Since the Tribune Company launched its technology and innovation arm, Tribune Digital Ventures, it’s been trying to find new ways to appeal to both consumers and its partners. The latest move in that effort is the launch of a new app called Newsbeat, which provides personalized audio streams of news stories consumers can listen to during their commute.
Newsbeat is designed to help listeners get caught up on all the news and information that is important to them, by playing audio recordings of each day’s biggest news stories. That includes a wide range of print and online content distributed by Tribune’s own news outlets, as well as its partners.
Those news stories are made into audio streams through a mix of human voiceovers and the implementation of text-to-speech technology. It’s essentially like having someone read the stories to you while you’re driving to work.
While there are already a number of apps that seek to provide personalized audio streams to users, by mixing podcasts with other recorded audio streams, Newsbeat seeks to differentiate itself by focusing solely on the news of the day. That includes thousands of stories from dozens of sources, including Tribune newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun.
The app is being targeted at the large number of people who commute and generally listen to talk or news radio, but would like information that is more targeted toward their interests. It was built in part to appeal to people like Tribune Digital president Shashi Seth, who told me that he used to be a huge NPR listener in the past, but ultimately wanted to hear more relevant news during his commute.
To do that, the app provides a degree of personalization that generally can’t be found on regular news radio, or really in other apps that provide news content. When they first open the app, users can choose which topics are of interest to them, and which publications they’d like to receive news from.
While listeners will be automatically be fed stories based on these initial interests, they can always choose to skip a story if they don’t find it relevant. Over time, that helps the app to better target stories that will be of interest to users.
In addition to news stories, Newsbeat also provides weather and traffic updates for users who in many cases will likely be on their commutes. To do this, it gathers location data to ensure that the updates it provides might actually help listeners avoid traffic jams and dress appropriately.
Newsbeat will be supported by advertising inserted between news segments, and because Newsbeat has info about listeners’ interests, there’s an opportunity for those ads to be targeted.