So I had an idea about how a tool that would allow people to easily record voice versions of their Medium articles, and automatically did the noise removal and balancing etc for them using machine learning. I imagined that most people don’t really want to spend all their time doing audio editing, which is why a lot of online articles don’t have any audio versions on them.
I also imagined that a lot of people would enjoy turning their blog posts into “podcast”-like episodes, but are deterred by all the technical mayhem involved. I feel like recording and hitting “publish” on an audio recording should not be a pain in the ass.
I also spoke to my friend from Cornell, Teddy Reiss who is my expert on all things radio and audio.
Initial design requirements without consulting any users:
- Should make recording very easy
- Should allow automatic noise removal
- An automatic teleprompter that is visually pleasing
I also found out about Play.ht which allows you to let your articles be read by artificial human voices. And another company that is a marketplace for matching authors with aspiring narrators. It seems like being a narrator is a niche career path, and I never knew! Many actors use narration as a side gig, and some actually become popular narrators in their own right.
I decided to do user interviews.
I looked further into other use cases like audiobook publishing, not just online articles. Turns out, the quality requirements for audiobooks are very stringent, and recording one can be quite expensive because it includes a low-noise space, an audio engineer, and sometimes a director and editor. Often the author has to do all of these by themselves.
I decided to post into a few different subreddits, one of them being r/SelfPublish:
Several people responded, and it seemed like the noise editing for audiobooks is quite difficult to do automatically and there’s plenty of software that allows them to do it. And for audiobooks, anything less than perfect is frowned upon (because the author wants to produce their best work!)
The audiobook “script” is actually different from the book – it is usually especially written for the narrator’s use. Examples:
A more useful thing is the teleprompter and the ability to string together a large number of audio snippets like lego blocks, doing retakes on the fly, managing the files and the editing process.
If the software highlights each passage/section as marked by the author or through line breaks, and smoothly skips from one to another (cutting the audio in the background as soon as the narrator presses the button), it’s almost like a digital director.
Visual elements clearly show the narrator when the audio is being recorded or not, so that they can toggle on or off and learn the keyboard shortcuts quickly.
It could also labels each audio clip with the actual text it contains, and the page and paragraph number (which can also be used as a bookmark on the script!)
The chain of audio can then be exported to be sound-edited in another software package like Audacity or Adobe Pro Tools. Will have to figure that one out.
More notes on how to do Mastering etc
I am still not fully convinced about the ideal market, target customer/use cases and feature list for the software, so I need to get a prototype together ASAP and get feedback on it from
at least 25 users who are willing to pay $10/month for it, and a 50% discount if they refer someone else.
Wait, I need to figure out the pricing – I can’t just pull a number out of my ass. Intention is the key – remembering how Zapier initially discovered pricing, I don’t want to undercharge for the product, because that’s bad for both me and the end customer (they don’t value it enough).
So one next step is a high-fidelity prototype that can be used for pre-sales purposes – and I’m going to crowdfund this. That is the best possible way of knowing that there is a market.
The marketing plan should ideally have a referral system, because I’d need a large onus of customers to be able to break even and generate some profit. And I’d like to optimize for volume rather than high-ticket, so that I can impact more people.
But wait, what is my real goal here? And I’ll probably need a cofounder, so should be looking into that as well. Ideally someone with a similar passion for helping authors and creators, and someone I can trust. You don’t have to do everything alone, Aman. There are people out there who’d be willing to help you.
FINAL THOUGHTS (July 12)
I gave up on the idea because even the MSP did not excite me enough. The MSP would be very hard to build and still not be something I can be proud of.