Audio Articles: Make your Journalism accessible in Audio.

Audio Articles Cover Image

Text-to-Audio or click-to-listen story formats have been available for over a decade. Adding to that, there is a sudden rise in audio listeners, and innovations in audio technology. This has given opportunity to a new form of content — Audio Articles.

What are Audio Articles?

It’s no rocket science. Like the name suggests, Audio Articles are articles, in audio format.

Audio Articles mean, every article posted on your website is converted into an audio stream.

They can be played back at the click of a button.

Therefore, you can let your readers to listen to their favorite content in places they couldn’t! — at the gym, on the road, or in a crowded lunchroom!

Best part? This functionality is built into your existing website!

Which means, readers need not download any software or third-party apps to use this feature. They just open an article like they normally would, and click the “Play or Listen” button!

These feature one voice, no outside sound, and no musical scoring — an aesthetic that’s closer to audiobooks than podcasts.

What do Audio Articles offer?

Here’s what having audio version of articles can do for your website, or blog.

Audio Articles increase Accessibility

Audio Articles are a great way to improve your Website Accessibility. Visually impaired readers will benefit greatly from the ability to simply load an article and press play!

Did you know? — About 285 million people in the world are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. And 82% of the people who are above the age of 50, are all blind.

Knowing these statistics, just imagine how far your reach could be, if your content was accessible in audio as well!

If you are from the United States, you have a responsibility! Complying to the ADA law, or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973.

ADA compliance is vital for any company that does business on the web.

Your website, has to ensure all its digital content is accessible by citizens with visual, auditory, and other physical limitations and disabilities.

By being ADA compliant, your website allows people with physical and mental disabilities to access the information it has to offer.

It allows you to reach a larger audience and possibly opening the doors for more customers, and clients down the road.

To know more about website accessibility, and ADA, you can check our article on ADA Compliance.

Increase Engagement

Viewers can retain 95% of the communicated message when they get it in audio format.

Also, the listener figures are still way below the numbers of people who read text online.

Audio content isn’t just about numbers, it’s about audience engagement.

Adding audio content to a static page can drive five times more engagement to the post.

Audio has recently emerged as a powerful medium to connect in a deep and effective way with target consumers online, through entertainment, education, and interaction.

The more engaging and entertaining the content, the more likely the message will stand out and gain the attention of a target audience.

You can allow your audiences to consume the content passively!

This is important at a time when much audio content is consumed while multitasking or ‘on the go’.

Which leads us to our next topic — These Articles are a more convenient source of information.

Audio Articles are a more convenient source of information.

69% of audio content is consumed while doing other activities.

In an age when many podcasts offer dramatic storytelling and sophisticated audio, narrated articles may not offer the most robust listening experience, but they do offer one that’s convenient for listeners.

Audio Articles allow readers to listen to your content at their own convenience.

When a reader doesn’t have the option to sit down and scroll through an article, they can just press play and listen to the article while multi-tasking.

You don’t have to rely on any third party apps or downloads are required — Audio Articles integrate seamlessly into your existing website!

Audio Articles generate more revenue

With the inclusion of an audio player on your page, it gives way to a completely new, unique, and innovative form of marketing.

Play.ht lets you customize the audio player in many ways to generate more revenue.

  • Add your own branding on the player.
  • Remove the Play.ht branding from the player.
  • Enable email subscriptions via player.
  • Add custom social media icons to share.

You can generate revenue by selling a unique audio ad.

Monetize ad space above the audio player, which includes a “Sponsored By” message and logo that links to the advertisers website.

Generate Analytics — get reports of your Audio Articles

Having a player to play an article or just having an audio article isn’t enough. Wouldn’t anyone want to know if this new and innovative aspect on their website is actually worth it or not?

Here is the Proof.

View real-time listening stats to see just how valuable this tool is to your readers and advertisers!

Play.ht gives you a comprehensive report of how many users are listening to your articles.

Audio Analytics Playht

Not just that, with the most perfect listening analytics, you can also track how many shares, and downloads your audience has made.

This gives you an idea of which articles are doing well, and which need more fine tuning, or even better if all are a hit!

Publishers are now opting for a text to speech solution.

Harvard Business Review(HBR), The Economist, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic are among some of the magazines now offering an increasing number of narrated articles. 

Why are such huge names, with already a significantly ginormous following getting into a field like Text-to-Speech, or Audio Articles? Well here’s why.

In one statement — “If you don’t have the time to sit down and read a feature article in the latest issue of the magazine or paper, we’re trying to deliver you something that makes it easier to get that.”

This is what all have to say, when you ask them why. And it perfectly makes sense right?

Audio is the most convenient sources of information in this day and age, and who’s a better fit for this than the News, and Publishing industry?

Here are the main reasons why adding an audio medium is doing the job.

Gives exposure to a younger Audience.

It gives exposure to a user base that’s 65% aged 35 or younger.

It is a simple fact that the upcoming generation is going to be an exclusive online generation, and even now, how many of us actually sit down, get a cup of coffee, and read a newspaper?

We’ve seen our fathers do it, their fathers do it, but do we? You might, but it doesn’t rule out the fact that a majority of us don’t. This is where Audio Articles come into picture.

Let people read, who wish to read, and for the rest, like me, we’d be doing the same, but by LISTENING.

Increased time on site — for you and for the people who chose to listen to the article

When people choose to listen to the article, they are more likely to stay on the site because some people prefer to listen rather than read.

Time on site increases because people have been actually listening longer instead of reading a paragraph or two and leaving. That would ultimately increase other more meaningful metrics, like total engagement or conversions.

What are the publishers doing, or have been doing.

  • The Economist Newspaper Ltd. began producing an audio edition of its weekly magazine in 2007 and little has changed since then. Professional newscasters record every story in the magazine in a weekly session.
  • The New York Times Co. has also based its read-aloud strategy around longer, narrative stories. It began producing audio stories last fall with Audm, which provides publishers with audio recorded by voice artists.
  • The Times in March also acquired Audm, which will continue to work with publishers such as The Atlantic and The New Yorker.
    • “The Times’ target audience is not necessarily news addicts, but more likely readers without time to get through stacks of magazines on their coffee tables”, said Stephanie Preiss, vice president of TV and audio at The New York Times.
    • “This is a way in which long-form journalism can fit better into your life” — Stephanie Preiss.

Other Publishers are trying for shorter Audio Articles.

The Washington Post

The Washington Post, for instance, initially used reporters and voice artists to create audio articles.

It is now moving away from using reporters and voice artists to create audio articles and toward text-to-speech technology.

Now, the Post is using text-to-speech features on Android and iOS mobile operating systems, allowing the newspaper to offer an audio version of every article it publishes, including quick news stories.

They began testing text-to-speech capabilities on its Android app in early 2020, assuming the feature would appeal to readers on their daily commute.

The Washington Post announced plans to make audio versions of all of its articles.

“What we’ve learned from users is that they listen to the news while doing other things. And they are consuming far more content than they would normally” — Leila Siddique, Senior Product Manager.

BBC Global News

The BBC’s Global News has gone a step further by developing an automated “voice” as part of the click-to-listen strategy it began testing last month. Its developer team built a reader bot meant to sound as human as possible.

“You can’t have somebody producing a new audio version of one article every time it’s updated”, said Andy Webb, head of product for the voice and artificial intelligence team at the BBC.

“But with this synthetic language, there’s hardly any additional cost to production at all.”

The BBC aims to eventually own a stable of synthetic voices with different accents, genders and nationalities to appeal to its global audience, Mr. Webb said.

It also hopes to introduce voice “moods” to match the tone of stories, toggling between a peppy voice for a sports report, for example, to a serious voice for a feature on the coronavirus pandemic, he added.

The Economist – England

It’s not just the U.S. that has seen a boom in audio articles during the pandemic.

England’s The Economist has offered audio editions of its weekly magazine since 2007.

However, according to deputy editor Tom Standage, they are currently enjoying “record numbers of streams/downloads and unique listeners.”

Audio Articles Increase the Basic Value.

Despite the fact that these platforms use professional narrators, audio content is still fairly simplistic compared to podcasts, which often require dramatic story-telling and high production values.

The key to audio articles’ success is convenience – and quality journalism.

Publishers, in turn, get more value from their audience.

While The Economist hasn’t shared numbers for the performance of their audio content, Standage says figures suggests the audio edition is an effective retention tool. “Once you come to rely on it, you won’t unsubscribe.”

The Washington Post’s managing editor Kat Downs Mulder agrees the convenience of audio is a “huge benefit” to both their subscribers and their subscription numbers.

“We know people love listening to news – our podcasts show that,” she comments. “Opening up more audio content and making it easier for them engage with The Post helps draw them into our ecosystem even further. That improves retention rates.”

Offering a little Extra.

Interestingly, while most publishers create a limited number of long-form, analytical audio articles, The Washington Post is using the text-to-speech features on Android and iOS to offer audio versions of all its articles.

The 143-year-old paper has been experimenting with audio since 2017.

However, Downs Mulder explains that they decided to offer automated storytelling across all its content.

She says, “Our readers know they always have an audio option, across all articles, which really reinforces its availability.”

The feedback from articles with Audio has always been positive, and miss Mulder says subscribers who listen to audio articles spend three times as much time in Post apps.

The Spoken Word Audio Report — NPR and Edinson Research

The audio landscape is transforming dramatically, and it’s not just about new technologies – the type of content people are listening to is changing too.

43% of the U.S. population listen to spoken word audio daily, averaging two hours per day.

The 2020 Spoken Word Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research examines listener behaviors and preferences related to spoken word audio and how they’ve changed in the last six years.

We’re not going to get into details, but here’s what it highlights:

  • 30% increase in share of spoken word audio listening over last 6 years.
  • 75% of the U.S. population listened to spoken word audio in the past month.
  • 32% of spoken word listening is to NPR and public radio podcasts.

Here’s the video of the webinar if you’d like to indulge yourself even more.

Conclusion

Audio is a great way for niche brands to engage with their audience and create loyalty.

In addition to increased retention, audio is also a great way to reach out to new audiences, as it is traditionally consumed by a younger demographic. 

According to Klitgaard, more than 30% of their paying members are under age 30. And The Post says their audio audience is “generally younger” than their average reader.

Creating a good, and successful audio model is all about knowing your audience. You need to recognize their needs and match the user experience accordingly.

Whether that’s long-form analytical content, or easy-to-access daily news, audio is proving to be a highly effective way to engage, retain and attract audiences.

In the end, Audio isn’t about changing user habits, it’s about embracing their habits.

The goal is to convert casual listeners into dedicated listeners, by opening them up to getting news from us in other ways. And audio is proving to have an enormous importance to the news-interested public.

To learn more, click here…

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