News Over Audio Makes Quality News More Accessible

News Over Audio records content from media partners and delivers it online through an app.

As major audiobook listeners, Gareth Hickey and Shane Ennis found themselves in early 2014 questioning whether or not there were similar offerings available in the news publishing space. That mission led them to create News Over Audio (NOA). For the next two years, Hickey and Ennis worked on constructing their app, and in May 2017, NOA was released. With headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, NOA currently employs more than 20 people in editorial and narration, sales and marketing, and product and technology.

NOA takes the best content from its media partner, records it and then delivers the audio to the world via iPhone, Android, web, smart speaker or an in-car application. NOA also employs a team of editors to aggregate content into playlists on a topic-specific basis.

“Our aim with playlists is to optimize for the learning outcome,” said Hickey. “We want our consumers to be able to pick a topic of interest—say the U.S midterms—and be able to listen to a finite selection of the very best stories and walk away knowing more.”

An important aspect for NOA is that the consumer feels a sense of finishing a topic. According to Hickey, news lacks “finishability” because it’s never-ending.

Pictured from News Over Audio are (from left) Shane Ennis, co-founder; Gareth Hickey, co-founder and CEO; Sean Anglim, CTO; and David O’Donnovan, finance director.

“With our playlists, we provide our listeners with completion scores so that they can easily see where they are in a particular story,” he explained.

NOA has already partnered with publishers, such as the New York Times, Financial Times, and the Independent in the U.K. Currently, NOA offers a metered-access subscription model, and free users are shown ads, while premium users are not.

Will Gore, deputy editor for the Independent, said, “The Independent has been glad to partner with News Over Audio, enabling a wide audience to access our quality content in a different format. NOA’s narrators are excellent and we have been pleased with the high production values of the recordings. The selection of articles by NOA is admirably varied too.”

According to Hickey and Ennis, publishers are excited about audio journalism because it is driving engagement. As the industry moves toward metered subscription models, Hickey said engagement time is emerging as the main metric of success. The average duration of an NOA article is five minutes and two seconds, compared to the average digital article dwell time of 45 seconds. NOA hopes to not only make quality news more accessible to mass market audiences but to also make it more convenient for users to discover great stories.

At the end of the day, NOA wants to help newspapers live beyond the printed page. “Journalists are storytellers first and foremost, and allowing users to bring those stories with them in the car, at the gym, or while they walk greatly expands the average consumer’s engagement window,” Hickey said.

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