Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Does your voice need more than... a voice?


My morning RSS reads took me to the (relatively) new Odiogo Voice App (thanks to The Official Lair of Daniela). Odigo claims:

Turn readers into listeners, and transform your blog into a high quality, ad-supporting broadcast that can vastly expand your audience reach!

  • Automatic podcast generation
  • “Near-human” quality text-to-speech
  • Drag-and-drop integration on your blog
  • Detailed download statistics
  • Make money from embedded ads
  • Leverages RSS feeds of all blogging platforms such as Typepad and Blogger
In truth, I can't really take exception with any of this, and I was pleasantly suprised at the quality of the robot-reader. We've come a long, long way since Ray Kurzwiel first brought us in to this territory, nearly half a century ago.

Love the "Near-human" voice. Love the automagic nature of converting text to voice. Love that I can listen to your blog while I'm cruising the highway. Well, at least I love the idea.

What strikes me almost immediately is the subtle, yet severe difference in writing for voice vs. print. The Odiogo reader sounds good - don't get me wrong - it just doesn't sound quite right. I can tell in the first sentence or two that, while this is being read well, it was written to be read - but not read to the reader or audience.

Take the example of how even the best book requires the intermediate step of going to a screenplay before it can be produced for film. It's not because it has to be trimmed down to 100 pages - it's because people just don't talk that way (notice I didn't say speak that way - Odiogo speaks fairly well). The auteur is generally a master of her medium, and understands that when you have a book (or a blog) in hand, the audience will bend their mind to that way of "listening". When you're really listening (with your earholes), you expect it to be natural, to be involving, perhaps to be conversational - all things one can pull off in print just as well, but have to be pulled off... differently.

Some of the best print writers I've known have had trouble making the jump to broadcast (and now, podcasting) for this very reason. It's not for lack of great ideas and strong creativity, but working under the assumption that the delivery (one's voice) isn't nearly as important as the package being delivered.

The good news for writers is that the fix is easy: practice, practice, practice. Unfortunately, a robot can't get you there (yet), but if you're trying and it's not working, you'll be able to hear it.

There's a lot more to be said about Voice, but in the voice of a blog, my gut tells me that I should keep it short.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

The vocal sounds are so humanlike, and so far beyond a service I used to have once upon a time.

I guess podcasting is the wave of blogging future you just can't ignore.

Thanks for dropping by :)