Interview: Govind Balakrishnan at Curio, tells us how you can harness the power of audio

Audio streaming services are seeing a surge in popularity as people crave different news experiences...

Audio streaming services are seeing a surge in popularity as people crave a different news experience, one that can be entertaining, relaxing, or enjoyable.

Research from Reuters Institute found consumers are more likely to pay for digital audio than they are to pay for online news.

In a qualitative study written by Kantar Media, researchers ascertained that people are more persuaded to pay for content, if there is a wide-variety of choice from multiple sources.

Curio is a curated platform which utilizes voiceover artists to convert premium journalistic pieces like The Guardian and The Financial Times.

In this interview we talk to co-founder Govind Balakrishnan about what’s happening in this emerging market.

 

People engage with our audio for about 20 times longer than they do with the print versions of the same content.

In your promo video for the Curio app, Edwin Heathcote said that Curio focuses on interesting content. What is ‘interesting’ content for Curio and how do you go about choosing what content to narrate?

“Interesting” content is basically content that people would want to listen to at any time from a reputable source. There are many factors that make it interesting – the topic it covers, how it is written, whether it unearths certain facts, whether it tells a story, whether it contains an exploration into a specific area. We have an AI based curation/recommendation algorithm that works through these different factors and helps us choose the content to narrate.

 

Better online experiences including customization, push people to pay for news. How does Curio’s machine learning algorithm help create a unique user experience?

The algorithm helps to surface content that is of interest to a wide range of people. That includes surfacing content from the back catalogues of these publications, where there is some amazing content lying. The algorithm is able to choose content from there that would be of relevance even today and throw light into events that are taking place today.

For example, we surfaced the story behind Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, which continues to be relevant even today as we have seen with Charlottesville and the ‘take the knee’ protests; or we are able to bring in articles from different publications on a single topic, to provide a more well-rounded understanding of a topic – be it crypto currency or the effect of mobile phones on kids.

With the future becoming more voice-based and away from screens, it could herald a new age for media, where, publishers are rewarded for content that is more deeply consumed and not just for headlines that gain the most clicks.

 

Will Curio one day encompass breaking news content?

Yes, there will be some breaking news content in the future. The idea is to provide people all the content they want to actively consume.

What is the most exciting thing Curio.io is working on?

People engage with our audio for about 20 times longer than they do with the print versions of the same content. It really excites us to see that by combining smart recommendation with the power of audio, we are really able to drive the sort of engagement that all of this amazing content deserves.

And with the future becoming more voice-based and away from screens, it could herald a new age for media, where, publishers are rewarded for content that is more deeply consumed and not just for headlines that gain the most clicks.

Do you think digital publishers should be thinking about their audio content?  

Definitely, for all the reasons stated above. Technology is moving more into conversational interactions and voice will become much more integral to content delivery. And as we are showing, when you can combine the power of selection/recommendation with exceptional narration, the content gets the engagement it should be getting. That is something that all publishers have been working towards and audio is the medium that can really match the message.

Are you developing partnerships with other digital publishers?

Yes we are. We are currently speaking to over 70 other publications.

What can other digital publisher learn from your experience?

That people are willing to pay for content that they really want and is delivered to them in a way that makes them want to consume it. When we deliver that, we can truly establish a sustainable publishing model, which can deliver real substance and continue to thrive.

 

Find out what motivates consumers to pay for news in the Attitudes to Paying for News report by Kantar Media and Reuters Institute.

 

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