Narro is the simple way to listen to the web – a text to speech podcast app. Narro will take your bookmarked articles and read them back to you as a podcast.
I found Narro through Product Hunt and it’s changed how I read (listen to) longer form articles from the web. In the past I saved all longer articles to Instapaper but I found those articles would go unread for months. It’s a big commitment to sit down with a 5,000-10,000 word article. Especially when games like Alto’s Adventure exist.
Narro is a text to speech service. You throw text at it and it converts the text into a spoken word audio file. You can give Narro a URL and it will parse the content of the article. It even does a good job of stripping out inline ads but does still include things like block quotes and image captions that can sometimes throw off the coherence of the article. With a premium account ($7.99/month) you can give Narro plain text or even send it an email and you’ll get an audio version back.
There are multiple voices in multiple accents which can make listening fun. The voices are robotic sounding though and sometimes words get a bit jumbled or audio artifacts/clicks/pops get in the way but nothing that prevents you from understanding what is being said. I’ve had a better experience using the female Australian accent voice lately.
The best part of Narro is that it provides you with a personal RSS podcast feed that you can subscribe to in your podcast client of choice. For me, in Overcast, you can see how long the audio file is and choose the article based on the amount of time you have to listen. Overcast’s smart speed and voice boost improve the overall listening experience. I also turn the playback speed up a couple of notches and everything is still understandable. Narro will crawl the article and pull out links within the post, adding those to the show notes section.
A new feature allows you to connect your Pocket account and it will pull in those articles and an iOS app is in the works. I use the bookmarklet to save articles into Narro and they appear in my Overcast feed around five minutes later which is just fine for me.
I’m excited to see Narro improve audio quality and voice realism as well as adding their iOS app (a Safari extension would be great) in the future. I listen to a lot of podcasts mostly for the entertainment value but I’ve found that I enjoy listening to educational/learning podcasts too – Revolutions, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, In Our Time, The Infinite Monkey Cage are just a few. I love being able to consume a quality article in the way that suits my method of understanding/learning.