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Tribune Co. raises mobile news bar with audio content, ads

Tribune Co. wants to streamline the news reading experience while also tapping into some of the success that marketers have seen with audio ads via the launch of a new application.

Tribune Co.?s newsbeat app leverages audio to stream about 7,000 newspaper and Web stories from the company's publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun. The app also incorporates audio ads between pieces of news.

?We use professional voice talent for voice overs to cover the stories that we believe will be the most popular among listeners,? said Graham McKenna, spokesman at Tribune Digital Ventures, Palo Alto, CA.

?The use of text-to-speech lets us scale to deliver thousands of additional stories, including breaking news, in real time,? he said.

Tribune Digital Ventures is the Tribune Co.?s digital and innovation branch. 

Streamlined news
The technology uses a combination of text-to-speak technology and human voice-overs to serve up the news to readers.

The idea behind the app is that every reader will have a customized news experience. 

Readers set these preferences by thumbing through different publications, topics and news categories. Some of the specific topics include television shows, sports teams and celebrities.

As each news story is read aloud, readers can backtrack through an article or can skip stories.

For the news organizations themselves, the app gives the publishers a new distribution aggregator, similar to the business model behind Flipboard, Zite and other news aggregators.

However, the difference with Tribune Co.?s product is that its own content is not mixed in with other publishers? content, and Tribune Co. is able to better control the reading experience.

Additionally, Tribune Co.?s publishers will be able to send out news alerts in real-time through the app.

Mobile-first news
The audio focus of the app also taps into some unique advertising opportunities for marketers that big brands have seen success with on mobile music streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify and Apple?s iTunes Radio. 

Audio ads will be placed between news segments and is aimed at generating marketing spend from both local and national advertisers, per the Tribune Co.

The Newsbeat app is available for free download on iOS and Android devices.

The move towards beefing up mobile advertising sales teams speaks to the growing need for publishers to monetize apps and sites as mobile hits a tipping point with more than 50 percent of traffic.

For example, Time Inc. recently partnered with Google to launch a online ad exchange that is powered by DoubleClick. The ad exchange is expected to hit roughly 116 million users.

Tribune Digital Ventures was set up ten months ago to help the publisher create digital products and services.

?Led by Google and Yahoo veteran, Shashi Seth, the Tribune Digital Ventures group is tasked with tapping the media assets of Tribune Company to develop digital products and services that expand and diversify the company?s reach and revenue streams,? Mr. McKenna said.

?We?ll have much more to talk about in the coming months,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York