If you’re anything like me, daily commute downtime is an opportunity to catch up on the news. Aggregation apps are great when you’re sitting on the bus, but you can’t really flip through your news feed whilst walking down a busy street or driving to work. The radio is an alternative option, but it’s not often that a topic which really interests me crops up.
Newsbeat, a new app for iOS and Android, aims to combine the best of both worlds, by organising the news that you’d like to hear about into a short radio show. The app, released by Tribune Company, has access to over 7,000 different news sources, ranging from major news networks and papers to small-time blogs. The app pulls together various sources based on your preferences, and narrates the stories using some clever text-to-speech software.
You can put together a collection of news sources based on a huge range of topics and sections, such as politics, business, and technology, and you can manually add your favourite publications that you follow closely. It’s from this list that the app generates its own radio program, which kicks off which the familiar weather and traffic reports obtained from your GPS location. New stories are then read aloud by two voice actors, who condense the articles down into a short 60 to 90 second reports. You can also skip stories which aren’t of interest to you, and the app will learn from your listening habits.
In terms of the text-to-speech voice, it’s much better than some of the older voices, but it’s definitely noticeable that you’re being talked to be a machine. I found the male voice to be much more convincing than the female reporter, but the overall the flow between words is more than acceptable.
If the voices become too irritating, the original text is also displayed in the app, so you can read the article, in full, for yourself. There’s also a “Daily Digest” option, which will send you an email detailing news that matches your interests at the start of your day.
News is currently limited to US publications, and although the app does a good job of recognizing your location for traffic updates, you currently won’t be able to add publications from your own native country.
The app is available on the Google Play Store right now, for free.