Listen To Blogs is one of the online services created during the 24 Hours Business Camp held in January this year. The service was literally developed within 24 hours with no sleep by Henrik Berggren, David Kjelkerud and Eric Wahlforss. Listen To Blogs is today run by Henrik and David, Eric having the role of an advisor.
Listen To Blogs is exactly what its name suggests - a way for you to listen to your favourite blogs, as podcasts. You don't even have to have your own blog, you can just pick any of your favourite blogs and turn it into podcast using your own voice.
This is where Listen To Blogs differs from other similar services, it uses real voices, is crowdsourced and free. There are quite a few number of services offering conversion from text to speech, TTS, but so far I've only come across ones using variety of digital voices. PimpMyNews with a paid iPhone app is one of the popular ones, but to quote Mark Hopkins from Mashable, they're “fun for 10 minutes”.
Listen To Blogs is a pretty straigth forward service in two steps as it is explained in the video help.
The recording itself is done locally on a computer with a recording program of ones choice. It supports most file formats and there's no filesize limit. After recording the user uploads the audio file, chooses language and submits the permalink to the blogpost. Listen To Blogs then fetches the title and first 100 words of the blog post linking to the blog, as well as showing a thumbnail of the blog.
Even if easy, my concern lies in the recording part. It can always be done easier. The barrier of entrance is to be higher by having to download a recording program, to find the recorded file on a computer, and finally to upload it to the service. Henrik calmed me down by telling that they do have a flash recorder in mind so that the recording can be done directly in a web browser.
The podcasts can then be commented, shared to Twitter, Bloggy, Delicious and Facebook, but most importantly, subscribed via iTunes and RSS. It's possible to subscribe all podcasts, by user/reader or by individual blog. The user has a profile page with avatar, description and the list of podcasts read.
According to Henrik the ideal would be having everyone subscribing, e.g via iTunes and being able to offer a mix of the most popular and smaller, niched, blogs, thereby always having something new to discover.
The Next Step
The service is still in its early stage, thus the main focus is to make it even more simple for the user, as in the case with the flash recorder. They're also planning to release a Swedish version of the site, as well as get the word out to the visually impaired to reach new audience and receive valuable feedback.
Features I would like to see on the coming releases:
- To increase the buzz and sharing I'd skip the need to sign in to comment as well as
- Offer a widget showing ones latest recorded blogs
- Categories and subscribtion by category
- Search by user, blog, language and category
- An iPhone/smartphone app like PimpMyNews
Will It Float
My first question and concern, as apparantly everyone else's according to Henrik, was the copyright issue. Is it okay to use and distribute, and in extension, monetize content owned by others? As Henrik sees it, it's about give and take in terms of sharing content on the Internet. Listen To Blogs links generously, always connecting the blog with the podcast stream, thus offering bloggers and content creators a new channel and the power of podcasting with no extra effort. So far, no complaints, quite the contrary, people are glad to have their blog posts read.
According to recent podcast statistics of the American market the number of podcast downloaders is predicted to grow at least through 2013. 37.6 million people will be downloading podcasts on a monthly basis, more than double compared to 2008. The blogosphere hasn't suffered from a slowdown either according to Technocrati, and e.g. just China alone reports having 162 million blog authors (PDF).
Having my background in online media, considering the current state of the media business and the shift to digital media, I welcome any effort to make content more accessible and social in a way that also enables monetization. Whether you're a news site or a blog, private or corporate, I see several ways how Listen To Blogs could help to interact with, as well as to create and increase brand awareness and loyalty among readers and customers. Only the imagination sets the limit, e.g. why not offer translated blog podcasts in the spirit of Ted.com translation project?
I find suitable revenue streams both within licensing, partnering and embedded ads like Odiogo offers, to list a few. There's of course always a risk with crowdsourced services even if the statistics are in ones favour, but as I mentioned above, the functionality itself should create added value at least into the bleeding media business.