GCN debuts audio service using new tool

Stories can now be 'read' to readers

Government Computer News, better known for covering technology news, made news in media industry circles last week by introducing a new service to readers, using a technology tool that automatically converts text stories into audible MP3 files.

The new tool lets GCN make virtually all of its daily news and other stories available as audio files that can be listened to online at GCN.com.

Using advanced text-to-speech technology developed by Fairfax, Va.-based, Newsworthy Inc., GCN sends the text files of its daily news and other articles to Newsworthy via FTP feed. Newsworthy converts the text into spoken words.

The resulting MP3 audio files are returned via an RSS feed and are linked to the original text articles.

Readers can access the audio files by clicking an icon titled 'Listen to this story' located on individual story pages, next to the 'print' and 'e-mail this story' links.

Clicking the icon will launch a custom Flash player on a user's computer that will play the audio immediately or let users save or forward the file for convenience.

First in the U.S.

GCN is believed to be the first publication in the United States to use automated technology to gather and convert a broad array of online text stories into audio story files in near real time. The new service began July 24.

As with many online audio and video broadcasts and videocast services, the audio files will be preceded by a 15-second preroll commercial.

Marcus Heth, CEO of Newsworthy, noted that its audio technology offers users a variety of options. 'We can build [audio files] that include multiple stories on a topic or theme, such as defense,' Heth said.

GCN's new click-to-listen service is available for news stories being added throughout the day on GCN.com as well as stories appearing in the print editions of GCN, beginning with the July 24 issue.

PostNewsweek Tech Media expects to launch the service on its sister sites,
WashingtonTechnology.com, DefenseSystems.com and GovernmentLeader.com, by the end of September.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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