December 7, 2019

Launched my 'Read It Later for your ears' service!

Chris Kinniburgh @CJKinni

When I created ListenLater.fm, I wasn't sure if it was worth doing. I run high quality text-to-speech on articles you want to listen to, and provide them as a podcast feed, so that you can listen to them when you want. It's a read it later service for your ears. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I'd like using it.

I had lots of doubts.

  • Was the text-to-speech good enough to listen to?
  • How does it sound when sped up to a faster reading speed?
  • Is it easy enough to add articles?
  • How does it feel to have your podcast app have a bunch of articles?

But I loved it. And so I went from building it just for myself to providing it as a service. The text-to-speech won't compete with my audible subscription, but it's plenty fine for an article. Plus, when listened to at 1.2 or 1.5x, it conveys everything I need from the text, and I hardly notice that it's a robot. Adding articles is straightforward -- I implemented adding via bookmarklets and email to start, and I'm already testing browser extensions. My favorite part is having all the articles in my podcast player. When I've tried read it later services in the past, I'd add a bunch of articles, and they'd end up in an app I never looked at. But I already check my podcast app all the time, so I always have time for an article.

But there's a problem. How do I convince anyone else that this is good? People have the same concerns I do, and more. I wanted to run a trial, but there's a catch: The text-to-speech is somewhat expensive.

What I decided to do was have a two-phased approach:

First, I put an audio player on the landing page, so potential users could try listening before they sign up. I want to improve the experience, but for now I think it lets you know what you're getting before signing up.

Second, I created a very limited free tier. You can add 5 articles a month to your personalized podcast feed. That's less than I'd like, but it's all I can afford to begin with.

There's still more to do. But it works, I love using it, so I'm ready to share.

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