I tend to regard text-to-speech features on news web sites as something of a gimmick.

Earlier this week, I wrote a very brief item about a “virtual newsreader” being on the web site of the Welwyn and Hatfield Times, a weekly local paper published by Archant. I thought of it as a pretty offbeat story rather than some important innovation, and picked the funniest available quote to use.

But now my story is being passed around on a site called BlindNews, reminding me that there are important applications for text-to-speech technology. The little animated newsreader avatar is still superfluous, though.