Schibsted-owned Aftenposten has used AI to «clone» the voice of one of its journalists and podcasters.
The project started when the newspaper was working on Aftenposten Junior, a digital news service specially developed for students in primary school where, due to strict accessibility requirements, text to speech was business critical.
The result is an AI voice with unlimited possibilities. Product director Karl Oskar Teien and product manager Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen talked about the project at a recent meeting of the Norwegian Online News Association (NONA). Journalisten.no has an article about the project here (in Norwegian). Some quick notes:
- 5-8% in Norway have reading difficulties, so we believe this is an important democratic project
- Video streaming eats up more and more of the market, and the battle for users' attention year by year
- Scarcity of information: The newspaper used to be portal to the world. Now: Information overload – lots of sources, too little time.
- We’ve gone from from local physical distribution to global digital distribution
- Visual attention - reading on paper and screen
- Audio attention – screen-free news consumption
- More people are listening and each individual is listening more to online audio (all audio that is not radio).
- More and more people are using AirPods and other earplugs
- We are seeing more and more audio startups - one of the biggest augmented reality offerings available today. Sound facilitates more multitasking and less screen time
- Correlation between listening and customer loyalty: Aftenposten has a strong position in audio and podcasts. 200k users now pay for podcast.
- Challenges in scaling up sound production - e.g. costs, time, prediction, updates (news is fresh)
- Text to speech can be a solution (opposite of speech to text) = unlimited output and available everywhere
- Our ambition is for all of Aftenposten's journalism to be made available in audio format
- The technology we use: BeyondWords
- Used Anne Lindholm's voice, at the time she was the presenter of "Explained"
- We have had a robot trainer who has worked with this - a student who sat and listened
- Sound resonates better with younger target groups
- Users who listen complete more of the article
- Possibilities going forward: playback from the front page, playlists for different needs, play my saved articles, etc
- This is groundbreaking work both legally and technically.
- Has, among other things, a contract with Anne Lindholm which states that the voice should only be used in editorial and not commercial products.