Oh no. The Washington Times has introduced one of those atrocious shovelware programmes that ‘converts’ all its text stories into audio files. Don’t they realize that broadcast journalists exist for a reason? Text-to-speech programs have an important role for visually impaired users, and they have improved. But for professional news stories this kind of extra ‘feature’ is a total waste of time and money. It seems logical and efficient to re-purpose content in this way, but it totally ignores the fact that the finished product is almost unlistenable and offers a truly awful user experience. It’s not just that the computer-generated voice is extremely grating – the language of audio news has a different structure, pace and dynamic to written news that this kind of repurposing doesn’t appreciate. If you think I’m being harsh, have a listen and let me know what you think. Click on any news story on then home page. I reckon the money would be better spent on broadcast training for their most adaptable journalists.
The details, anyway: The Click-2-listen service is produced by NewsWorthy Audio and automatically converts 90-95 percent of the site’s text stories into a computer-generated, downloadable MP3 file. ME David Eldridge said it’s the first newspaper website to offer this kind of thing, although it isn’t – Arizona Republic has been using a system like this for its podcasts for, well, way too long. And IHT launched a robot news reader back in July, as we reported at the time. But at least that site offers an RSS feed of headlines – from what I can see, TWT’s audio stories have to be downloaded individually so that’s rather laborious for the podcast listeners it’ll hope to “attract” with this “feature.” Bob Adkins, TWT’s internet director, is quoted here as saying that it doesn’t require any extra work from editors. Hmmm.
Related: Otodio’s Text To Speech Play: Media Implications
– IHT Tries Podcast Variation Automatic Audio Translations
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.