voice

voice

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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New Voice for the forgotten Social Care Sector


UK Health & Social Care provider forms new Social Care Workers Association to fight for equality in the industry. And their badges are free!

www.psh.org.uk the Private Sector Health & Social Care Workers Association has launched offering completely free membership to ALL Health & Social Care workers, with a free Certificate of recognition to all members for their selfless hard work, dedication, and commitment to looking after the sick and vulnerable in our society. The founder is also funding free badges for all members as a way to lift spirits and promote the new collective voice of the sector.

With over 5000 Facebook followers and nearly 2500 Members in less than 2 weeks, the Association is growing rapidly. This collective voice has brought together Managers, Owners Cleaners, Nurses, Carers, Cooks and others from the sector to share their stories. They help each other through this Pandemic and raise the profile of the sector to promote changes in how they are perceived.

When asked where the idea came from, founder of the Association Joseph Willis said the following:

“For many years now, I have witnessed the social Care sector falling deeper into the shadows. NHS workers are amazing, but so too are the 1.6M Social Care workers fighting the same battle, with fewer resources, lower pay, and major issues around access to PPE and testing. After personally experiencing Care Staff being refused access to protected shopping times, front of queue services whilst trying to shop for Vulnerable Clients, and watching their NHS counterparts gain those benefits, I had to do something. The badge or logo should not matter”!

We want to see equality in terms of wages, benefits, and public recognition for Workers in Care Homes, Nursing Services, Supported Living Providers, Community Care organisations and other service providers in the Private Sector.

Our aim is to share through our Facebook page the amazing and incredible work being done by our members, for our members to help each other, share best practice, learn from other members experiences and make a collective difference. One collective voice for change.

Care workers can register for free and receive their Certificates of recognition on our website. Organisations can do so also, making a pledge and commitment to supporting our Association workers and providing equal access and recognition. We currently have over 70 organisations that have made this pledge. www.psh.org.uk

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Working from home during the lockdown is nothing new for voice over artist Marcus Hutton


There’s nothing new about working from home for voice over artist and actor Marcus Hutton. He’s been doing it for 20 years.

Based on the south coast, Marcus keeps connected with his advertising clients from a recording booth in his Georgian flat.

The Covid-19 lockdown has created a surge in home working, and in order to keep up productivity, businesses are having to quickly find solutions for their home working staff.

Marcus says:

“Working from home is nothing new for me, I’ve been doing it for 20 years and am very glad at the moment that I invested in my own studio, as all acting work has stopped for at least the next three months. The media businesses and advertising agencies I work for need to keep themselves going and to also be able to keep their output up to the professional standards that their clients expect . The studio enables me to deliver high quality audio and clients are appreciating that. I either self record voice overs and then ftp the audio files to audio engineers for mixing or the client records me via a live link. Engineers are able to do their work from home. The technology and quality, even when run on a laptop, is amazing these days. I am noticing that media folk are becoming very inventive , very fast. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams are being used everywhere. We are more connected now than at anyone in history”

For live recordings he uses a high quality IP based audio service called Source Connect, with a fast fibre broadband connection . This enables him to record voice overs for commercials and business videos with other studios all over the world, while agency clients listen into the recording session remotely via Skype. In the past week Marcus has recorded live sessions with Swiss, Dutch and Croatian clients.

Marcus’ voice is easily recognisable from TV, radio and online commercials. From TV commercials for L’Oréal to Kelloggs to business films for Rolls Royce and KPMG, to museum guides and phone systems, he has an extremely diverse list of credits.

“An ability to be versatile and available at five minutes notice is a requirement in voice over. At 10.00 am you can be recording a medical video with your best serious doctor voice and an hour later be playing a hyper excited animated character for a confectionary company. It’s never boring”.

“In the past couple of weeks I’ve been recording a lot of voice overs for explainer videos about the coronavirus for clients in Europe , as well as a large numbers of telephone prompts for IVR systems, explaining why there are call delays or why no one is available to answer the phone”

Marcus’ acting career has been extensive; working in Theatre, TV and film. Highlights include playing regular character Nathan Cuddington in Brookside, as well as appearing in Midsomer Murders, Made in Dagenham, The Inspector Allen Mysteries, Doctor Who and Holby City . His most recent film appearance is in the Film 4 and Studio Canal produced “Saint Maud”, starring Jennifer Ehle and Morfydd Clark , which was due for a worldwide cinema release this month and has now been postponed.

“I am sad for the director and producing team that the cinema release has been postponed as Saint Maud is a fantastic film and was generating a lot of heat after big successes at international film festivals. The entire acting, film and tv drama industries have been put out of work in the past two weeks, as has been the case in so many other sectors

There is an established network of professional voice over artists in the UK with home studios, working in audio books, e-learning, radio, video gaming, business video and commercials.

“There’s a tight network of home working VOs in the UK and we mostly know each other. We keep in touch on Facebook forums and all try to meet up a few times a year, just to get out of the house. Obviously we can’t at the moment. We are people who spend a lot of time sitting in airless booths and not seeing anyone apart from family from one day to the next, so the lockdown experience is not all that novel for us. Lately everyone has been Zooming each other. Freelancers have been hit quite badly by this. There’s a lot of uncertainty about work, whether invoices will be paid and whether people will be eligible for government support. These are testing times for everyone and the video chats are comforting. Perhaps there will be an upside to businesses having had the home working experience once the dust settles. The outbreak is showing that it can be done and for a lot of people that could well improve their overall work life balance in future”.

Website: www.voice-overs.cc
Imdb link: https://m.imdb.com/name/nm0404648/
Spotlight link for CV: http://www.spotlight.com/9494-0166-6156

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