As Voice Trend Rises Spokata Aims to Fill the Gap
With the vast majority of people feeling like they're strapped for time in their day to day life – doing things such as staying on top of the latest news or keeping up with the most current events in their city may seem like a struggle but this is where platforms like Spokata come into play.
Spokata streams real-time audio content from over 100 verified digital news sources such as BBC, Bloomberg, and The Guardian using a combination of its proprietary algorithms and Polly, an Amazon AI text-to-speech service.
My colleague Venus previously published an article on Spokata outlining their Text-to-Speech Technology and key features of their iOS app and website but recently, I noticed they are now offering an audio service for publishers. Spokata’s technology automatically summarizes text based news, converts it to audio and distributes it (in real-time) back to a publishers website, mobile apps and Amazon Alexa – How cool is that?!
Spokata came upon this need quite organically after seeing a rising interest from publishers to extend their reach into the audio space but creating original audio content requires resources that many publishers are not able to access today. That’s where Spokata’s approach comes into play and makes it effortless and efficient. Their automated solution allows publishers to focus on their core business of creating great text content, knowing that every time they publish their text it’s being leveraged into accompanying audio assets which can be widely distributed.
How Spokata Came to Life
I was fortunate enough to connect with Zack Sherman, CEO and Founder of Spokata where he gave me an overview of Spokata and how it all began.
As a business professional, Zack comes from a multitude of careers, from a television producer to working in finance with those career combinations helping him create and refine the shape to his product.
“I feel a combination of those things sort of crystallized into the creation of this product having been around content a lot, having been around technology quite a bit and also having been in an environment of finance where the speed of information is so critical to the business decisions and literally moves money around the world based on seeded information.” said Zack.
It was about a year and a half ago that Zack started to look at how text fills such a core component of the online experience so this is where he started to put the pieces together and notice that text can really be the core and raw material for a new kind of audio experience.
“Not only from my own consumption because I listen to a lot of Podcasts but you could see that was really starting to grow and not only will it continue to grow but we also started to see that text to speech was getting a lot better and that would continue rapidly so during the period of developing the product we’ve been lucky that both of those things have remained intact and are growing still.
So from a user point of view I think we’re just in the early innings. I think of seeing people engaging with all different types of on demand audio content not just podcasts, not just music and I think that text to speech as it’s getting better and better it presents a really, really interesting opportunity to address that market because there’s just so much information that it’s first in print.”
Exclusive Interview with Spokata Founder
To get the full scope, I wanted to also ask Zack some pointed questions on the product itself and where he sees the audio trend going in the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about the new audio service product you are offering with Spokata?
Zack: "Audio is attracting increasing interest from publishers as mobile listening grows and on-demand technology in the car begins to disrupt traditional radio. Voice-activated speakers like the Amazon Echo are creating new opportunities to distribute podcasts as well as create new types of audio products.
Spokata is an automated audio platform for publishers of text-based news and information. Our software summarizes text from any publisher website and transforms it into short streaming audio, in real-time. As new text content is created we make the audio available on a publisher’s website and mobile apps, while simultaneously distributing to Amazon Alexa and other smart devices. The applications for the technology range from news content to traffic, weather, movie reviews, recipes, educational or training content -- virtually any form of information that exists in text."
What are the key benefits or the milestone in development for Spokata and what does the new product represent?
Zack: "Automating the process of audio creation from text, along with the ability to distribute it in real-time to so many places, allows us to offer this solution across the entire spectrum of news publishers. Both international news organizations and local news websites now have the ability to leverage their text content to create new connections with the growing audience of online listeners."
What’s unique about your product and why should a customer use your offerings?
Zack: 1. Zero effort, low cost
Content creation, in any form, is expensive.
We create high quality audio content for a fraction of the cost to produce video or podcasts, or even text.
Furthermore, complications around management, delivery, measurement and integration with existing technologies can make the process prohibitive -- especially for smaller publishers.
The only requirement for using Spokata is to have a website and insert a few lines of code - our platform takes care of the rest.
2. Zero integration
- All of our work is done outside any existing systems -- no integration necessary with a publisher’s existing CMS.
Digital audio is still lacking many of the actionable analytics which allow insights and drive decision making.
Our API brings data parity to the space so publishers can see all the key metrics around the performance of their content.
The core asset of any news provider is their text content but it is being underutilized.
Spokata presents the most efficient way to leverage these text assets into a new kind of listening experience.
All of your past and future text content can be treated as audio.
At the core of our service is the Spokata API, which distributes audio simultaneously to a publisher’s website, mobile app and Amazon Alexa.
We are continually adding more distribution options for publishers, so their content is available every place that users engage with audio.
What was the biggest challenge(s) or implications while building the product and how did you solve it?
Zack: "Listening to a single news article can take upwards of five minutes, so we set out to create a new kind of short audio format. Podcasts, video, and text either demand your full attention or are too long to fit into the small moments we all have throughout the day to get caught up on critical information. Regardless of the original content’s length, our short fact-based summaries last 30 seconds and can be customized to be shorter or longer.
Our proprietary summarization algorithm is the key to creating this new format and the largest challenge we took on. We studied millions of news articles to develop a text processing methodology that works automatically, and across multiple types of content. This was incredibly challenging and represents one of the major breakthroughs which the platform embodies."
Looking into the future, where do you see audio heading?
Zack: "If you looked back, just a few years ago, the massive gap (in terms of consumption and revenue) between digital video and television seemed insurmountable. The fact that digital video has now eclipsed traditional forms of consumption paints a bright picture for the near-term evolution of the on-demand audio marketplace. Radio, in particular, has yet to see the type of disruption we are witnessing now in video. We think this is going to change rapidly, particularly in relation to the creation and delivery of audio news and information.
We have a number of the development efforts underway which will be exciting new additions to our offering.
Automated translation tools are becoming increasingly accurate. We are experimenting with a live translation feature which would allow publishers to reach audiences in their native language through audio.
The quality of text-to-speech has rapidly advanced since we began development of the platform. We anticipate that near-term advances in technologies such as Amazon Polly (which we currently use) will soon make text-to-speech largely indistinguishable from human voice. We plan to continue incorporating the latest advancements so we can reach an even larger audience with the best listening experience.
A variety of content management systems make tools, or plug-ins, available to their users. We are exploring a variety of integrations where our technology can be controlled by the user directly -- becoming a seamless part of their existing workflow.
Audio is becoming an increasingly important tool in the education market as people do more of their learning online. We’re excited about some of our discussions in this area, where Spokata provides audio so people can learn new skills and businesses can enhance employee training and certification."
Zack also gave me an inside scoop on some exciting news that Spokata will be sharing in the coming weeks stating“Where we are at right now is that in the next few weeks the player will be live on a few smaller websites and we’re in active discussions with fairly large publications right now to provide this service to them.”
Obviously being in the CMS industry I was curious to find out from Zack how Spokata and CMS systems could work together. Zack agreed that CMS systems could be the perfect fit and present a lot of value to not just WordPress and their plugin, but to integrate Spokata into a CMS enterprise so customers who may be using text to publish content and don’t have the ability to convert that text content automatically could also be reached via audio.
“Spokata is just sort of one way of doing that in sort of allowing subscribers to gain new content in a different way that might really fit into their lives where reading and watching video might not.”