I’m sorry David, I can’t…

I’m sorry David, I can’t podcast for you.

Spotify recently announced a partnership with WordPress.com that will allow you to convert your blog post to a podcast with text-to-speech functionality, and the audio will be hosted with Anchor. As an example, see TheDesignAir blog. 儭

This isn’t new Amazon‘s Polly has been reading blogs since 2018 via the AWS for WordPress plugin, although it hasn’t been updated in seven months.

Joe Casabona says this deal is “bad for podcasting.” Why?

“Simply converting written text to speech isnt compelling content… I suspect lots of people will use the text-to-speech feature to launch their podcast, and podcasting directories will get flooded with some of the most boring podcast content imaginable.”

To be clear, Joe isn’t saying you can’t repurpose your blog content as podcast episodes. It just has to be done in a way that is personal and human: “…you have to do it. Read the script, record the episode, with passion in your voice.” 伐

Outside of accessibility applications which the announcement on WordPress.com doesn’t emphasize I agree with Matt Medeiros: there’s not much value here. Nearly a decade ago, Chris Butler predicted we’d have “format liberation” by now. Content of any type text, audio, video could be converted to any other by an AI. Nope. 儭

However, the technology is getting better, and it’s farther along than a generic “Siri” experience. I recently heard some podcasts experimenting with AI that has real potential. One of these was Techmeme Ride Home, where Brian McCullough used the Overdub feature of Descript to add news spots that were “text-to-speech.” They weren’t perfect, but they were better than Siri.

To explore how this technology may be beneficial to podcasts and podcasters, Evo Terra‘s thoughts are worth a read. 儭

There’s more to a podcast than the voice and personality of the host. There’s the production value, music, and conversations between guests and hosts. So I doubt the technology we have today and this Spotify deal with WordPress.com won’t replace podcasts. But it might evolve into a “niche” of shows that simply “read” the news and I think this will appeal to a more narrow audience, including people who need it for accessibility reasons.

For the time being, I don’t see a lot of value being added for bloggers in the current Spotify-WordPress deal nor to the podcast ecosystem as a whole, at least from a quality standpoint. I want to watch this space to see if text-to-speech becomes a more requested feature with other communities and platforms, or if it just fades into the background noise.

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