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Though Apple’s free News app has been an unqualified hit with iOS, iPadOS, and macOS users since its 2015 release, its $10 monthly news subscription service News+ has reportedly struggled since its debut last year. To build further interest in both offerings, Apple announced today that it’s augmenting them with new audio content, including a free daily podcast called Apple News Today, plus subscriber-only access to audio stories based on content from News+ partners.

Available through a new “Audio” tab in Apple News and through Podcast apps on various devices, Apple News Today co-hosts Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino canvas “some of the most fascinating stories in the news” each morning Monday through Friday, breaking for the weekend. The podcast will also be available through the iPhone’s CarPlay feature for streaming in cars, with progress syncing across devices.

The News+ audio stories will turn roughly 20 written features and other long-form reports each week into professionally narrated audio files. Content will be sourced from a handful of publications, including Essence, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired, and will initially be available to News+ subscribers in the United States. Interestingly, Apple’s official imagery for these stories includes contributions from Apple TV+ partners Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, raising the question of just how cross-promotional the company’s selected audio stories will be.

Apple has also expanded its local news coverage, providing U.S. News+ subscribers with access to newspapers in cities such as Charlotte, Kansas City, and Miami, beyond prior access to major metros such as Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Canadian News+ customers will get access to the French-language paper Le Devoir now, plus The Globe and Mail later this summer.

The company’s news offerings continue to be limited in availability to a handful of countries, including Australia and the U.K. in addition to the U.S. and Canada, but Apple says the free News service now draws over 125 million monthly active users. Publishers have offered mixed testimonials on both services, praising the added attention their stories appear to get from Apple News while decrying their lack of access to user data and inability to fully monetize their own content. The New York Times, a marquee publication with its own successful subscription services, withdrew entirely from News late last month for such reasons.

Apple’s new News features are available to users of iOS 13.6 and iPadOS 13.6, as well as macOS 10.15.6 (Catalina), all of which were released in final form today. The new Audio tab does not yet appear in News within the current beta releases of iOS/iPadOS 14, or macOS 11 (Big Sur), but will likely be added in the near future.

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