Blogging

Should Bloggers Add a Spoken Text Option?

123RF

If you visited a blog that gave you a spoken text option so you could listen to the post rather than read, would you take that option?

While visiting websites recently, I noticed more sites are offering a spoken text option. Readers can, with the push of a button, become listeners. Players embedded right on the page will play audio of the text, giving website visitors the feel of an audiobook.

Some sites offer the option for accessibility to allow the visually impaired can still easily consume the content. You might be surprised to learn that 295 million people around the world live with moderate to severe visual impairment.

But for a growing number of sites, listening rather than reading seems to have grown in popularity. Maybe some readers prefer to listen to an article while they multitask. Listening, after all, gives users who are already multitasking one more way to do so.

The spoken text option has an official name: Text-to-Speech. There are a few TTS options out there, but different options offer varying levels of quality.

They all involve artificial intelligence when it comes to the “human” voice they play. But some of the ones I hear sound like those mechanical voices you hear on cheaply-made YouTube videos. You can’t listen to them for long without getting a headache. Those voices can be so distracting that you miss the message.

A few of the more “higher-end” TTS solutions have much better audio. They almost sound like it’s a real person reading…even with appropriate pauses and stresses of keywords. Check out this example from The Washington Post. I suspect it’s not a human reading the text but rather a computer. However, for the first few seconds, I wasn’t sure. I heard a hint of that mechanical sound when it encountered the first proper name with a middle initial.

I listened to one the other day that made me wonder if the writer had to submit a separate copy of the text with certain coding to prompt that kind of reading.

As you probably guessed, some TTS options carry no cost, while others can quickly become pricey.

So is a spoken text option worth it for your blog?

I think most of us assume TTS is really meant for the visually impaired. While that’s probably a reasonable, although not entirely correct, assumption, it seems that users who do have limited sight already have options they rely on for all websites. That way, they can still benefit from sites that haven’t yet included a TTS option via alternate spoken text options.

But this site came up with eight advantages to adding the technology to your blog.

One of the most intriguing to me is the fifth: “Text-to-Speech helps boost SEO on your website.” The site explains that TTS can increase the amount of time users spend on your website. Why? That’s simple. It takes longer to listen to someone read content to you than to just read it yourself, since we often scan more quickly with our eyes.

So sites with that spoken text option run the chance of having visitors stay a bit longer. That affects SEO because Google began measuring, as of May 2021, the amount of time spent on a site. If Google notices that people are staying on your site longer, they see that as a mark that your content is more engaging. So they may show your site higher in search results.

The challenge is finding the right one at the right price.

Every time a blogger turns around, there’s some new great service they’d love to add. But those services — at least, the better ones — naturally come with a price.

One such service that appears to offer a better product appears to have a price of about $39 a month. Another had a price of about $12 per month.

If you’re a hugely successful website owner that brings in hundreds or even thousands of dollars a week, that’s nothing.

But if you’re like most bloggers, those who can only fantasize about that kind of revenue, those little costs add up quickly. For some of us, even $12 per month is a cost we can’t justify just yet.

Is an inferior product at no cost better than nothing? If it’s going to turn people off because it sounds so mechanical that it’s not worth listening to, I’d say no. Free isn’t always better. It’s not even always worth using.

How often do you listen to text-to-speech when you’re on a website that offers a spoken text option?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.