When it launched in June, Apple’s latest iOS 13.5.5 beta revealed some seriously noteworthy new Apple News+ functionality in the form of audio versions of stories, as well as an audio news briefing hosted by Apple News editors.
Now, Apple News+ Audio is officially available to paying, US-based News+ users. Non-News+ users will receive previews of audio articles, reports 9to5Mac, but paid users will have full access to everything the Audio tab offers. That said, the daily audio news briefing – entitled “Apple News Today” and co-hosted by Apple News editors Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino – is available for free to all listeners every morning, Monday through Friday. It’s also available in Apple’s Podcasts app.
The new area operates like a stripped-back Apple News, with a daily featured audio article and a reduced “For You” section. Once the user hits play on a piece of Audio, the interface resembles that of Podcasts, with 15-second rewind and skip options. Users will also be able to adjust the speed of playback. Also, like Spotify and other DSPs, users are able to “cue” audio stories to play next. Apple has also introduced “CarPlay”, an Audio support feature that enables users to safely enjoy Apple News+ Audio content while driving.
“Apple News showcases so much great journalism, and we’re excited to help bring it to life in new ways with Apple News+ audio stories and a new daily news show, Apple News Today,” said Lauren Kern, Editor In Chief of Apple News. “We also greatly value our many local news partners — our new local news feature highlights their work for readers who live, and are interested, in those communities.”
Crucial to the uniqueness of what Apple is offering here is the Audio tab’s ambition. Apple won’t be licensing existing podcast content, but rather producing original audio versions of premium news articles, read by voice actors. Such impressive claims call into question the functionality’s long-term viability, but Apple aims to manage the workload by producing no more than 20 audio stories a week across a wide range of interests. We’re excited to see how realistic this impressive goal is.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any information available to publishers on how they may become eligible for Apple News+ audio stories. It’s such a new feature that as it stands, only those approached by Apple initially have audio stories on their channels. But, if successful, Apple may democratise the process. We’ll be the first to know if this happens, and will update this article accordingly.