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Audio Articles Could Be the Next Big Thing for Publishers in 2020

Part of the success of podcasts—over half of publisher respondents in a new Reuters Institute study said they would be pushing various types of podcast initiatives this year—comes from the new demands on our time. We can listen to podcasts while doing something else, be it driving, commuting, working out, cooking, etc.

Now that same logic is propelling another trend: audio articles. In that same Reuters study, titled Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020, they write this in a section called What to Expect in 2020:

“Improved technology is enabling new opportunities for publishers in quickly re-versioning text output into audio. In Canada, the Globe and Mail is one of the first publishers to use Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech service that sounds far more natural to the human ear than previous versions. Subscribers can listen to selected articles in English, French and Mandarin and choose their favorite voice.”

Okay, so being able to listen to one of your articles in say, Mandarin, would increase your possible audience only by a mere billion or so. That’s pretty substantial.

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In Denmark, “slow-news” operation Zetland—which I’ve written about before for their trendiness—provides all of its stories with a (human-read) audio option. Around 75% of all stories are now listened to rather than consumed via text. 75%! That’s amazing. (This graphic is from that Reuters report.)

Zetland was one of the first publishers to put on live events, called Zetland Live, featuring their staff. In one video, their editor begins as the emcee with some type of fowl mascot behind her. Then we see a woman on a trapeze, a mini-symphony, a reporter talking about his coverage of Afghanistan perhaps, another reporter with footage of himself in Africa perhaps, audience involvement, a sports segment, storytelling, more music and an after-party (where the fowl returns).

Back to audio articles. “In Brazil the newspaper Estadão has teamed up with Ford to create a human-read daily audio service for Spotify. Each part of the newspaper has its own album, each news story has its own track. Many publishers see connected cars as a new opportunity to reach audiences and audio as a key way to deliver journalism in the future.”

Taking a quick look around the web, it seems that there are many affordable vendors now. Natural ReadersTTSReader and Text2Speech came up for me.

In an article in June, Molly Raycraft on the site B2B Marketing wrote about B2B brands incorporating voice technology in their marketing. She insists that your products should be voice tech accessible.

“Unquestionably the standard should be that you have either vocalized your product, or at least designed your website content to work with text-to-speech systems. So while you may have aspirations of doing something futuristic and ground-breaking with voice tech, make sure you’ve got the basics covered. This could even be as simple as filling in a proper description in the ‘alt text’ box on website images.”

Then she writes: “B2B tech copywriting agency Radix Communications gives a great example of how effective it can be to simply repurpose what you have into audio in order to increase its accessibility. As part of its podcast Good Copy, Bad Copy, the agency has been experimenting with reading its blogs aloud. This makes the content more accessible to those who potentially have a visual impairment, as well as those who are on the go and can’t sit down to read.”

Then there are flash briefings, where your company’s news can now be part of Alexa’s early-morning summaries. Besides being news-oriented, flash briefings can broadcast inspirational quotes, event listings, finance tips, random facts, etc.

From Wbur.org: “Via an undeniably cumbersome interface, users choose which flash briefings they’d like to hear and the order in which they appear. Then, whenever the user says, ‘Alexa, tell me the news’—or the much clunkier, ‘Alexa, play my flash briefing’—the device will get the latest news from those sources, in that predetermined order.”

What a great way for a specialized publisher subscriber to get her morning update.