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Launch HN: Listle (YC S19) – Listen to the Best Articles on the Internet
71 points by radumazilu on Sept 26, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 34 comments
Hi HN,

We are Cristina, Maria, Radu and Alex, co-founders of Listle (https://www.listle.io). We provide audio versions of articles. Instead of sitting in front of your computer reading your favourite blogs or news articles, you can listen to them while you commute, run or cook.

While being in YC over the last three months, we’ve developed both the iOS and Android apps. You can find these here: https://listle.app.link/m2DbuzvEDZ.

We started this out while still being in university, back in London, a few months ago. The idea was born as a solution to the painful process of using crappy text-to-speech software to listen to articles on the commute to lectures. We used Instapaper, Pocket and open source solutions for text to speech, but none were great. We noticed that as much as technology has evolved, listening to a robotic voice for more than five minutes is still simply terrible.

The success of podcasts and audiobooks shows that people enjoy listening to content. However, most of the content out there is still in written format. Listle aims to bridge the gap between these two worlds and enable people to listen to any article on the Internet. For example, you can listen to Paul Graham’s, Michael Seibel’s and several other YC partners’ articles. We’re also actively partnering with independent authors and enabling them to distribute their content in audio, through an embedded player on their Medium page / personal blog. Find examples of what this looks like here, https://medium.com/hackernoon/wtf-is-the-blockchain-1da89ba1..., https://medium.com/the-mission/your-college-degree-is-worthl... and here, https://medium.com/skilluped/the-3-most-important-skills-to-....

Every morning we release top new audio articles from that day — curated from HN and Reddit, all read by humans. We realise people have different preferences. Because of that, we’ve included a “request” feature within the app. For any article that you find intriguing, you can copy / paste the link into the app and get a top-notch AI narration, instantly.

We’re very excited about this and really hope you give it a try. We’re eager to hear any thoughts / suggestions / requests!

I use pocket audio feature all the time and the robotic sound is far from good indeed. It's hard for me to see how you scale it to every article out there but I guess focusing on a niche is good to start. Good luck and really hope this will work out.

That is indeed our approach, and the reason we started out with articles posted on HN.

Few things I would like to draw your attention to:

1. Firefox is reporting that certain parts of the page are not being served over HTTPS.

2. In the "My audio articles" section why do I need to enter the first paragraph of the article when I'm already submitting the link to the article?

3. The side menu doesn't close on the mobile site when I tap the drawer again. This was the only thing I found wrong about the UI.

I hope these will help you with improvements. Congratulations on getting Listle live. I really like the simple design of the site. I'll test more functionality tomorrow (it's past midnight at my place).

Thanks for these! We'll look into the menu issue and polish the site further.

With regards to 2 and 3, I think you might be using the writers' section of the site. That is where writers can add their own articles and use Listle to create an audio version.

Great! I often with I could listen to articles instead of reading them.

What is your tech stack?

First Bug report:

1: There is no scroll bar

2: The Hacker News link hangs at "Loading audio articles" forever: https://www.listle.io/app/publication/Hacker%20News

3: Search seems to search the source code of the article page. Searching for "PHP" brings up a bunch of articles that do not mention PHP at all.

For the search, it is possible that the word "php" appears in the first paragraph, or summary of the article.

Thanks for pointing it out. Try this: https://www.listle.io/playlist/hacker-news

react-native (mobile) / react (web), firebase, aws for storage.

What about the intellectual property of those articles? How do you give credit to the author?

Every article is still owned by its author and credit is given to each of them. If you tap on the author name, it redirects you to the original post. We're currently in the process of making partnerships with several more authors. For our current writers, we offer embedded players for their Medium page / blog and in turn, host their content on Listle.

How are you going to handle articles that display images for infographics as necessary for comprehending the article?

Obviously that's the limitation of pure audio but I'm wondering if your process can simply tag or save an image that can then display like an audio book cover.

Good point. We're working on a feature in our mobile player that allows users to see images in an article while the article is playing.

Adding to that I noted that you do have links to the actual articles which is good but they aren't displayed as intuitively as they could be.

I think the next phase of your ux should be an actual carbon copy of the article that I can read inside the app with the audio playing features at the bottom in an overlay. One needs to go back and forth between a web browser and your app, and it takes longer to listen than it does to read, most people will want to save time and read when they are in a position to do so. (I'm sure this is already on your docket)

one feature you might consider that would help the transition between reading and listening is to have your vertical scroll bar coincide with your track time at the bottom, so as they scroll down the article their place in the audio track moves down as well. You could even have a text cursor that appears between the actual words on the screen so they can see where their place is.

I've constructed an elaborate diagram that illustrates this


wow! thanks for the amazing input. we actually also worked on a player that is like an overlay over the page. That sits in an experimental branch, which we'll continue to develop.

really nice idea with the symmetry between the vertical and horizontal scroll bars!

Have a look at descript, an podcasting app. They do this, but not just for playback. They actually let you edit the audio by editing the text transcript.


Sounds great. Just by the way, I started something like this (free / free of adverts) earlier this month, on a small scale, to scratch my own itch, basically: the "Tech Aloud" podcast → https://blogs.sap.com/2019/09/18/tech-aloud-podcast-an-intro...

Neat. I've two things to say,

1. How do you feel about AI catching up with reading? I use pocket's text to speech, or iOS's screen reader, which although robotic, seems to be improving rapidly?

2. Do you have any plans for web version ? I've this tendency to read and listen simultaneously. I think it forces me to really focus.


1. AI is definitely improving in this area. We watch this space closely, but based on user feedback so far, it seems that AI voices are perceived as very monotonous, and thus it is not enjoyable to listen to them for more than 10-15 min.

2. Listle is already available on the web at https://www.listle.io/ -- scroll down to "Sign in here" link.

We also have a chrome extension which allows you to see if a particular page / article you are on already has a human-read audio version. If it doesn't, it creates an AI powered audio for you: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/listle-request-ext...

FWIW, you might want to check with @dang. Lots of comments of yours were flagged and I vouched for them.

How you tackle all the extra text with AI on articles which should not be read.

There is a web version. On the lower right of the page wher it is written "Want to use Listle on the web? Sign in here."

How is this different from Audm?

I'm curious as well. This seems strikingly similar and Audm was YC S17.

We're very much focused on on-boarding smaller writers and the content is most often evergreen, with some news, but the type that doesn't expire the next day.

> enable people to listen to any article on the Internet

> ... all read by humans

This is great, but also sounds kinda pricey and hard to scale? What is the business model behind this?

Thanks for the interest. Right now, the AI request lets people listen to content from most links available online. Once we see there's demand for a particular article or domain, we create the human-read version of it too. In terms scalability, we've discovered there are a lot of people with really good voices who are interested in creating a portfolio of voice-over work. We made it very easy for them to generate and upload the audio of the articles every day, through a narrator platform. The business model will be based on a freemium subscription, with the paid version introducing premium features.

How (if at all) are the authors and publications involved in the process?

> This is great, but also sounds kinda pricey and hard to scale? What is the business model behind this?

Wonder when AI will be smart enough to sounds completely natural. I've listened to a generated audio from an AI that was almost there. Trying to have the right intonations and everything.

We do think it’s getting closer, but the very best text-to-speech, although good, is still not enjoyable to listen to for more than 10 minutes.

Congrats! Cool project.

How many team members you have currently? How many narrators are there?

Thank you! Really appreciate this. There’s currently four of us, so only the original founders. We currently have around 20 narrators.

Hi! This sounds like a great idea. I'd like to be a narrator, where can one apply?

sounds goood. can you please shoot Maria an email (maria@listle.io) about this?

Thanks for making it! Looking forward to trying it out

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