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article imageApple to offer spoken iTunes podcasts of online news articles

By James Walker     Sep 26, 2016 in Technology
Apple has accidentally revealed a new iTunes feature that will see it rival radio news stations. The company will offer "Spoken Editions" of online content, a series of podcasts offering an audio version of a publisher's written material.
The idea could appeal to people who do regular exercise and don't have time to catch up on the news each day. iTunes will be able to get you up to speed as you run, using text-to-speech technology to convert written news articles into audio podcasts.
TechCrunch reports that Apple has already convinced several major publishers to give the idea a try. Names including Forbes, TIME, WIRED and TechCrunch itself will be amongst the first to release Spoken Editions of their content. The emphasis is on short-form material that quickly provides the listener with the article's key points. This will help to prevent people abandoning the feature after being deterred by long and monotonous podcasts.
Apple is working with existing podcasting networks and publishers to prepare iTunes for Spoken Editions. One company, SpokenLayer, is already offering technology to media companies to create podcasts from their written work. SpokenLayer provides audio creation and distribution services, simplifying the conversion from online article to audio recording.
SpokenLayer's network includes a unique "voice" for each publisher. Its proprietary tech is able to convert audio content into a signature for each brand, ensuring every site has its own "personality." This enables listeners to identify each company and prevents iTunes becoming filled with podcasts narrated by the same text-to-speech engine.
"We make sure Wired sounds like Wired and any other publication sounds like those publications," SpokenLayer CEO Will Mayo told TechCrunch. "The voice and style of any brand is in its writers and the reporting it does. That's unique for every publication, and that uniqueness is honored." Mayo did not comment on SpokenLayer's participation in Spoken Editions.
Apple hasn't officially announced Spoken Editions yet. The feature was spotted earlier today after making an appearance on iTunes itself. Apple has already withdrawn the relevant listings.
Spoken Editions appears to be a rival to emerging short-form audio products such as Amazon's recently-launched Audible Channels. Podcasts are a rapidly growing content segment, seeing 30 percent annual usage increases. Apple will use Spoken Editions to capitalise on this trend. Publishers can monetise their content with audio ads to take advantage too, reaching millions of iTunes users in the process.
Spoken Editions also marks Apple's growing interest in news and the media. The company recently overhauled its Apple News service with iOS 10, creating a more complete app that allows users to aggregate multiple news sources into one place. Spoken Editions will do the same but for spoken content. Apple is said to be planning to launch the service in October.
More about Apple, Itunes, spoken editions, Podcasts, Media
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