US media giant Tribune Company has launched ‘Newsbeat’, a mobile app which provides personalized audio streams sourced from news stories in print and online newspapers.

Newsbeat app reads you your daily news from written clips

Last May Tribune Company, the second largest print press group in the United States, launched Tribune Digital Ventures, a division set up to develop innovative, technology-based products. Since then the company has been looking for new ways of attracting both customers and partners and has now come up with the Newsbeat mobile app, which provides personalized audio news streams. Newsbeat sets out to reinvent news on mobile by using a mix of human voice reporting and ‘text-to-speech’ (TTS) technology. The new Tribune app is mainly targeted at daily car commuters who are avid talk or news radio listeners, but would appreciate information more in line with their personal interests. The company thinks it has spotted a market niche for audio information of this kind, given that there is a daily radio audience of over 120 million listeners in the United States and – as an example of the investor appeal of audio news – radio station company Clear Channel enjoys a market capitalization of $17.2billion.

News feed customized to listeners’ interests

The Newsbeat app, available in both iOS and Android versions, is designed to enable listeners to follow all the news and information they find useful, selecting stories from a wide range of quality online and print mediaand streaming it to them in audio form. It pulls together around 7,000 stories each day from a hundred or so newspapers and websites belonging to the Tribune Company or its partners. The news stories are provided in audio streams through a mix of human voiceovers and TTS synthesis. When you install the app on your smartphone, you can customize your content by indicating topics, publications and media that particularly interest you. The user receives feeds based on this interest list, but s/he can always choose to skip a story if it does not seem relevant. Over time, these choices will enable the app to adapt to the listener’s behavior and fine-tune the service by offering stories likely to be of most interest. Newsbeat also gathers location data on the listener so as to provide useful updates on traffic flows and the weather. Tribune Digital Ventures is offering the app free for download and will finance the service through advertising targeted at listeners based on their known interests.

Reading you your daily news

While there are already a number of apps in existence that claim to provide users with personalized audio streams by mixing podcasts with other recorded material, Newsbeat is looking to differentiate itself by focusing solely on the daily news. The app is aimed at the large number of people who commute daily by car who generally listen to talk or news radio, but would prefer to receive information that is targeted more closely on their specific interests. Underlines Tribune Digital Ventures President Shashi Seth: “Newsbeat offers a new way of experiencing top quality print and online news in an audio format where content is personalized.” The basic idea, he explains, is to take high quality print journalism from respected reporters and publications and extend its reach through mobile technology to an audience which is very often ‘on the go’. While newspapers are the major source of Newsbeat content, the Tribune Company now intends to distance itself from its own news organs. The company is planning to sell its eight daily publications in order to focus on its broadcasting, entertainment and digital businesses which it believes offer stronger growth prospects.

By Manon Garnier