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    What is the BBC’s “Project Songbird”?

    Posted on November 24, 2020

     

    The BBC has recently announced its “Project Songbird”, a new text-to-speech tool for its digital sites that will provide users with a new experience when consuming its content.

    The proposed tool has been developed with the hope of allowing the BBC’s audience to consume content hands-free, with no need to click or browse. Aiming to capitalise on the current demand for audio content, the BBC’s new tool will provide a third method of consuming content that will sit alongside text and video news.

    Senior Vice President for Business Development and Innovation at BBC Global News, Errol Baran, told The Drum:

    “It will offer our readers an alternative experience, one which enables them to listen to our content as well as read and watch it. We have seen through the success of our podcast business across World Service that the demand for audio and audio based propositions shows no signs of slowing down and this allows our readers to be able to multi-task should they wish to do so.”

    While many content providers are branching into text-to-speech technology for their readers, Baran said that Project Songbird will be unique, as it has been built with behavioural and cognitive software that will, over time, learn behaviour patterns of its audience. In doing so, the tool will begin to prioritise content for users based on their specific preferences, all while maintaining the impartial journalism of the BBC.

    In addition, the tool boasts an infinite scroll option, and it will enhance a user’s listening experience with soundscape and background effects – Baran gave the example of the sounds of sports fans being present while listening to a report from a football stadium.

    Baran identified the tool’s tone of voice as a unique selling point, and highlighted that in the future, there is the potential for a number of different voices to be present in the tool, which would be used dependent on the tone of the piece, such as a serious voice reading out a hard news piece.

    The project will firstly be launching with “BBC Work Life – The Life Project”, before subsequently being rolled out on BBC’s Culture and Future respectively, ultimately targeting news and sports.

    The BBC is a giant content provider, and its move into text-to-speech reflects the need for online content providers to continually work on providing the optimal user experience. In particular, it stresses the importance of producing quality content that can clearly be understood in audio form – particularly by the machines that will translate the content. In addition, the BBC’s move to prioritise content based on user preferences highlights the importance of ensuring the content you write is relevant and useful to your specific audience.

    If you need help in crafting relevant, clear and engaging content, get in touch with our team at Engage Web today.

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