The New York Times has acquired Audm, a subscription audio platform that uses professional narrators to transform long-form written articles into the spoken word. Audm, which had only raised a small seed round of funding after graduating from Y Combinator in 2017, already worked with major publications including Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. It will continue to serve those outlets, in addition to the New York Times, which is now integrating the service with its own various properties.

The media giant is also touting the acquisition as a “welcome balm” to help people during the COVID-19 outbreak, which is spreading rapidly around the world.

Spoken word content has surged in popularity in recent years, a trend that has led many of the big media and technology companies — including Spotify — to invest heavily in podcasting. Traditional “read it later” services have also embraced audio content, with Mozilla-owned Pocket now tapping Amazon’s text-to-speech service Polly to enable users to listen to articles they bookmark from the web.

Rather than using text-to-speech, however, Audm pays actual humans to read articles from myriad publishers and then bundles them under a single subscription. Audm subscribers pay $8 per month, or $57 per year, to access the entire library of spoken word content.

Above: Audm

The New York Times has already used Audm for a number of articles published recently, and readers can elect to listen directly on the article page. The articles also guide readers to download the Audm app to listen to recordings from other publishers.

Above: Audm and NYT

The New York Times is also adding Audm-powered read-aloud articles to its The Daily podcast every Sunday, which it started doing last week with a profile piece on Tom Hanks.