Blog To Speech

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I've noticed an interesting trend on some of the blogs I follow. More of them - though by no means the majority - are including audio versions of the content.

The usually look something like this:

Screenshot of a blog post. The header says "Press play to listen to this article."


A blog post with an embedded audio widget.

The ones which have this are mostly using commercial Text-To-Speech (TTS) engines. Although a few of the (perhaps wealthier?) bloggers have hired people to record audio versions of their posts newsletters:

Screenshot of a blogpost saying that the audio version has been recorded by "George Hahn".

I find this curious. I don't think it is bad or wrong or unbloggerly. Just a bit odd. I'm from the generation who hated phone calls and ruthlessly mocked voicemail. And now I see the youth leaving each other voicenotes and I feel bemused.

Reading is faster than listening. For me, at least. But reading requires focus. It's hard to cook dinner while reading text. But it's pretty easy to do most things while a podcast prattles on in the background.

Obviously people with visual impairments use TTS systems. And they often have those tools built into their computer or browser. But most people with adequate sight don't know how to use their machine's accessibility capabilities. So perhaps having an easily-findable MP3 of the article is sensible?

I often edit old blog posts. Sometimes to merely change a typo, other times to cover up evidence of my muddled thinking. In the land of traditional audio, that's a problem. It's tricky to re-record something and edit it together seamlessly. But, with TTS, it is the work of seconds.

Anyway, that's a long rambley way of saying that I'm experimenting with adding an audio version of my posts. If people like it, I'll start adding it to all of them - and back filling the old posts.

If you think this is a good idea, or a terrible waste of time, be a sweetheart and drop a comment in the box, yeah?

16 thoughts on “Blog To Speech

  1. says:

    @Edent oh, new background? Neat.Listening? For me only in some sort of podcast format. My ears are usually busy with music or a podcast already while reading.

  2. Denny says:

    I personally hate podcasts as a medium for taking in information, but I've spoken to more people who are the opposite than who match my tastes.

  3. Listening requires at least as much focus as reading, for me.. I passionately hate voice notes in messenger apps. I think voiced blogs are the same.

  4. says:

    To me, it depends. I prefer reading. I'm not a fan of podcasts.

    But, while @girlonthenet's written content is already popular, the audio recordings are incredibly popular. Perhaps a different audience?

    (And perhaps even better than TTS for accessibility?)

  5. Avery K says:

    62 yo here: I always listen to blog posts in my RSS feed with a real person narrating. Often I’ve skimmed the written version, knowing I’ll be able to listen more carefully later. Bonus points when the writer narrates.

    The TTS are a little too uncanny for me, but as my eyesight gets worse, I’ll probably overcome my reluctance.

  6. says:

    I’d only ever seen these widgets in AWS blogs, thinking it was a pretty cool advert for Amazon Polly. I never used them though. I don’t think they work so well in a technical context - where I might need to re-read certain paragraphs - so it’s not for me.

  7. Coralie Mercier says:

    I really really like the ability to listen, or the ability to listen as I read.

    Firefox on the desktop offers this as part of its “reader” option (clean, clutter-free version of the page) and I have been using it for years.

  8. I find it much easier to consume information by text than by audio personally — though it's slightly better if I can increase the playback speed. But I was struck by a few things: Firstly, I quite like the voice you chose to use and it works well at 1·25×, but sounds very ✨computery✨ at 1·5×

    That got me to looking at Amazon Polly and there are some cute voices there. The difference between "Neural" and "Standard" is quite noticeable and I liked that we can pick different regional accents — for English there's Australian, British (they mean RP, obv), Indian, New Zealand, South African, US and Welsh; for Spanish there's Castilian, Mexican and US. (They also handle a Welsh-language voice, as opposed to Welsh-accented English language, though not in "Neural".)

    It'll be a while before they're as good at imparting emotion as audiobook narrators, but they do a surprisingly ok job at reading plain old text…

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