In a world where news content is proliferating, time-poor workers face a common struggle. Keeping up with current affairs can be a vital part of their jobs, but they often struggle to find the time to sit down to read articles in a newspaper or on a website.
News Over Audio, or Noa, claims to have a solution to this dilemma. Its platform allows users to listen to written articles on a wide range of topics while driving to work, on the train, in the gym or cooking a meal. Co-founders Shane Ennis and Gareth Hickey were working in technology and finance when they came up with the concept for Noa as an answer to the problem they had as time-constrained professionals.
They began to investigate the idea of having articles narrated so users could inform themselves on topics of their choice “anywhere they’re not physically holding a paper or reading it off a mobile device”.
Mr Hickey says that “audio provides the convenience element that you can listen while you’re on the go”. They were inspired by the growth of audio books and podcasts.
“Significant growth in the spoken word space and the audiobook model proved to us that words could be taken from a page and narrated with the same level ofentertainment value orinformation extraction,” says Mr Ennis.
They looked to the growth of the single platform model adopted by Audible, Spotify and podcasting apps where users pay a monthly subscription. The Noa editorial team collaborates with the newsrooms of the publications to choose articles.
They selection news articles with a single purpose in mind: “How can we pick the best articles on thisparticular topic that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues and help people to understand it better,” says Mr Hickey.
And publications flagarticles of interest. Turnaround is fast, at about 25 minutes for anaverage 750-word piece. However, the team prefers features, opinion, and analysis over breaking news. Their content focuses on business stories, by design. They say they recognised the huge demand in thefinancial, corporate and legal industries.
“We package those items into specific playlists or what we call stories —collections of articles on a particular topic. Users can choose a playlist on a particular topic and listen to really good pieces on that topic going from A to Z,” Mr Hickey says.
Noa uses narrators across Ireland, the UK, and the US to capture the right accent or tone of the article. The founding team also includes Philomena McGinley, who heads up the sales department, and Keith Ryan, who has an advisory role. Following two years ofdevelopment and havingcarried out testing, Noa launched in May 2017.
Its clients include Bloomberg, the Irish Times, the Financial Times and the Independent in the UK. The company got by on its resources until early 2018 when it received a €600,000 investment injection from private investors. Since its launch, Noa has narrated 12,000 to 13,000 articles and added publications including the New York Times, The Economist and Business Insider.
As an audio product in 2019, Mr Ennis says Noa can deliver across mobile, desktop, and via voice operating systems such as Alexa and Google Home. He is also looking at audio opportunities in the car market through applications.
Noa is similar to Audible or Spotify with a user interface, mobile app, and website where consumers engage with the articles across publications. The platform offers free and premium versions, working with publications on a revenue-sharing basis where Noa pays a percentage to the publisher.
The fee is based on engagement, on the number of streams and time spent on articles. Another side of Noa’s business model, which is kicking off this summer, gives its publisher clients access to the audio files, allowing readers or listeners to click on an article and choose whether they want to reador listen.