Illiffe Media, who also run kmfm radio an audio news service in Kent, says that the newly launched audio option widget for stories on its Kent Online website allows readers to listen via an automated voice rather than read, with the remainder of Illiffe’s portfolio scheduled to follow.
Editorial director Ian Carter says: “It’s something we introduced partly because radio is a key part of our business and this seemed a logical next step for us. We are always up for exploring new ideas, particularly when they also open up new advertising opportunities too.
“It’s been received very well, and some other publishers have already been in touch asking how they can replicate it.
“What we need to do now is closely monitor how our readers are using it – we have some targets in mind for the percentage of people we expect to adopt it.
“It’s obviously a good way to increase dwell time across the site too. It launched on Kent Online and will expand across the rest of Iliffe shortly.
“Using an automated voice is never going to be 100pc perfect – our newsreaders won’t be getting replaced by robots any time soon – but this software comes pretty close.”
Rob Wills, head of broadcast at kmfm added: "This was something we have been talking about for a couple of years but the synthesized voice overs were too robotic, getting local pronunciations correct wasn't possible and some of the implementation wasn't quite there. We are now able to conquer some of those tech issues and launch.
“We have partnered with a great company to produce text to speech articles and in the future we will be able to generate more audible opportunities such as podcasts, trending stories and potentially audible newsletters.
“The potential commercial gains are interesting too and as Ian says, it's early days; but we are excited to see where this goes.”