With the help of Artificial Intelligence and, more specifically, a cloned voice generated using machine learning, Aftenposten has made it possible for users to listen to articles from since March.
When an article is published, an audio file is automatically created with our cloned voice. If a journalist changes the text, the audio file is automatically updated.
Since many news stories are updated frequently, we could not provide such a listening service if journalists had to read and record the articles themselves. Believing it should be just as easy to listen to news from Aftenposten as it is to read it, we determined offering an audio alternative with our cloned voice is the fastest and least expensive way to do it.
We have seen a steady increase in listeners but not a high proportion of use compared to reading numbers. Now around 10% of our subscribers listen at least once a month.
On the other hand, our ambition for our audio alternative is not to see the highest possible numbers. Our goal is that audio articles supplement reading Aftenposten, not substitute for them.
We interviewed several users who have tested our audio articles and learned that they choose to listen in situations where they can’t read. We have heard several times that people like to listen when folding clothes, exercising, driving, or cleaning the house. In other words, they find listening to audio articles useful in situations where they are busy with their hands but still want to be entertained or informed.
We also learned that subscribers really appreciate the opportunity to use their subscription in these situations where reading is not possible.
We hypothesise that by offering an audio alternative, subscribers get more value for their money and subscribe for longer.
3.5 minutes is too short
But through interviews we’ve also learned that they want to use our audio articles in situations where a single audio article is too short to fill the time they have available.
One common example is that people use their car to travel to work. Most audio articles are between three and four minutes long and when you drive, it is impossible to press play on a new audio article. To meet this need, we started experimenting with offering continuous listening in two different ways:
- When a user has completed an audio article, a new and related audio article automatically starts to play.
- We offer curated playlists — topic-based evergreens and a playlist about current affairs.
How users responded
We set a listening record after we launched the playlist and the “play automatically next” feature.
Compared to the readership, listening figures are not high, but after launching playlists, we broke all previous records.
The number of unique daily users has also seen a sharp increase after we launched playlists and automatically play the next audio article.
The next graph shows the number of audio articles subscribers who listen on average on a given day. We saw a clear increase after launching playlists that automatically play next.
The graph below shows the percentage of users who have listened to at least one audio article in the last 30 days. Our goal was to surpass having 10% of subscribers listen at least once each month, and we have already reached that goal.
In addition to gathering data, we interviewed people who tested our playlists. Their feedback helped inform what we will focus on for audio in 2024. For more on that, read here.