One of the shortcomings with podcasts is that they are time-intensive to produce; they take as long or longer to make as to listen to. (Another shortcoming is that podcasts are light on detail as compared to text, but that is another story).
This has kept the format as a source of entertainment rather than news/information, but a recent discovery in iTunes suggests Apple is going to change that around.
Techcrunch reports that they found evidence of a a new category of podcasts in iTunes:
If you prefer listening to the news over reading the news, you’ll soon have a new way to do so, via iTunes. In the near future, you’ll be able to browse through a variety of podcasts focused on turning media publishers’ articles and news into audio content, dubbed “Spoken Editions.”
On iTunes, podcasts branded “Spoken Edition” will be short-form programs that offer listeners an audio version of the publisher’s written content. That means you could “read” your favorite website or hear the news when you’re doing other things — like walking your dog, commuting to work or working out at the gym, for example.
During early tests on iTunes, Spoken Editions for several media brands showed up.
Wired, for example, will launch Spoken Editions for “Business,” “Science” and its homepage. TIME will offer a Spoken Edition called “The Brief.” Forbes, .Mic, Bustle, Playboy, OZY, and — yep — TechCrunch (which I discovered while browsing our iTunes page, of all things) will have Spoken Editions, it seems, as all popped up for a time on iTunes.
The links to all the publishers’ Spoken Editions have since been pulled, after our discovery and outreach.
The podcasts are apparently the work of Spoken Layer, a startup which supplies web publishers with the tech, talent, and distribution needed for making a large volume of podcasts.
The company wouldn't talk about the iTunes leak, but they did talk about their services in general.
“We have a distributed network of voice-over talent that is tagged and managed,” explains SpokenLayer CEO Will Mayo, who declined to talk about Spoken Editions in particular, but spoke more broadly about his company and technology works. That way, he says, stories sound different from one publisher to the next. “We make sure Wired sounds like Wired and any other publication sounds like those publications. The voice and style of any brand is in its writers and the reporting it does. That’s unique for every publication, and that uniqueness is honored,” adds Mayo.
Podcasts have been around for over a decade, but in the past couple years they have come into their own.
Amazon, for example, acquired Rooftop Media in late 2014 and then used the used the audio distributor to build Audible Channels, a new podcasting section of Audible which launched in July 2016. Overseen by all the public radio talent Amazon recruited in 2015, Audible Channels is a $5 a month subscription service (free to Prime members and Audible subscribers) with nothing but podcasts - although Amazon isn't calling them that.
There's no word yet on how Apple will charge for the podcasts. Current industry trends suggest Apple will charge a subscription (a la Apple Music) but the podcasts can also have ads, so they could be free.
In either case, Techcrunch reports that Spoken Editions will roll out in early October.
We will know more then.