Don’t have time to read this right now? This post is also available as a podcast episode demonstrating how Herald delivers personalized audio. Check it out on Apple Podcasts, Android, Overcast, and Spotify.
There has never been a better time for listening. The widespread popularity of podcasts, bluetooth speakers and headphones, and voice assistants such as Alexa all attest to this trend. Herald takes this a step further by delivering personalized audio right to your phone, making listening more convenient than ever before.
Herald is a service that turns any webpage into an episode in your personal podcast feed. You can add a webpage to your feed straight from your browser by using a bookmarklet or by emailing the URL to Herald. The service then extracts content from the page and turns it into audio using today’s best text-to-speech technology. Within a few seconds the audio is delivered to a podcast feed that you can listen to in your favorite player. There’s also a demo feed with curated examples of the best stories so that you can see how Herald works.
This solves a common problem: longform articles are great, but it’s rare to have the opportunity to sit down and read one all the way through. Avid readers who use services such as Instapaper and Pocket are likely to build up a backlog of saved articles that piles up over time. Audio, on the other hand, can be consumed ambiently the in the background.
There are other signs of the shift to audio as well. Podcasts and audiobooks continue to gain listeners, although the rapid switch away from commuting earlier this year may have reduced the available time that each individual has to listen. Spotify and Amazon have both recently added podcasts to their streaming platforms, and Audible just released an “all-you-can-listen” membership tier. Most podcast feeds are public, but subscription-based podcasts such as Dithering or those found on Glow.fm offer private feeds to each subscriber. Even those individual feeds have the same content for all subscribers, though. Herald goes even further: the episodes in your feed are all chosen by you.
Journalists and bloggers are also beginning to offer audio content. Ben Thompson’s Stratechery blog is now available in audio form, read by Ben himself. Venkatesh Rao does the same with his Breaking Smart newsletter. It’s no coincidence that Marc Andreessen published his widely-read “It’s Time to Build” essay as a podcast too. The New York Times’ acquisition of Audm promises that the line between writing and audio will continue to blur.
Technology is certainly a part of this story. Text-to-speech systems have taken dramatic strides in recent years. Tools like Descript can even take samples of someone’s voice and generate realistic speech that sounds like that person (see this example from the Techmeme Ride Home podcast for how that sounds when applied to journalism). Voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana all use text-to-speech for their output in addition to speech-to-text for user input. Combined with improved audio quality in these smart devices, bluetooth speakers, and airbuds, voice computing is on the rise.
Whether you’re traveling, working out, or just doing the dishes, Herald can deliver personalized audio that lets you “read” more conveniently than ever before. You can listen any time, anywhere, and at any speed in your favorite app. Sign up with discount code “HEYMATT” for 20% off any paid plan, or try the free plan or subscribe to the demo feed to check it out first. Keep an eye out on Twitter and Instagram for new features as Herald keeps getting better!