InkOutLoud

InkOutLoudInkOutLoud is a service that turns printed publications into audio programs. I formed the company with my business partner, Matt Thompson, graphic designer, Bert Mahoney and former co-worker, David Shepard.

The InkOutLoud idea was born a few years ago. In 2004, I relocated from Orlando to Sarasota, FL for a job. On the weekends I commute back-and-forth to visit my daughter. After a few trips, I exhausted my music library and found myself bored out of my mind. Needing brain-stimulating content, I collected articles I found on the web, converted them to audio files using text-to-speech technology, burned them to CDs and listened to them on my drives. The robot voice, while unnatural, was fairly easy to understand once I got used to it. However, it wasn’t a viable solution for mass audiences.

Later that year, podcasting hit the scene bringing some enabling technologies that would make pieces of InkOutLoud possible. Some of that technology was developed by me. It’s called Modcast and it’s software that seamlessly combines audio and user preferences to create custom audio programs.

However, we still didn’t have a business model. But after staring at stacks of unread magazines, the model became apparent. InkOutLoud would be a service that allows publishers to repurpose their magazines into subscribe-able audio programs.

While podcasting solved some of the subscription issues, I still had to deal with the voice problem. Text-to-speech wouldn’t cut it, so I consulted my father, who owns a recording studio, and he gave me the idea to develop a network of voice talent.

It took nearly a year to bootstrap the venture—developing the engines for the audio creation, embedded content, feed management, etc.—but we finally launched the service in March 2007. Knowing we took too long to bring the concept to market, the partners agreed to shop the idea around for a month before putting it to rest. We talked to a few people, entertained a prospective client, but in the end the market indeed passed us by and we pulled the plug on InkOutLoud.

For a brief explanation of InkOutloud and an example of how our “Listen Now” button could be used by publishers to link to audio directly from an article on a website, click this button: