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  • Writer's pictureRon Jaworski

How to turn your readers to listeners by converting articles to audio

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

These days, audio is where the battle for readers is, as silly as it might sound at first. This is the age of efficiency. No matter what you’re doing, almost always you’re doing something else as well. In terms of content consumption, readers no longer have the time or patience or willingness to go through a full article. Everything is on the go, and mainly for that reason alone, audio content has exploded.

Being a publisher today means you need to do everything in your power to make your content as attractive and accessible as possible to readers while ensuring you’re getting as much value as possible from it. You only need to do one fairly simple thing:

convert articles to audio via a text to speech solution.

Here’s why. Digiday’s recent research shows publishers are increasingly turning to technologies like artificial intelligence and content-curation vendors to create content at lower costs. That follows up on the previous research that showed two-thirds of publishers expect to increase the volume of content they produce in 2019 despite content budgets remaining the same or decreasing this year.

There are two principal ways you can do this, and I’ll try my best to explain them in a fun and easy way.

Will try Denzel, will try.

Increase engagement with contech

No, that’s not a typo: I don’t mean content but contech, content technology that is the key to turning your readers into listeners via audio files. When it comes to distributing content to the audience, your primary option is a native audio player that allows you not only to engage and grow your audience in a new way but also provides a complete solution for audio content creation and monetization.

The way these text to speech players work is really simple: place it anywhere on the page, let it scan the page and automatically add a high-quality audio version of the article. Ample customization allows the player to fully adapt to the site’s look and feel without hurting the website user experience, and even to continue playing while the reader is away from it, freeing them to go through other content while they listen. As such, the player is a big part of the retention strategy of many big-time publishers who are looking to seize on new opportunities audio files offer by satisfying their readers’ appetite for listening to articles.

If you want to turn articles into audio, there’s also the option of skills or actions – capabilities that enable intelligent voice assistants to connect to specific hardware and software and perform certain tasks. As more and more daily tasks are moving away from the keyboard and finding a home in our vocal cords, so does it make perfect sense to amplify your content through smart speakers, smartphones, and any other smart device (including cars) that leverage voice assistants. These are basically voice apps that make the virtual assistant smarter but are more demanding to develop and implement.

In both cases, you’ll need a SaaS platform to publish your high-quality audio content quickly and easily. I’ll admit that readers’ appetite for listening to articles isn’t always easy to quantify. It’s a well-known fact that young generations (or younger, as I’d like to believe I’m not old, yet) are into audio big time. So, analytics and a bit of research will play a major role in what type and format of content will appeal the most, as well as which way to deliver it.

I’d be a fool to neglect to mention one important aspect of the ongoing audio revolution – podcasts, if only as a small example of the power of audio. It is estimated around 73 million people tune in every month – more than enough reasons to convert articles to podcast, if it makes sense for you. While we’re still waiting for the overall results for 2018, we do know that podcasts have seen a steady rise in popularity, one that coincides with a widespread increase in digital media consumption, especially on mobile devices. The fact that there is a huge selection of quality podcasts online only adds to the overall appeal.

Rise of Podcasts - Statista

I’m not going to bore you with additional stats and numbers – there’s plenty of that here, plus the topic of voice adoption and audio revolution is frequent in the media. Do note that recent forecasts have been consistent in severely underestimating the expansion of audio files so things are only going to get better (and larger, I guess).

Realistic text to speech voice – concern or not?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the common objections. Numero uno concern for many is the realistic text to speech voice or more precisely, the ability to deliver the tone and nuance of content in a human manner. The role of personality and what traits readers consider both desirable and undesirable can’t be understated. While those characteristics are far more important when it comes to digital personal assistants, the acoustic characteristics of voice are crucial for forming favorable impressions.

For those who aren’t that big into voice technology, text to speech software has come a long way. The idea that you can convert articles to audio and the underlying tech has been in work for decades, which is why you get (in most cases) a friendly and pleasant voice, regardless of the tone or topic at hand. Look no further (or should I say hear?) than the built-in player here – how does the reading of this article sound to you? Plus, there’s more than one natural sounding voice to choose from. Readers expect a smooth user experience and that is exactly what businesses give them, sometimes even with a blend of artificial and human voices.

Voice also has the advantage of software, where different algorithms that power it can be improved without any expense on your part because everything is cloud-based and not limited by hardware. I’m not saying everything is perfect, but we’re far away from Hawking-esque text to speech robot voice that’s predominantly envisioned when mentioning computer speech. There are still some kinks to work out but the future is looking very bright.

Macintosh 128K

Ahh, early Apple…

The goal is to improve user experience

When it comes to behavior and content consumption, readers are typically inconsistent, but that doesn’t stop them from demanding/expecting a certain level of consistency in user experience. Audio is a channel on its own and forming a consistent brand and user experience across all channels is vital for reader trust and loyalty. And the easiest route is to convert articles to audio and build a library of audio files.

The key lies in laying down the tech (while it’s still at its early stages) as the foundation for strategy now, in order to create a frictionless user experience with seamless interfaces across platforms. That’s what’s expected of you and that’s what you must deliver if you want to stay on top of new developments and opportunities. There will be plenty of those so if you want to make things happen for your business, give us a shout to freely embed a player and audiofy your content at a click of a button.

Make sure you’re following me on Twitter for ongoing updates, tips, and industry takeaways!

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