‘SF Chronicle’ Plans Audio News On CDs

By: Anna Oberthur, Associated Press Writer

(AP) San Francisco Chronicle subscribers soon will be able to listen to the news on custom-burned CDs as they drive to the office, work out, or use their home computer.

Chronicle audio edition users will be able to download up to 60 minutes of stories onto a personalized CD, programmed to be ready by a certain time each morning. Stories for the current day will be available for downloading by 5 a.m., according to Jonathan Hiller, the paper’s chief information officer.

Hiller said the program is unique because it allows users to select sections of interest — such as hard news, sports, or business — and the length of report they want. The software, written by Atlanta-based MobileSoft, automatically prepares an audio CD Monday through Friday mornings.

Although programs that can download a newspaper’s content onto an audio disk already exist, this one is the first that will allow users to customize the CDs, said Michael Price, MobileSoft’s president.

Noting the San Francisco Bay area’s heavy and long commute, Hiller said he expects the service will be well received. “We are targeting people who are mobile,” Hiller said. The service should be available to consumers by November.

The voices on the CDs will be human. People working out of a studio in Atlanta will read the stories, which MobileSoft will record and digitize. Hiller said some computer-generated voices eventually may be used for classified ads and personals.

A copyright notice will be read before and after each story, but the program will not use a copy protection system, Hiller said.

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