AUDIONET

Audionet is a conceptual idea for a digital reader service that allows users to organize and listen to their digital reading in a natural human-like voice (think Audible for the internet!).

 

The service was conceived and designed as part of my Digital Service Innovation class at CMU. Together with three other teammates, I envisioned to design a product that creates a new aural experience in content consumption where users can seamlessly save and listen to digital text across all platforms and devices. The following sections takes you through my innovation journey in bringing Audionet to life. Let's start with an explainer video!

Innovation Journey

Audionet was the result of an idea brainstorming session I conducted with my roommate. At the Innovation class at CMU, I pitched for the service with a 3-slide deck along with 42 other classmates. Fortunately, Audionet was among the ten digital service products voted to be worked upon in class, and this was the start of my Innovation journey.

 

Together with a newly assigned team, I was responsible for taking Audionet through a complete lean product development process - from analyzing the market opportunity, talking to customers, testing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and finally pitching to investors and classmates who would invest with virtual CMU money.

1. Opportunity

Analysis

Analyzing extrinsic factors that can indicate the feasibility and viability of the Audionet

2. Customer Discovery

Interviewing real people about their preferences for audio as a form of content consumption

3. Opportunity Definition

Laying down the business model and scope of the product based on customer discovery

4. Pitching to Investors

Designing and creating the final pitch for an investor showcase at CMU

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OPPORTUNITY ANALYSIS

The first step in bringing Audionet to life was analyzing the opportunity that existed for such a product given external market conditions. In order to do this my team and I conducted and prepared a PESTLE analysis report and attempted to identify the opportunity in the market for Audionet given these external variables.

pestle

A PESTLE analysis involves extensive research into Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors that can influence how a service performs in the market. A summary of Audionet's analysis can be found below. The full report is accessible here.

Audionet will have to create a mechanism that carefully curates the content on the platform so to not transgress any geopolitical restrictions imposed by various countries and governments

POLITICAL factors

  • Suppression of controversial content is prevalent in different parts of the world 

  • The internet is rife with content that can be deemed as propaganda and misinformation

  • Suppression of controversial content is prevalent in different parts of the world 

  • The internet is rife with content that can be deemed as propaganda and misinformation

  • The production of Audio content especially podcasts and audiobooks is quite expensive

  • Revenues from the sales physical books and e-books have seen a steep decline in the last five years

Audionet as a platform has the opportunity to drastically reduce production costs of Audio media by relying on modern day synthetic voices. This can help in obviating the need for hiring voice artists and reduce production times from months to minutes. By allowing original content authors to create audio versions of their content quickly and cheaply, Audionet can give them access to a new market of listeners at a fraction of the cost

eCONOMIC FACTORS

Provided audio as a mode of consumption is preferred by the masses, Audionet can attempt to win over audiences who have reduced their reading habits over the past few years. With targeted messages about having the ability to multi-task and listen on-the-go, Audionet can attempt to appeal to a new market of listeners. It would also be prudent to explore the benefits Audionet can offer to those who frequently have eye strains from reading and those with visual impairments

social factors

  • Readership of both physical and digital books are on a decline since 2003

  • Reading as a cognitive process requires complete attention of the reader

  • Reading as a mode of content consumption is less friendly to those with vision impairments

  • Prolonged periods of reading (especially on a screen) can cause eye strains

Given the fact that more number of people are wired in than ever before combined with advancements in natural-sounding, synthetic voice technology, Audionet has the opportunity to deliver content that people want to listen to over hardware and software they already own.

  • Adoption of audio gear in such as headphones and wireless earbuds are at an all-time-high. At present people mostly use them to listen to music or watch videos.

  • Text-to-Speech technology has evolved to a point where synthetic voices have started sounding less robotic and more human and natural.

technological
factors

  • Rights for digital audio content especially those of audiobooks are ill-defined and the regulation behind them are often quite hazy.

legal factors

Given the inherent risks of falling into legal battlegrounds over rights issues, Audionet must build a platform that caters to the interests, rights and incentives of  the original creators while selecting and curating content for the platform.

  • With the increased shift towards digital forms of content consumption such as e-books, podcasts, videos and audiobooks, the reliance on paper for print has drastically reduced. This has had a positive impact on the environemnt

environmental FACTORS

The positive benefits to the environment by not relying on a print medium combined with the reduced strain on the eyes by not having to read from a screen could be great value propositions that Audionet can offer present-day readers. 

pRODUCT-OPPORTUNITY GAP

After preparing a PESTLE report, the next step was to identify a Product-Opportunity gap in the market given some of the Social, Economic and Technological factors that can affect the success of Audionet.  In assessing and selecting these factors, my team and I carefully consider how human behavior has changed over the years with the evolution of technology. With the factors defined below, I could clearly frame an opportunity for Audionet - An application that leverages the socio-economic shifts to digital and the technological advances in Text-to-Speech to deliver a new aural mode of content consumption on the internet. 

Detailed SET Analaysis.png

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CUSTOMER DISCOVERY

The team's next step after analyzing the product opportunity was to define the customer, understand the manner in which they currently consume content, test their affinity for audio as a mode of content consumption, and finally uncover key insights in their readership habits

PERSONAS

The two personas outlined below were those we decided to target for our customer discovery process 

Interview process

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team reached out to connections of our professors and fellow students for finding suitable candidates to interview. We used Zoom as the video conference platform to take the interviews and used the auto-transcribe feature to ensure that no notes were missed.

In conducting our interviews we were keen on exploring all facets of an individual's content consumption habits. We prepared our structured interview questions with a focus towards their occupational reading, casual reading, and media consumption habits (such as watching videos, listening to music or podcasts etc.)

Since we understood that listening as a solution is not meant for everyone, we were keen to explore whether individuals like the experience of listening to online content. We asked interviewees to pick their favorite article and tested their preference for listening to Google Assistant narrating the article during the interview

I constantly revised our interview process with new learning and insights. The diagram above shows the final structure we were using for our last iteration of interviews. 

interviews and key insights

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people we interviewed for their preferences for content consumption

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OPPORTUNITY definition

Having gained early insights from our interviews, my team and I were now in a position to define how Audionet can create value to our target personas and with that arrive at an early stage business model that we can pitch to investors.

defining the flow of value

We defined three distinct entities for Audionet - Professionals (or internet readers), students, and content publishing platforms.. On one side are students and professionals whom we charge a fee for providing them the flexibility, time, and convenience of being able to listen to their favorite articles. We will also be gaining valuable readership data from this audience, that we can later use to tailor content recommendations. On the other side are publishing platforms. We aim to partner with such platforms to arrive at a fair value exchange where they can supply us with their content in exchange for exposure to a new market of users who listen on Audionet.

Value Flow 1.5.jpg

The BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS

After having defined the value flow between the  stakeholders in Audionet, we proceeded to prepare a Business Model Canvas. To narrow our scope we have encircled our key areas of focus in the canvas. These areas will be those that make the pitch deck and the investor pitch.

BMC.png

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pitching to investors

Based on insights from our interviews and feedback from our professors, classmates, and other guests, we developed a pitch deck for Audionet. Here's the video clip of our pitch at the investor showcase.