New smartphone app will read aloud the news you want

Newsbeat app screen

The app called "Newsbeat" is able to read you the news in an actual pre-recorded human voice or in a robotic voice akin that that of Siri, the intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator on Apple's iOS.

It's the first app launched by Tribune Digital Ventures, a new unit of the Tribune Company, and led by former Yahoo executive, Shashi Seth. The app is free and is available for iPhones and Android smartphones.

Tribune Digital Ventures said that with Newsbeat, you can pick the news that you want to hear: from a large collection of high quality, local publications and from high quality national news organizations.

The news stories are those produced by the Tribune's newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, and content from websites and publishers the Tribune works with.

Newsbeat uses text-to-speech technology and recordings of humans reading news articles to produce a daily catalogue of some 7,000 news stories on a vast range of topics. It determines the stories most relevant for different users based on their preferences and habits.

The streaming news playlist is customized for the length of each user's trip based on the addresses he enters into the app. The customized playlists of news stories include audio ads about every 10 minutes.

"There is a very large amount of people's undivided attention that you can get," said Seth.

Tribune is preparing to separate its newspaper assets from its lucrative broadcast TV properties later this year. Newspapers across the U.S. face challenges that include shrinking advertising revenues.

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