RAIN 7/18: New service transforms web articles into radio-like audio

Michael Schmitt
July 18, 2012 - 1:20pm

SoundGeckoA new service from an Australian start-up transforms articles from the web into a radio-like experience. SoundGecko, from Melbourne's 121cast, automatically transcribes print articles from the web and outputs an audio mp3. Their free iPhone app even plays these transcribed articles back-to-back, essentially creating a personalized news audio stream.

"Our vision is to reinvent the radio with personalized information and entertainment," said 121cast's Long Zheng.

Give SoundGecko a URL -- by sending it to a special email address, pasting it directly into SoundGecko's website, or via Chrome extension -- and the service delivers an mp3 recording within 30 seconds to your email address, or to the service's iPhone app, or pushes the file to a linked Dropbox or Googe Drive account.

"Since our soft launch we've had hundreds of users requesting nearly a thousand articles," Zheng told The Verge.

"I have been testing the service over the past few days and although it isn't perfect," writes The Verge's Tom Warren, "I found that the text-to-speech voice is great for when you want to simply sit back and listen to an article during a commute."

Our own experience with the app is similar. Here's how I've used the service over the past day: while browing the web, I used the SoundGecko Chrome extension to send a variety of interesting articles -- which I didn't have time to read just then -- to the service. Then this morning on the train, I fired up SoundGecko's iPhone app and listened to my articles in one continuous radio-like stream.

It was overall a very smooth and exciting experience, though as Warren writes, it isn't perfect (yet). But 121cast has a few ideas on how to improve the experience, including possibly hiring professionals to "read out the most popular URLs" (on-air talent?).

Apps for Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8 are on the way. SoundGecko is currently free to use, though the company is mulling putting caps or perhaps premium features.

You can find SoundGecko here and The Verge's coverage here.

Michael Schmitt
July 18, 2012 - 1:20pm

In-car web radio listeningAlan Burns and Associates have more to share from their survey of women radio listeners (find RAIN's earlier coverage here), and it has to do with in-car web music listening.

Nearly one in four women said they access web content in their cars weekly and 16% do so every day. Among those who have built-in web access, around 50% use the Internet in-car daily. It's not clear if that includes systems like Ford SYNC, which technically don't connect to the web without a smartphone.

Women surveyed cited not having web access in their cars as the #1 reason for not listening to Pandora and other web radio services more.

Alan Burns and Associates says the female radio listeners they surved "who already have in-car access still listen to [terrestrial] radio more often than anything else in the car, and just as often as other women."

Alan Burns and Associates will present more info in a free webinar, presented by Trition Digital, tomorrow at 3:30pm Eastern. Registration can be found here.

Michael Schmitt
July 18, 2012 - 1:20pm

Mobile consumer in ChinaArbitron Mobile and iResearch Consulting have partnered to operate a mobile media research service in China, the world's largest smartphone market.

The companies hope to provide marketers, content providers, app developers and wireless services with information about how mobile consumers in China use apps, engage in advertising and generally use their devices. Arbitron and iResearch will create a panel of around 10,000 people who will install special tracking software on their smartphones and tablets.

You can find the companies' press release here.

Paul Maloney
July 18, 2012 - 1:20pm

You may recall last month our roundup (here) of the four groups applying to control the proposed ".radio" top level domain. One of those groups, the European Broadcasting Union, has now reportedly joined the "Governmental Advisory Committee" (GAC) of ICANN, the body that actually decides who'll get the domains.

Obviously, on its face, this would seem like a conflict-of-interest. At least one EBU's rivals for ".radio" feels the same way. In a letter sent to GAC Chair Heather Dryden, BRS Media BRS Media chairman/CEO George Bundy stated, "No other GAC Members or Observers are a direct applicant for a generic Industry specific string like .RADIO that is contested," remarked . "This will give the EBU an undue advantage..." 

Bundy's letter continued, "We believe these activities to be a direct Conflict of Interest, by the European Broadcasting Union within the New TLD Application process. Since the EBU has already been accepted to the GAC, we must request that the Chair recommend, the European Broadcasting Union recuse itself from the New TLD process by withdrawing its applications immediately."

Read the BRS Media press release here.