Ever
wished you could listen to, instead of read, content on your favorite
Web sites? Ever wished you or your client could sponsor such podcasts?
The New York Times Company's International Herald Tribune (IHT) is
attempting to fulfill those wishes for its readers and advertisers, by
beta testing a service that lets users choose which articles to
instantly transform into an audio format.

"We are
excited because this is a scaleable way to advertise in audio, as
opposed to doing a one-off podcast, which can be fantastic, and we'll
look into doing that, but this is scaleable," said Meredith Artley,
editor & director of IHT.com.

The company
hasn't yet signed up advertisers, but has pitched some on the offer,
which would put :05 or :10 audio ads at the beginning and possibly the
end of articles. Creative could either be a produced, radio-style ad,
or text that could be read by the same automated system that reads the
articles. The company envisions putting spots on every third, or every
fifth, article, to avoid bombarding listeners with the same message
over and over.

"We want to
make sure that the advertising experience is varied and not overly
repetitive and not getting in the way of the news," said Artley.


The IHT is offering the new service at audionews.iht.com
using technology from Swedish firm ReadSpeaker. The company hasn't
released the details of how its system works, but professional readers
apparently record a dictionary of words in advance, and the technology
assembles them on the fly. Users can select stories they want to hear
immediately, or customize a feed of content that could be imported into
iTunes or other podcasting software.

Roy
Lindemann, managing director of ReadSpeaker France, said the service
is, "a very convenient way for [the IHT's] readers to listen to vast
amount of news text when traveling, commuting, doing sports or simply
at home or at work."

The service seeks to tap into the tiny, but growing, population that's interested in podcasting. A Nielsen//Netratings study released
yesterday finds that 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population,
or 9.2 million Web users, have downloaded an audio podcast in the past
30 days. Artley said she expects early adopters to be a tech-savvy
audience that's keen to try new technology.

There's
potential that, should the test be successful, it could be rolled out
across other New York Times Company properties like NYTimes.com and
Boston.com.

"We're the
guinea pigs on this one. We wanted to experiment with this one and push
it out, but we're all part of the same family," said Artley. "This
happens all the time in smaller ways... we share information internally
and tweak and evolve."


According to the company's citation of a DoubleClick stat, IHT.com receives 2.7 million unique readers monthly.

ON:Dynamic Ad Engine For Podcasts via @jpenabickley