San Francisco Chronicle to Introduce Audio Edition

Posted on September 20, 2002

The San Francisco Chronicle announced it will be offering an audio edition of the newspaper using technology developed by MobileSoft that allows subscribers to listen to Chronicle content on custom-burned CDs. While reading is generally faster and easier for newspaper readers, The Chronicle is targeting commuters, who might show an interest in the service -- especially those with long commutes. However, The Chronicle will have new competition in this format, such as music and news radio programs.

The audio service allows users to enter The Chronicle's online site, sfgate.com, select newspaper sections of interest, and specify the time of their typical commute. The MobileSoft server-client software then automatically writes an audio CD before the subscriber wakes up -- in time for their commute. The personalized CD will contain an audio version of the news topics they want to hear about, lasting the commute time specified.

For consumers who do not already own a CD rewritable drive, a low cost external CD rewritable drive will also be offered as part of the package. The system also supports auto-sync to MP3 players and unattended sync to PDAs (user's choice of audio, text, and ebook formats). Chronicle subscribers may also listen to the most popular stories directly from the newspaper's online site.

"It's an interesting technology, and we're excited to be the first to offer it," said Steven B. Falk, president, associate publisher and COO of The Chronicle. "We see a possibility for added convenience for our subscribers, and perhaps another incentive for visitors to our popular website, sfgate.com, to become paid subscribers to the newspaper."

Testing is complete and the audio edition launch is estimated near the beginning of November. Pricing for subscribers, said to be pennies per week, and will be finalized prior to launch. Some of The Chronicle's goals for launching the new product include reaching the age 35 and under group, reducing the drop and migration of paid subscribers to lower margin online visitors, creating additional online page views, and improving handicapped access.

"Providing media companies and corporations with a means to increase revenue using existing assets and provide a direct, automatic pipeline to their subscribers and employees safely on-the-go is the focus of our knowledge delivery systems," said Michael Price, CEO of MobileSoft. "We are delighted to work with the San Francisco Chronicle and other leading companies in helping them directly build and future-proof their core revenues."