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by Brandon Butler
Apple News Today: Locked in and totally skippable 7/16/2020

Apple released a new podcast and a few OS updates yesterday.

The software updates are for iOS, iPadOS, macOS and watchOS. The major new feature is a big update to the News app, with a new podcast, Apple News Today, and professionally narrated audio stories from select publications. The News app has also been added to CarPlay, so you can listen to these stories during your commute. Audio narration is only for News+ subscribers.

I gave the new podcast, Apple News Today, a spin this morning. It’s not to my personal liking, primarily because Apple only allows access to the podcast from within the News app on the iPhone (no iPad News app support?!) or the Podcasts app, neither of which I personally use.

However, I liked the co-hosts, Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino. In this second episode (I guess I missed yesterday’s show) they covered the big headlines, then took some time to discuss social distancing in the animal kingdom and the Icelandic tourism board’s new shouting campaign. It was very scripted, but in that natural Apple way of having a scripted discussion. The whole thing is professionally produced with audio clips and little musical jingles between segments.

I’d probably listen if I could just listen in the podcast app of my choice. I realize this lock-in to your app is a thing now, but the thing trying to lock the listener in has to be something wholly unique and unavailable anywhere else. There are too many other daily news podcasts doing just as good a job as Apple News Today, and I honestly lack interest in using multiple podcast apps just to listen to a single 7-minute show.

Annoyingly, after the podcast was finished, the Apple News app began playing a preview of the News+ audio narration. I’m not a News+ subscriber, but the preview was interesting. A lengthy recap (including the pandemic, BLM protests and the struggles of millennials in a post-9/11 world, yeah, like I said, lengthy) followed by narration of the actual article by someone else with some light background music for ambiance. Both speakers are reading too slow for me, and without the ability to speed them up Overcast-style the whole thing is unappealing to me.

Apple News Today: A high quality, well produced podcast with good content, but locked into the Apple News and Podcasts apps. If you’re a user of either app, give these new audio features a try. If you’re happy getting your news and podcasts some other way, there’s nothing life changing that you’ll be missing.