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Getting Your News as MP3s? 67

GreenKiwi asks: "I've been really interested in finding a news source that has MP3s of their brodcasts. I have an iPod and download the news in text form most mornings to it so that I can find out what's going on. However, I would love to download (preferably automatically) news in the form of an MP3 that I could download to my iPod in the morning so that I could listen to the news on my way to work. The BBC has Real Audio output, but no MP3s that I can find. NPR has them for Real and WMP. I guess I could download and then convert the files. If that's possible. I'd love to hear whether anyone is doing this and how."
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Getting Your News as MP3s?

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  • No Idea (Score:1, Insightful)

    Sorry, no clue at all.
  • DIY :) (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joebp ( 528430 ) on Tuesday August 06, 2002 @06:37AM (#4016974) Homepage

    You'll probably need to tweak the voice the TTS program produces to avoid involuntarily wetting yourself laughing when it makes hilarious speak-o's.

    Also, you'll need to find a decent news site with few extraneous words and crap.

    • by tps12 ( 105590 )
      I wholeheartedly agree with you. Festival [] is a particularly good text-to-speech program. It sounds like an English butler, so you will feel wealthy and pampered while listening to it.

      Another benefit of this is that it can be modified with minimal effort to give you audio versions of not just any web site, but any plain text source, whether it be email, your grocery list, your "to do" list (so you can get in the right mindset before arriving at work), yesterday's server stats.

      I first learnt of text-to-speech when my uncle lost his eyes in a fishing boat accident. He's a computer enthusiast, and I was soon impressed with his neat new software. Since then, I've noticed that many of the "accessibility" mechanisms put in place for the handicapped can be beneficial to normal people as well. I frequently browse the 'web with no images, and just use ALT tags (intended for the blind). Certain city intersections that "chirp" for blind people when the light is green allow me to cross the street while reading. Wheelchair ramps are easy on the knees, and handicapped parking spaces are usually open and very close to my destination. Text-to-speech may be your first step into a larger, more convenient world.
      •'re not supposed to park in handicapped spaces. Don't you watch Seinfeld?
      • "handicapped parking spaces are usually open and very close to my destination"

        I just have to believe you are kidding since the rest of your post made such sense.
        • I think what he meant was that when he goes somewhere, he notices that the handicap spots are near the door, and frequently are open (maybe he meant open like wide, uncrowded open?) If it was a troll, then hats off, it was snuck in there pretty nice.
      • Wheelchair ramps are easy on the knees

        This is true, but ramps and especially, curb cuts are often an annoyance and even dangerous to the blind. If you do not use a helper dog, and most blind people do not have one, your only recourse is the cane, and curb cuts are very difficult to detect. Chirping croswalks are fine, where they exist, but many intersections, even in fairly busy areas do not have signals.

    • Hey this isn't a bad idea! Wish I would have thought about that! Although I have a PDA for Avantgo and I ride a bus so I have time to read, but I can see how this would be a cool idea! Only problem....does the lynx dump dump html too? You'd probably have to parse the tags and javascript out as most all news sites use this stuff.
      • lynx -source prints the source of the document, lynx -dump strips html tags, replaces links with numbered references whose uri's are listed at the bottom.
    • In that regard...

      I've written up a little perl script which fetches a slashdot story and converts it into a SABLE document - XML specific to text-to-speech synthesis applications. I use Festival [] for speech synthesis - with a British accent, I can have my computer read slashdot to me in the morning...

      The script basically converts slash's Light mode into something more conducive to tts purposes. It also has a substitution list to help the tts engine pronounce words correctly (how do you think the computer would pronounce CmdrTaco?) Other than that, I've been constantly amazed at how well the process works.

      If anyone's interested in the script, feel free to email me.


  • bFM (Score:2, Informative)

    by Stillman ( 185591 )
    Hard News, broadcast by bFM [] in Auckland, New Zealand. Russell Brown is very love/hate, but it's quite an intellectual take on current events.
    • Damn these domain name tussles...

      It's now at [].

      Listening to tractors as mp3s probably isn't very enlightening! :)
    • I vote for love him. One of the best news jounalists in NZ. Hard News is one of the few things that keeps me informed about NZ politics while living abroad. I don't always agree with him but he does give time to anyone who is willing to put up a compelling augument, even if it isn't exactly what he thinks.

      Americans would do well to listen to him as well. He gives a good take on what the rest of the world may think about George and co.
  • I guess this could be done using MPlayer [] and LAME [].. Mplayer supports mms:// urls and about all codecs there is.. The proprietary extensions to rtsp:// (streaming realaudio/video) is also about to be supported.. It also supports writing audio to raw pcm or wav, which can be encoded to mp3 using LAME.

    • That's good, the more ways of saving realaudio streams to disk the better - maybe it will encourage the BBC to start their Ogg Vorbis broadcasts again!
  • Since Real Audio is (apparently) the most common format

    The Text-Mode RealMedia Player (TRPlayer) [] is a RealMedia player for Unix which has a command-line interface. It can play RealAudio, RealVideo, MP3, and all other media types supported by RealPlayer under Unix. TRPlayer was designed especially for blind Unix users, who don't yet have access to the graphical user interface. However, it is also useful to others; it is a good tool for background audio playback and for use on low-end hardware, such as Intel 486-based PC's.

    Simply pipe this thru your favorite mp3/ogg encoder. You may need to use a cheap x86 Linux box, as OS X isn't supported by Real (yet).


    • Here is a snippet I use for that very purpose:
      vsound -s -d -t trplayer -q rtsp:// |sox -t au - -t wav - | lame -b 128 - out.mp3
      as an added bonus you can listen to the stream while recording it. All four programs (vsound, trplayer, sox and lame) are available on

  • As a diehard fan of BBC Radio 4 and the world service I'd love a Tivo type device for radio - preferably portable.

    Anyone come across one ? or even cobbled together one ?
  • use a radio...

    could apple include a radio?

    • hmmm... Apple has legacy support for those of us who still use older technologies?
      hahahaha, NOT!
      you must be thinking of some other company (like EVERY other company).
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Tuesday August 06, 2002 @07:32AM (#4017078)
    Most AM stations have news every half hour.
    • well, the author didn't specify, where he works, or how he commutes, which is a problem when answering this question...obviously your answer is easy, if a radio is readily available...i'm going to assume that the author must not drive to work, because if he did, he could just listen to the news on his radio as you stated, and not bother asking this question...however, i'm guessing he probably lives or works in a major city, where he takes a subway, etc, making a radio/walkman useless (if he's going to the trouble to ask this)...if this *is* actually the case, then the author does need an alternative to the radio...of course, he could just throw a casette tape in his stereo while he's showering/getting ready for work/eating breakfast in the morning...tape a half hour or hour of the news...and then listen to it with a walkman on the way to work...i dunno, it's just hard to answer without having all the pertinent information....
  • Streambox VCR can save any realaudio stream to a file. Streambox Ripper can convert any realaudio file into an MP3. Unfortunately Streambox VCR was sued into oblivion by Real. (At least as far as they know.)
  • This may seem out of style, but why waste energy converting text to MP3 speech if you can have a system that will read it. I honestly used to have the text news read to me by my PowerBook G3 (Wallstreet) from a simpletext file. I'd download a mass of text files in the a.m., saved as plain text, trimmed of everything above the lede and after the copyright, and la voila , plain text ready to be read by my powerbook.

    That is what Apple ought to add to the next redo of the iPod: a text to speech reader to read your ebooks or news or email for you. And just consider that instead of wasting 1 MB per minute of MP3 audio news reading, you could have less than 32k of plain text for 5 to 10 minutes of news reading. That would be a kicker.

    I first did the Powerbook "read me my news" trick in January of 1999, when it was only a month old for me. I learned quickly to put all of the stories I wanted in either one big text file or in multiple cascaded text files so that I wouldn't have to use the touchpad. Just hitting the Apple-A to select all the text and Apple-H to have it "speak the selection".

  • by lkk17 ( 10176 ) on Tuesday August 06, 2002 @09:07AM (#4017460)
    Have you looked at They offer downloadable audio books, magazines, and newspapers. You can burn CD's of the downloaded audio. As of a couple weeks ago, they support iPod on Mac (with firmware 1.2), as well as several portable players for Windows.

    Unfortunately, they don't support Linux (only Windows and Mac). Their files are not straight mp3's, they are something proprietary with copy protection.

    Check it out, this may be what you are looking for!
    • I agree - *and* there is a program out there that will convert Audible files into MP3's (or whatever audio format you want. They also offer back issues of MPR programs like This American Life and Car Talk. I was a subscriber for over a year and saved a ton on audiobooks (and maintained my sanity at my data entry job!)
    • Mod parent up.

      I'm a little disappointed that doesn't carry Morning Edition, only ATC. They are equally good programs at different times of the day.

      The original asker should probably look at the New York Times Audio Digest which they promise to have available by 6:00 AM EST Monday-Friday. At $13/month or $70/year it is not a bad deal. Heck, for $15/month you can get one audiobook each month plus the NYT audio.

      As a bonus, it is probably possible to write an AppleScript to download it to iTunes every day. Plus, if you are a Mac user, they have a special deal going on right now if you sign up for the $15/month service.

      • AppleScript? What is this?

        I've got some shell script which handily and reliably spits out VBR-encoded MP3 episodes of whatever NPR time slots I elect to record.

        The hardest part was setting up the parameters for LAME to both not sound horrible, consume up little space, and take advantage of the fact that FM radio is already mid-side stereo encoded.

        It was free, too. Though it did take a $20 sound card and an old Kenwood tuner to make it work, the expense of hardware is quickly overshadowed by the lack of a monthly bill and the ability to archive things easily and automatically.

        I have -years- of Car Talk on CD-R, for instance.

        How far back does's archive go?
  • Check out []. It looks like it has most of the features you need. It's a pay service, but the content is excellent.
  • Low-tech (Score:1, Troll)

    by hatless ( 8275 )
    How about just connecting a cheap, AC-powered tape recorder to your sound card and if you want to automate it, plug it into a $10 lamp timer?

    People used to do this all the time back in the days before streaming audio. It's called "hooking a tape recorder up to a timer".

    Granted, these things called "tapes" can't go in your iPod, but they are compatible with those three "portable tape players" sitting in your desk drawer, and they also play on that thing called a "tape deck" that you normally stick the iPod's car adapter into.
  • by Jerky McNaughty ( 1391 ) on Tuesday August 06, 2002 @09:32AM (#4017593)
    I have a crontab entry which just records what I want to hear each day. It uses rawrec, sox, and bladeenc to do the job.

    Here is an example crontab entry:

    0 18 * * 1-5 FILENAME=foo-`date +\%Y\%m\%d`_1 ; cd /archive/radio && /usr/local/bin/rawrec -c 1 -s 32000 -f u8 -t 3600 | sox -b -r 32000 -u -t raw -c 1 - -t wav - 2>/dev/null | /usr/local/bin/bladeenc -128 -quiet STDIN $FILENAME.mp3

    Yes, that's a bit of a convoluted command line, but it does the job. I'm sure there's a better way of doing it, but the above has worked for me for quite a while. All you'd have to do is download it to your iPod.

    Also, a lot of radio stations and programs have pre-determined times when they cut to commercials. If you're adventurous, you could have those automatically cut out. I've looked into doing it, but never got around to it.
    • For the sake of example, your crontab is pretty illustrative. If I were you, though, I'd stick that thing in a shell script, and call it from the cron entry -- a lot easier to test, debug, and maintain.

  •'s **Aloud software [].
    I bought this program to convert books to mp3 for my exams. It's Windows based only at this point. It does a fine job.

    Just start it up and copy the text you want to mp3 and it grabs it.

    The best part-- is they have a program that does News from websites, just like you want it. I haven't tried that one though. I just wanted to listen to those boring manuals and exam crams instead of falling asleep reading them.

    There is also Groups Aloud (for a News reader!!) and Stocks Aloud if you are still gambling in that arena. :-)

  • For real to mp3 (Score:2, Informative)

    by ManDude ( 231569 )
    Follow this link []. (I am way too lazy to do anything else but link today)
  • Check out [] you can buy a subscription that lets you download a book on MP3 every month and have a subscription to NPR news or the wall street journel on MP3 for about $15(us). You can also buy subscriptions or books individually, I've been thinking about subscribing.
  • Air Force Radio News (Score:2, Informative)

    by pmsyyz ( 23514 ) []
    updated five days a week.
    Perhaps not the general news that submitter is looking for, but it is news in mp3. I would certainly prefer Ogg Vorbis though.
  • WAMU.ORG... (Score:4, Informative)

    by jea6 ( 117959 ) on Tuesday August 06, 2002 @11:39AM (#4018470)
    WAMU, one of DC's "public radio" stations streams in MP3 format.
    • More specifically go to this link []

      But that is a stream only, not a downloadable file like he was looking for. (yes I know there are ways to capture streams, but I think he is looking for something easier.)

  • With iTunes 3 and a new firmware update, you should be able to subscribe to one of the Audible newspaper digests. They have a daily collection from the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, which you can automaticaly download to iTunes and thus your iPod. It will probably run you $10 a month.
  • (Score:3, Informative)

    by crisco ( 4669 ) on Tuesday August 06, 2002 @01:11PM (#4019201) Homepage
    I've just discovered KCRW [], the NPR affiliate in Los Angeles. They provide a MP3 simulcast stream which includes the NPR news broadcasts. Even better, it is at 128 kbps, to my ears much more listenable than a lower bit rate Real stream.

    Unfortunately, they don't archive these shows so you'd have to use something appropriate to save the stream.

    A further consideration is the timezone. If you're on the west coast you might be better off ripping an east coast stream overnight, that way your entire morning news program is ready to upload by 6 am, some scheduled recordings could grab the hourly news bites to keep you on top of late breaking events.

  • . . . getting my MP3s as news [binaries.sounds.mp3].
  • Kuow is a seattle station that streams in low bitrate mp3. I setup crontab to record my favorite shows on my firewall pentium 90 then listen to it when ever I need my fix.
  • I use a program called Total Recorder, available at for $11.95 (US). It records the output of Real player, M$ Media Player, or even Winamp digitally, and allows you to save the file as wav or mp3 (using Lame or Blade mp3 libraries). Even includes a timer, so you can leave the audio player running all day, with set start and stop times. Best $12 I've ever spent on software.
  • The Free Speech Radio News [] is available as an MP3.
  • Every day by around 2PM Eastern (US), DemocracyNow.Org [] - a progressive news show - posts their hour-long broadcast in mp3 format and keeps several days of shows. [] - a venture funded in part by - has a lot of progressive shows but they're all in Real format. Check out these progressive news sources; you'll be suprised to hear "the other side" of the story and a well balanced news broadcast unlike the goverment warhawk mouthpiece drivel you hear on Fox News and CNN.
  • has their own format for audio, but you can burn the Daily New York Times or Washington Post to CD, and Windows users can burn the audio to CD. Goldwave can convert the files to WAV, MP3 or other formats. Trying the site and content is free.

    I'm a customer, not an employee.

    Windows only though. :(

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous