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By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, March 20 (Reuters) - A new smartphone app developed by the Tribune Co will read aloud a personalized "playlist" of news articles along with weather and traffic updates, as the media organization looks for new ways to reach consumers.
The free Newsbeat app released on Thursday is the first product developed by the year-old Tribune Digital Ventures group headed by former Yahoo Inc executive Shashi Seth.
The app uses text-to-speech technology and recordings of humans reading news articles to produce a daily catalog of roughly 7,000 articles about everything from world news to sports. Similar to the way digital music streaming services such as Pandora Media Inc operate, the Newsbeat app determines the stories most relevant for different users based on their preferences and habits.
Seth said the app, which is available for iPhones and Android smarpthones, is good for commuters. The streaming news playlist is customized for the length of each user's commute, based on the addresses they enter into the app. "There is a very large amount of people's undivided attention that you can get," said Seth.
The news articles include stories produced by Tribune's newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, as well content from websites and publishers that Tribune has partnered with. The customized playlists of news stories include audio ads about every 10 minutes.
Tribune Co is preparing to separate its slow growth newspaper assets from lucrative broadcast TV properties later this year. Newspapers across the United States face challenges including shrinking advertising revenue and readers who prefer to get their news on mobile devices. (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)