Anyone who follows Gary Vaynerchuk online knows that he’s a zealous proponent of voice technology–both audio content like podcasts as well as tools that run on voice commands, like Amazon Alexa. Vaynerchuk’s bullishness is borne out by how things are shaping up in the real world. Both investors and consumers appear to have taken a liking to voice of late, and that’s a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon.
One of the things voice is making easier is consuming online content. That’s thanks to services like Curio, which employs voiceover artists to convert journalistic pieces from premium publications into narrated audio. These narrated articles are then organized into user-tailored playlists based on topic, and packaged into a $8-a-month subscription.
The service has its origins in lessons the founding team drew from its years spent in media. “From my previous role as a strategist for the BBC, I knew research showed that people loved audio,” says founder Govind Balakrishnan, “but were unsatisfied with the current offerings in the online world.” He also attributes technology moving beyond screens (Google Home, CarPlay, etc.) as a reason for voice becoming a key format within which to innovate.
The process by which Curio picks articles to give an audio makeover involves both technology and the human touch.
“We use Natural Language Processing to determine key characteristics of articles, and superimpose it with multiple datasets to understand relevance and topicality,” Balakrishnan explains.
Once articles pass that test, they’re forwarded to a team of voiceover artists who span accents and backgrounds, so the the vocal rendition matches the tone of the article.
Balakrishnan tells me the quality of both the content curation and narrated audio set Curio apart from similar services like Audm, Linguoo, and ReadCast. Curio’s machine learning algorithm works in the background curating and recommending content to users at scale. These articles are collated into playlists and proffered to users based on their unique preferences. He also attributes Curio’s success to “partnerships with the best publications in the news, current affairs and ideas space, such as The Financial Times, The Guardian and Aeon.”
Services like Curio capitalize on a paradigm shift in the way we think about and consume media online. “We are moving into a world where information will become an overlay on reality, which is to say that people increasingly struggle to make time for content,” explains Balakrishnan. Given how audio content can be consumed passively while completing manual tasks, it has become the obvious choice for those who can’t dedicate time regularly to leisure or entertainment. “That does not mean screens or websites become irrelevant, but there is a ‘last mile’ problem of how do people find time and headspace to consume all this content that is being thrown at them.”
That said, Curio is far from alienating the publications that produce the textual content they convert into audio.
“We will be opening out our proprietary tech to help publications curate their content and explore low-risk and creative ways of exploring new content formats such as immersive audio and augmented reality,” Balakrishnan reveals.
The team’s more immediate task is to make the most of their tenure at 500 Startups. Curio was among the top 1 percent of companies accepted into the seed program at the accelerator. Following that, it’s on to bigger things if everything goes according to plan. “Our goal is to build the journalism platform for the future,” explains Balakrishnan, “where people are able to deeply engage with quality journalism without having to make the time, and content producers feel rewarded.”
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David Schmid says
I haven’t found the right amount of time to get into listening to podcasts and things like that. I am not sure why I won’t listen to them in the car, that would be the perfect place.
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Jessica Stevenson says
Very good research that you are doing there. Thank you for your time in this matter.
Sharon Lujan says
Being able to have one subscription that you pay for and you get to choose from 20 different publications is pretty nice. besides that, you are going to get no ads while you are listening? How long can a company keep that up?
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June Fernandez says
Gary Vee is the man!
Roger Williams says
Hell yes he is. Just about everything that he touches and is a part of makes sense and there is a following right behind him.
Michael Peterson says
He is everywhere and really makes you think when you listen to him.
Brigida Warren says
This could be interesting if they open up the source code especially.
I am just going to go out on a limb right now and say they will not be doing that at all!
Joseph Spafford says
I agree that SOME of us are moving away from screens, but even when we are listening to audio, there is a screen to look at. Getting away from screens (or video if that is what you mean), that is going to take many more years.
Gloria Williams says
Just another system that is going to bother me to use and it will cost me money. I will think about this, but as of right now, I am having a hard time figuring out if I would benefit from it.
Susan Eaton says
Yeah, I am not sure this is something that I would use either. Honestly, other than the monthly subscription rate, how is this service going to MAKE money?
Leslie Miller says
I wonder if you are able to choose the voices the read the articles? 🙂 That would be kinda fun.
Marvin Daily says
You mean like having Morgan Freeman read everything to you? 🙂
Michael Corey says
LOL – that would be the bomb dude!
Tracy Deherrera says
I am not sure about this. I will not subscribe to a newspaper because it just doesn’t make sense. This $8 a month fee is just for people to read articles to me?
Simon Barber says
If you are questioning the price, you are not going to see the benefit regardless of how hard you try.
Mitchell Quackenbush says
Huh. I am completely intrigued by this system. For just $8 per month, I would say that price is pretty good!
Latonia Sadler says
For ad free listening on the system, that price is pretty nice, but how long is that going to be an option? My guess is that part of the subscription changes at some point.