HearMeOut: The App Version of the Town Hall

Voice has an impact that a written message just doesn’t, says the company, which offers 42-second audio posts.

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In ancient Greece, if you had a gripe, you could just climb on a podium and speak. The British have Hyde Park in London, with its famous Speakers’ Corner. The rest of mankind can post snarky comments on the Internet. But now you can do it easily using a smartphone, and in your own voice, with HearMeOut.

“The HearMeOut app is a new voice-based social network,” says Yair Yona, the company’s marketing vice president. Like any social network, it uses a model of content feeds and followers. But instead of status posts or videos or images, it’s based on brief audio posts, explains Yona.

“A person can express an opinion about something he cares about, a politician can record a relevant message, an athlete can tell his fans: ‘Thanks for coming to the game,” he says. “Musicians can share part of a single or a rehearsal, and so on.”

Audio posts are limited to 42 seconds. When doing product development, the company tried different time limits, but, working with focus groups, it became clear that people’s patience is a fine and finite thing. “We saw that after 40 to 45 seconds, they look at their watch and lose interest. So we decided to go for 42 seconds,” says Yona.

Asked what made the founders choose voice messages, Yona says, “There’s something about using your voice. For example, every morning I post a recommendation for a musical piece. When I talk about music, my voice has something passionate in it. It’s totally different from writing ‘You should hear this album.’ The voice says more, no matter how many exclamation marks or smileys I add.”

True, some people are put off by making a recording, just as some people flinch at being photographed, Yona says. “But just think, if instead of writing ‘We got him,’ Barack Obama had recorded those words – how exciting it could have been,” referring to the announcement of the 2011 raid on Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan.

Established in late 2013, HearMeOut has a few thousand members, and Yona says it intends to grow and consolidate for a year and a half before starting to think about its business model. Meanwhile, the company has collaborations in place with several content providers.

“Channel 2 News started recording a 42-second news flash especially for us. Haaretz records the daily headlines. We have three sports news sites on the platform, the Keshet and Reshet morning programs, the 103 radio station and now [Haaretz group’s] City Mouse, the Tel Aviv entertainment guide, has joined as well,” he says. “iCast is posting abbreviations of its books and Patifon, a website for distributing singles, has opened an account.

“The beauty is that with this app you can listen according to your fields of interest – sports, news, politics or simply choose Drive Mode and hear your entire feed play out. It’s a mix of hard-core news and people recording the kid in the car. I think it’s charming – it’s a kind of social radio,” he says.

Founded by Moran Chamsi, who is also CEO, HearMeOut employs a staff of five and has raised $500,000 from private investors. The app is now available for iPhone and should shortly be available on Android.