “That’s a win-win, that’s good for everybody. So we’re happy to do it,” Grae says.

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Your crush Noah Centineo is 'The Perfect Date' in super cute first trailer

Netflix’s #1 boyfriend is back with a movie all his own! 

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before‘s Noah Centineo stars in The Perfect Date, a romantic comedy following ambitious high schooler Brooks Rattigan. 

When Brooks realizes he can make money by taking girls on made-to-order, flawless dates, he creates an app to help streamline his ordering process. Riverdale‘s Camila Mendes and former Disney Channel star Laura Marano appear as Centineo’s customers-turned-love interests. 

Somewhere between an episode of Silicon Valley and Easy A, we’re not totally sure where The Perfect Date will end up in our rom-com rankings. Here’s hoping for another Peter Kavinsky level crush.

The Perfect Date begins streaming on Netflix April 12. 

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Save up to 40% on gaming laptops, PCs, and accessories at Amazon

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.
Become a gaming pro with a huge sale on gaming PCs and accessories at Amazon.
Become a gaming pro with a huge sale on gaming PCs and accessories at Amazon.
Image: Pexels

The focus of gamers around the world is fixed upon Season 1 of Apex Legends. If you want any hope to unlock the best loot and be the last team standing in your next match, you need premium gear to beat the competition — even if you get stuck with the Mozambique Shotgun. 

SEE ALSO: Best gaming chairs to maximize your home gaming setup

To give you the boost you need, Amazon has a helpful sale on gaming laptops, desktop PCs, and other accessories from top brands such as Asus, Razer, and Alienware. We’re all for cheap laptops, but sometimes you need to invest a bit more to get a great gaming setup. When those two worlds come together and allow you to get some great gaming gear for cheap — that’s gaming heaven right there.

Here are some of the highlights from the Amazon sale:

Need a portable gaming setup for less than $600? The ASUS TUF Gaming Series is the perfect solution if you’re hesitant to break your gaming budget. You’ll save $106 off the regular price, but you won’t sacrifice gaming performance. The ASUS TUF boasts a refresh rate up to 120Hz with the latest AMD Ryzen processor in a portable but durable case. And if you prefer portable gaming, you might want to invest in a TP-Link WiFi extender to guarantee a consistent signal around your home.

Image: Amazon

For those who crave a little extra power in a gaming laptop, the Alienware M15 is for those who want to spare no expense. At Amazon you can save $400 on a laptop powered with an 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8750H processor and an Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card. With 16GB of RAM, you won’t have to worry about any hiccups in the middle of the most hectic matches. On top of that, the Alienware M15 packs all of this power into one of the slimmest designs that weighs less than five pounds. Don’t be surprised if you take it everywhere you go. 

Image: Amazon

Not everyone cares to take their gaming on the go, so a quality gaming desktop is the better option. A good place to start is with a CyberpowerPC Gamer Master GMA1390A2 gaming PC. Save a $160 on this featured configuration to get a system that includes an AMD Ryzen 7 2700 processor, 8GB of memory, and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card. All of that equals a smooth gaming experience, but this gaming PC also includes a few other fun features. Not only do you get a seven color RGB gaming mouse, but a tempered glass side panel case so you can also be entertained by the pretty colors inside your new PC.

Image: Amazon

No gaming PC or laptop is complete without a proper gaming mouse, and that includes one with special features to improve your overall experience. At 46% off the original price, the Razer DeathAdder offers a high-precision 16,000 DPI sensor. That just measures how sensitive your mouse is, a very important function for both gaming and creative work. Along with seven programmable buttons and rubber side grips and scroll wheel, this is the mouse that’s trusted by many professional gamers. 

Image: Amazon

Gaming headphones are the final touch you need, and Amazon has several options on sale. For the best deal right now, save $40 on the Corsair HS70 wireless headphones, which offer precise sound quality with low latency. With a range up to 40 feet, they’ll work with any gaming setup, plus the microphone is detachable in case no one on your team is listening to your directions. And with plush memory foam and up to 16 hours of battery life, you’re set for any extended gaming session. (For our picks on the best gaming headsets, go here.)

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Huawei launching smart glasses by July

Image: Huawei

PCMag.com is a leading authority on technology, delivering Labs-based, independent reviews of the latest products and services. Our expert industry analysis and practical solutions help you make better buying decisions and get more from technology.

Smartphone manufacturers have made their way into most of our pockets, are trying to get us all to wear one of their watches on our wrists, and it seems the next battleground is for our eyes. So when Huawei announced the P30 and P30 Proin Paris today, it also revealed smart glasses that are expected to launch later this year.

As The Verge reports, Huawei clearly realizes that how eyewear looks is very important to consumers, so it didn’t create these smart glasses alone. Instead, a new partnership has been formed with the Korean luxury eyewear company Gentle Monster. The result is a pair of glasses both companies hope we will all want to wear. You can judge for yourself by viewing them in the tweet below:

These smart glasses will not have any cameras embedded in them, which is sure to calm any privacy concerns as well as allowing battery life to be extended considerably. Instead, the glasses will allow you to answer calls hands-free by tapping the temple. Dual mics and speakers should allow for an easy conversation even in noisy environments.

The embedded battery is 2,200mAh and can be recharged via a USB-C port. The glasses are also IP67 rated for dust and water resistance, so they should hold up well in most weather conditions.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the price yet, but Huawei intends to launch the smart glasses in June or July this year, so we don’t have long to wait to find out.

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