Apps that read the day's news aloud aren't exactly a new concept, but Newsbeat — launched today by Tribune Co. — is among the sleekest we've seen yet. Newsbeat pulls in thousands of articles every day from hundreds of newspapers including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and websites like CNN. From there, stories are converted to audio for easy listening during your morning commute. Sometimes the recordings are produced with the help of text-to-speech technology, much like SoundGecko; other times it's an actual human reading an article.
Even the synthetic voice isn't terrible
When setting up the app, users pick their preferred news sources (the list of publications is massive) and topics they'd like Newsbeat to track. An article's length will largely depend on where it comes from. Often you'll hear the entire story, but for content sourced from RSS, Newsbeat provides a truncated version with a link out to the website where it's published in full. But even these shorter recordings are enough to get the gist of a news item across. When you start listening each day, Newsbeat kicks things off with a quick weather report and highlights any major traffic problems in your area, yet more evidenced that it's targeted at commuters.
Once articles start playing, you're able to pause and restart a story at any point. Tapping a playlist button in the upper right will show you the queue of incoming articles. Any content you're not interested in can be swiped up and away. And two buttons below each story — "more sources" and "add related" — do exactly what you'd expect. More sources will replace the selected story with another publication's take, while the related option automatically inserts a similar article in the next queue slot. Newsbeat is free, though that comes at the cost of ads. Still, they only play every 10 minutes or so and don't detract from the listening experience in any real way. If you can pull yourself away from your favorite podcasts, it's certainly worth a look. And yes, Newsbeat is also available on Android at launch.