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News24.com adds custom synthetic voice to news articles


South Africa’s largest news platform adds audio to improve news subscription product. 

News24.com, a site owned and operated by South African news group, Media24, last month launched the world’s first customised synthetic voice for news. Subscribers to the newly introduced digital subscription package will be able to access audio versions of all news articles available on the website. Whilst media companies have experimented with pre-existing text-to-speech, News24 contracted SpeechKit, a UK-based technology company, to build a voice specific to the region.

Kelly Anderson, Deputy Site Editor at News24.com says;

“We decided to work with SpeechKit and develop a custom synthetic voice to deliver our subscribers the value they deserved. Existing voices struggled to handle pronunciations unique to South African accents and it was imperative that the voice resonated with our readers. We’re thrilled with the result.  The voice handles local names, towns and places better than anything we’ve heard before. It’s much more engaging to listen to a voice that sounds like our brand.”

Audio articles, automated using text-to-speech technology, are rising in popularity as the format moves through the technology adoption curve. Publishers are able to instantly deliver audio versions of their stories through media players embedded on their websites and apps, or through platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts. This format gives subscribers a new way to engage with articles whilst they get on with other tasks.

Patrick O’Flaherty, Co-Founder and CEO at SpeechKit adds:

“We’re excited to partner with News24 and bring this new voice to their readers. Bringing local accents to audio articles will help take this emerging format to a new level. Our focus at SpeechKit is building seamless and engaging listening experiences. By creating a voice that reflects the local audience we’re already seeing improvements in the listening data.”

SpeechKit develops and integrates high-quality custom synthetic voice technology and audio publishing tools. Research shows that listening comprehension improves when sentences are spoken in a native accent. Up to this point, the team has been working primarily with existing text-to-speech technology.  By creating integrations for newsrooms that allow readers an option to listen SpeechKit allows publishers to improve engagement and retention of news audiences.

The shift in news business models, from advertising-based models towards reader revenue, is forcing publishers to improve their digital retention with new products and strategies. In a recent Reuters Institute report, over half of the publisher respondents claimed audio would be a focus for them in 2020. New technologies, hardware, and audience behaviour are paving the way for a more immersive and modern audio news experience.

SpeechKit was founded by Patrick O’Flaherty and James MacLeod in 2017, after an experiment building a curated audio news digest. Realising that intensive podcast production would serve only a handful of publishers, they developed a platform to automate audio versions of news stories. The service is live on 75+ publishers worldwide and the company recently raised investment from Newark Venture Partners, backed by Audible.

Contact Details;
James MacLeod
Chief Operating Officer
james@speechkit.io
+44 7717 436 497

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Design Pickle Reveals Custom Illustration Offering


Scottsdale, AZ (May 13, 2020) — Today Design Pickle announced the launch of Custom Illustrations, a standalone subscription joining the company’s flagship unlimited graphic design service. Custom Illustrations will allow businesses of all sizes and verticals to diversify their marketing and content through innovative, unique art, as a supplement to typical graphic design.

After months of beta testing with our current customers, we are thrilled to release Custom Illustrations to the public,” said Russ Perry, Founder and CEO of Design Pickle. “Whether through celebrity illustrations for social media or colorful, eye-catching ads, this service has already significantly leveled up the ways we’re able to engage with our audience, and we can’t wait for other businesses to see the same staggering impact on their own content and engagement.”

Unlike graphic design — where a designer manipulates pre-existing visual elements in a composition — illustrators create original, emotion-evoking art with all elements tailored to the request of the customer. Examples of custom illustrations include portraits, caricatures, custom typography, tattoo art, and coloring or children’s books.

The Custom Illustrations subscription, which includes unlimited requests and revisions, will be available starting today, May 13th, at $499 per month. For more information on the service, visit designpickle.com/custom-illustrations.

ABOUT DESIGN PICKLE

Design Pickle is the world’s #1 graphic design platform that provides unlimited, high-quality design work for thousands of businesses for a flat-rate.

Founded in Scottsdale, AZ in 2015 by Russ Perry, Design Pickle was born from the idea that everybody needs access to seamless, reliable, and professional graphic design on a consistent basis. Russ has successfully scaled Design Pickle from 2 employees to over 250, with thousands of global clients and over $10 million in annual recurring revenue.

For images and more information on Design Pickle, contact Jess Guffey at jess@designpickle.com or visit www.designpickle.com

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