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Navigating the Challenges and Opportunities of Synthetic Voices

Axios: “The New York Times plans to make the vast majority of its articles available to users as narrations read via an automated voice, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: The move will help position the Times as one of the biggest audio news companies globally.

  • The company published 2,300 audio recordings, including podcasts, in 2023 with more than 600 Times reporters contributing.
  • Its podcasts were downloaded nearly 1 million times last year. The Times’ flagship podcast, “The Daily,” is the most popular news podcast on Spotify
  • The NYT Audio app reached over 1 million downloads in 2023.

State of play: Beginning this week, 10% of NYT website, news app and audio app users will get access to the new automated voice narrations, says Stephanie Preiss, senior vice president and general manager of audio and TV at the Times.

  • Narrations will be available on 75% of article pages that the Times publishes articles to start, with plans to eventually expand the feature to all published articles and all app users.
  • For now, all articles will be read aloud by the same automated voice. In the future, Preiss says, the Times is hoping to deliver a more personalized experience, which could include giving users the option to select a style of voice narration or customize their narrated article feed.
  • The narrations respect the Times’ business rules, meaning users who are not logged in, or are not subscribers, won’t be able to listen to unlimited voice narrations…”

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