Hourly News: The Latest Radio News Reports, in Your Mac’s Menubar

When all the breaking news is on Twitter, it seems as if there’s no need for audio streams or radio stations any longer. NPR and BBC are still listened to by many, but how long will it be until they are no longer needed?

A new app called Hourly News wants to make sure radio reports stay around for a bit longer by putting them in your menu bar for a nice streaming experience. Shall we see what this app can do to keep us listening to radio news?

Listen From the Day’s Start

When you sit down at your office chair in the morning, you may want to launch your RSS reader to catch up on the latest in celebrity gossip. Instead of that, though, why not have Hourly News open when you start up your computer? That little black play button will sit in the menu bar waiting for you to click it, and when you do you’ll get the morning report almost instantly.

Personalize the app for your daily activities in the Settings pane.

Personalize the app for your daily activities in the Settings pane.

The app doesn’t require much bandwidth to stream audio — only about 80 kbps, in fact. So while you read your emails and drink your morning coffee, this is the perfect companion. If you look closely, the date and time that the report was published is shown right below the station title. You can even drag the slider to return to a previous segment if you missed something. Also, don’t forget to press that refresh button in the top right to check for the latest report; you’ll lose access to the old one.

It might be annoying, though, that every time you click the app, it starts playing automatically. To stop this quickly, use the spacebar.

Change Up the Sources with Four Clicks

Changing the sources.

Changing the sources.

If you’re looking to add a new source or switch off one that you already have, click the app’s icon, click the gear in the top left corner, and click Sources. From there you can enable or disable whichever source you prefer. You can also drag them to reorganize the order in which they appear on the main screen. The included sources are ABC, BBC, Bloomberg, CBC, CBS, ESPN, FOX, NPR, SRN, VOA, and WSJ. All can be enabled if you wish.

Starting with a Tutorial is Good, But This One Isn’t

I typically like to see an app that helps users along from the start with a small tutorial or tour. Urban Apps didn’t implement this well in Hourly News though. Instead of a simple two or three-step tutorial, they used one that took a good ten clicks to complete. Every pop-up must be acknowledged with a click, and for someone who just wants to get started listening, that’s annoying. Besides, the app is very user-friendly as it is. There’s actually no need for a tutorial at all.

What About Sharing?

News on YouTube or a blog is nice for a lot of people because they can quickly share it by copying the link to the story. This app doesn’t have anything like that, though. Since the BBC and NPR both have audio streams available, it might be nice to obtain a link to those using the app. This is just a feature suggestion for a future version.

Focused and Handy

The main screen.

The main screen.

Hourly News is perfect for the user who likes those quick roundups from popular sources like the BBC or CBS. For those in search of in-depth reports, it’s best to use the sources’ websites rather than this app. Overall, Urban Apps’ little menu bar utility is the best thing you can get for the job. They’re not asking much for it at $2.99, either.


It's great for listening to quick reports without the need of a Web browser. The only problem is the tutorial when you first get the app. It really doesn't need to be there.