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Global: FT progresses with text to audio

The Financial Times has engaged with new software that converts written articles into audio to better connect with the growing audio audience.

The publisher’s experimental unit FT Labs has begun using software called “Amazon Polly”, which has the ability to convert a written article to audio in one to three seconds. When ready, artificial voice “Amy” is able to read the article via smart home device Amazon Alexa. This process is available to both long form and short form articles.

The audio options currently are available to 10 percent of the FT audience, with plans to expand the service.

“We need to make it so these devices become more useful for subscribers,” head of FT Labs, Chris Gathercole, said.

“Some people use us for entertainment, or to be informed, or when they are in research mode. We need to support all these different mindsets through voice controls. Passive listening is not the future.” 

WSJ rolls back international print

The Wall Street Journal has ceased print production in the European and Asian markets, putting resources into a greater digital push.

Jonathan Wright, the global managing director of the mastheads publisher Dow Jones, said the move was reflective of the Journal’s digital subscribers in the regions making up 90 per cent of its total subscribers.

The European WSJ published its final edition last Friday, while the last Asian edition will be sold today. The US version will be available in some areas.

$3m fund to support independent journalism

A $US3 million fund to support non-for-profit news organisations in the US to provide new equipment and ensure the longevity of public interest journalism has grown three-fold.

The News Match Fund was launched in 2016 by the Knight Foundation, raising more than $US1.2 million in match donations for 57 newsrooms. This year, the initiative has boomed, tripling over one year, with the help of the Institute for Non-profit News (INN) and the News Revenue Hub, Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.

“We want 2017 to be a record-setting year for donations to news to ensure that innovative, non-profit newsrooms have the resources they need to deliver high-quality reporting to the communities they serve,” said Josh Stearns, associate director for the Public Square program at Democracy Fund.

“News Match comes at a time when journalists are facing a perfect storm of economic challenges and political attacks. A robust, independent press is essential to fostering an informed and engaged public and vital for a healthy democracy.”

More than 100 organisations are eligible to receive funding of up to $28 000.

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