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CEO John Atkinson tells me, "For our users, this is much more than just another iPhone app. The back story is that we’ve spent the last year listening intently to our users, building out our backend news engine and APIs, and working on the requirements for this totally new front end that exploits the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone SDK. It’s much more than a text-to-speech news application now (it’s audio, video, images, text and enhanced social functionality – delivered on demand, based on user preferences)".
The app looks good from the screenshots I’ve checked out. I do wonder though… PimpMyNews is charging for an application that features content from around the Web. Should some part of the $3.99 go to the content creators? It’s not scraping like certain other blogs do, but it is using full content from sites across the Web. Or are you paying $3.99 for the application itself and the content isn’t included in the "transaction"?
Last night I received the following message from my VOIP provider Vonage. "Now through Christmas Eve, you, your family, and friends can leave Santa a message by dialing 1-700-CALL-SANTA (1-700-225-5726) from any Vonage phone! You’ll be connected directly to a holiday greeting from Santa himself. Also, starting at 5pm EST on December 24th, throughout the night you can also track Santa’s deliveries as he travels around the world. The kids will get an opportunity to hear where Santa and his reindeer have been and where they are headed next to deliver his goodies to all the good girls and boys!"
While I’m not into Santa, the idea of calling a number and interacting with content sparked my curiosity. Could services like PimpMyNews and other audio content providers benefit from partnering with VOIP providers? PimpMyNews currently requires that you download the content before you leave or listen via your mobile device over wifi or traditional mobile connections. But what if we could dial into a number, select our content provider and hear live content from our favorite blogs, news sources and other websites.
There could be some new partnerships between VOIP, mobile and content providers.
If you really wanted to take it to the extreme, the new commenting services like Disqus and IntenseDebate could read your blog’s comments to you and allow you to reply to any comment via voice. The service would then transcribe the comments and post them live. This would avoid issues with devices like the iPhone where typing a long comment might not be that productive.
Are there already solutions that provide this type of audio content interaction?
PimpMyNews has announced two product updates this morning: more available blogs and a new Twitter integration. PimpMyNews takes a feed and converts it to audio using a computerized voice. The service allows you to grab your favorite blogs and take them with you into iTunes or mp3.
Over 500,000 audio clips are available and the service has expanded to the top 1,000 blogs. PimpMyNews reports that users from over 149 countries have used the service. You can also now create a twitter message with the audio news clips you are currently listening to.
I’d link to the CenterNetworks page but there appears to be no way to do that. An embed would also be nice. Check out our interview with PimpMyNews founder John Atkinson.
BlogBard lets you pull in your feeds from Google Reader and Bloglines and then listen to them live. You can also select to create a downloadable iTunes version.
I am a fan of these audio services as they allow you to multi-task. With the computerized voice basically getting everything right in my tests, these tools could help bring something new to the feed game.
Both PimpMyNews and BlogBard could be huge hits if they could figure out a way to record the author’s voice and use that instead of the computerized voice. While the computerized voice is much better than it has ever been, using the author’s voice would simply rock.
The only question I have is: If these services are monetizing my content, shouldn’t I receive a cut?
Update: BlogBard provided the following regarding their business model, “Our service(both the widget and the destination site) are ad-free(we are not monetizing it). We will be offering rev. share to the content creater once we figure out a way to monetize our service.”
Here is the live BlogBard widget:
I’ve been playing with a new text-to-audio startup called PimpMyNews for a couple of weeks now. The basic idea is simple: the PimpMyNews service takes your blog posts and converts them on-the-fly to audio that you can take with you or listen at your desk. This tool can add a new layer of multi-tasking to your day. Let’s say you read CenterNetworks on our RSS Feed while sitting on a train on your Blackberry or iPhone. Now, what if you could listen to CenterNetworks while typing a reply to your boss who wants an update on the TPS reports by 9am? Another idea is that you can listen to your favorite feeds while at your desk and instead of reading the text, you can hear it. I am impressed with what I’ve seen so far.
I spoke with PimpMyNews co-founder and CEO John Atkinson to learn more about the application. John is very passionate about making this successful. We started by reviewing how they convert the text to audio. John noted that it’s a 2-stage process; first they clean up the HTML then they convert the text to audio on the fly. They currently have 950 feeds and 159,000 stories in the system and are adding 3-5k stories daily.
Mark at Mashable reviewed the service last month and seemed to not be impressed saying that it’s fun for ten minutes. He discusses the voice aspect and how it’s not a real person speaking to him, but rather a computer voice. I disagree strongly and think Mark got this one wrong – sure it’s not perfect and it’s not like listening to a British woman speaking to me with her wonderful accent, but from all of the crappy computer voices I’ve heard over the years, this is one of the best. The ability to multi-task overcomes some of the difference as well.
Once you select your feeds, you can choose a podcast which you can put into iTunes and then each day it will download the latest feed items directly to your iPod. Monetization will come in three forms: advertising on the site, short ads in the mp3s and premium memberships. I could see a revshare model working well too – bloggers could receive a portion of the income earned when someone listens to their feed or purchases a premium membership.
Currently CN is a "featured publisher" on the home page, but I couldn’t find CN inside the directory so unfortunately I can’t advise you on how to add it to your playlist. They have default bundles and feeds categorized by type with the usual suspects in place. As I always suggest, it would be great to see a wider variety in tech than just tc, go, rww, and mash every time.
The other big suggestion for PimpMyNews would be to create a branded widget so that blogs can stick the player inside of the site. PMN could inject an ad into the widget and then CN readers could click play and boom they are listening. This could also help the app to take on more of a viral nature. They do offer a link now but it’s not the same as a rich widget.
The team is split in location between Ohio and Oklahoma City and has four employees total. They are currently running as a bootstrapped startup.
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No time to read the day’s news on your homepage before hopping in the car and rushing off to work? Check out what Pimp My News, a new text-to-speech service which converts your favorite news and blog sites into audio. When you create a free account with Pimp My News, you’ll be able to specify which news sites and/or blogs you wish to have PMN convert to mp3 files. You’ll then be able to listen to these files on your iPod, computer, iPhone, and other mp3 playing devices. read more »