Francisco Martin-Rayo wants to save newspapers. He also wants to save lives — and he’s developed an app to do both of those things.
That app, Hear Your News, announced on Tuesday the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to add voices (in as many as 20 different accents) and news sources to their mobile app.
The app, which made its debut in August, uses text-to-speech technology to deliver your morning (or afternoon or evening) newspaper experience out loud. It was launched with two goals in mind. First there is the public safety goal of getting people to stop reading the news while driving — a dangerous endeavor the company claims 8 million Americans engage in. The second piece of the mission is a public policy goal of helping newspapers survive by creating a new avenue for readers (listeners?) and the revenue that comes with them.
At the time of launch, Hear Your News offered articles from the Associated Press RSS feed, read in your choice of two British accents — one male and one female. Now the company also has partnerships with ProPublica and Talking Points Memo, but their ambitions go far beyond this.
Hear Your News has a $12,500 Kickstarter goal this month, with the aim of adding new voices to the app (including some in other languages), and hundreds of new news sources.
But beyond raising money to improve the app, Martin-Rayo says he hopes the Kickstarter campaign will serve as a way for users (or potential users) to make their voices heard on what features they’d like to see. Really want to hear your local newspaper read aloud in an Irish accent? Hear Your News wants to know that.
Another potential feature that Hear Your News is considering is a kind of premium service. At the moment the app is free for users, and Martin-Rayo envisions some sort of Pandora-like targeted advertising for future monetization. But just like Pandora, might some users pay monthly to avoid ads? Perhaps, and the Kickstarter campaign serves as a chance to identify that market.
Martin-Rayo told Technical.ly that the majority of the money raised, from ads or from subscriptions, will go back to the newspapers (content providers).
That’s how Hear Your News plans to help save the struggling newspaper industry — a resource Martin-Rayo believes is critical to the functioning of democracy. “I don’t want this to be a thing where we didn’t appreciate [newspaper journalism] enough until it was gone,” he said.
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