The hard-hit newspaper industry is looking for new ways to compete with electronic media. One such offering from the Tribune Co. is Newsbeat, a mobile app that uses human voice-overs and text-to-speech technology to provide audio streaming of stories from newspapers and websites.
Free to download for both iOS and Android (News - Alert) devices, Newsbeat is customizable. Users input some basic information about their location and preferences, and the app does some predictive analysis to choose from 7,000 news stories each day culled via more than 600 news outlets to read aloud, including weather and traffic updates.
If a particular story doesn’t appeal, users simply skip to the next one. The app learns user preferences over time and begins to customize the feed to suit—similar to streaming music apps like Pandora (News - Alert) and iTunes Radio. The company reports that its library includes Tribune’s papers, which include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun as well as other licensed news sources.
The financial goal of this offering from Tribune Digital Ventures, a new unit from Tribune, is to make some money selling voice ads. The target market is users who want their news read to them, perhaps while they are driving in the car or riding public transportation to work, said Shashi Seth, president of Tribune Digital Ventures and former Yahoo executive.
For advertisers, Newsbeat offers a platform to reach a specific audience at a specific time. Tribune said it will “leverage its expertise in print and broadcast advertising sales to build a robust portfolio of national and local advertisers.”
While the new app holds possibilities, some industry insiders suggest the Tribune’s timing will work against them in attracting new users in the crowded mobile app market.
"It's a bit late compared to a lot of other apps vendors who have embraced mobile devices as a content delivery platform," said Brian Blau, research director in consumer technologies at research firm Gartner (News - Alert) Inc. in an interview the with Los Angeles Times. "That doesn't always mean bad news. The app could have potential if Tribune can figure out how to capture users' attention."
Tribune also says the company is in discussion with car manufacturers about the possibility of outfitting cars with the Newsbeat app.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson