VOL.AT app adds read-aloud function for more versatility in news consumption
Ideas Blog | 21 May 2023
News today is consumed in more than just a pure text format, so publishers wanting to make news accessible to as many users as possible should provide it in various ways.
This is why we decided to present our users with more ways to access articles on our VOL.AT outreach portal. We gave them the option of consuming them in written form or having articles read to them. This allows people to discover the most important news easily and conveniently while driving or travelling by train.
How we started
We chose the Amazon Polly service to implement this idea. The German voice, “Vicki,” has a natural and pleasant sound. The quality of the pronunciation and intonation, even for compound words (which are common in German), works extremely well.
The most active users on our VOL.AT news portal rely on our native app. Taking this into account, we decided to make this new feature available exclusively in our native app in the first phase.
To ensure that the new function is always visible but does not take up too much space, we hid the player behind a small button in a fixed position in the bottom right-hand corner. Clicking this starts an audio player in which the user can fast-forward/rewind and also adjust the reading speed.
In September 2021, we rolled out the read-aloud function in our native apps. The initial results have shown us that this function has been very well received by our app users.
Almost 25% of the users who started the read-aloud function listened to an article all the way to the end (>95%). This feature is most likely one of the reasons why we have been able to increase the average use time of our app by almost one minute since September — from 05:13 to 06:08.
Based on the success of this function in our app, we have decided to implement this feature on our Web site, too. This should help us reach a much larger portion of our users.
On the Web, the feature will look slightly different to the app player and will be positioned directly below the headline of the article. This will enable users who do not regularly visit the portal to immediately recognise and use the read-aloud function, too.
To prevent every click on the player from sending a request to Amazon Polly, we have designed a microservice that only establishes contact with the Amazon API if the corresponding audio file has not yet been generated. This makes it possible for us to use the feature on all our platforms (iOS app, Android app, Web) without incurring additional costs.