A few weeks ago on the GeekWire podcast, we featured a new iPhone app called Snackr that tuned into a user’s personal social networks in order to deliver a customized audio news report, told in the charming voice of a British gentleman.
Now, Seattle upstart iHear Network is unveiling a similar offering, launching what it’s calling a “social news narrator” on Android. The idea behind the service, like Snackr, is that people will be able to listen to a customized news report while on the go. (Say in the car or a dog walk).
In addition to the choice of mobile OS, there are a few other differences between Snackr and iHear. iHear offers more voice narrator options — some for a premium price — and reads entire articles, rather than the summaries found on Snackr, said CEO Paul Simons. The free app also draws information from both Facebook and Twitter.
iHear Network has been around for some time. (I personally have seen two different demo pitches of the service over the past couple years). When the company first started, it was focused on geo-targeted news, showcasing news nuggets that were happening nearby.
I’ve always been a bit intrigued with the concept. (Not sure of the business model or the market potential, but in this fast-moving world I like the idea of having someone read the news that matters to me as I drive, take a shower or walk the dog).
In that regard, you can think of it as a bit like “Pandora radio” for news. Users can subscribe to various channels, say business or sports or entertainment and then let the text-to-speech functionality do its magic.
“With iHear Network, people can keep up on the social news and current events they need to know about while their hands are occupied, like during a workout or when walking the dog,” says Simons. “We’re helping people unlock more time in their day by allowing them to be both active and informed, so that they can do what they really want to do later.”
Here’s a pretty hilarious video showing how the app works: