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Technology Stocks : New Q write what you like - No boring stuff
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From: Jon Koplik5/5/2024 4:34:48 PM
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WSJ -- Insomniacs swear by dull narrators who put them to sleep .............................................


May 4, 2024

Is This the Most Boring Man in the World?

Insomniacs swear by dull narrators who put them to sleep, whether on purpose or not

By Spencer Jakab

Late last year Randy Smith got a text from a complete stranger. She thanked him for putting her to sleep.

Smith was shocked to discover that he was a YouTube star. The Ormond Beach, Fla., retiree was even more surprised about why: A tutorial he recorded and sold as a VHS tape in 1989 on how to use Microsoft Word had resurfaced as “THE MOST BORING VIDEO EVER MADE” with 3.1 million views and close to 11,000 comments so far.

“I can’t remember the number of times that this Video has helped me sleep,” one gushes. “I want this played at my funeral, so people don’t forget how interesting I was,” says another.

Smith, a former motivational speaker who taught presentation skills, has a voice that isn’t so much boring as comforting. It turns out, his silky-smooth delivery, combined with the now-irrelevant subject matter, makes his video perfect -- for hitting the sack.

And he has lots of competition. From footage of late TV painting instructor Bob Ross to five-hour loops of the BBC shipping forecast, dull recordings are all the rage as slumber hacks in a sleep-deprived nation. Smith is puzzled.

“Why somebody who has no interest in Microsoft Word would be watching it -- especially such an old version, I have no idea,” he says.

The answer: While white noise like rainshowers or ocean waves help some people, others find it easier to nod off to human yammering, such as the play-by-play of a baseball game.

If a live game isn’t available -- or sounds too exciting -- insomniacs these days can turn to a Chicago entrepreneur who calls himself “Mr. King” and runs Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio, a podcast of full-length but fake baseball games on the fictional WSLP AM. He calls the matches as sportscaster “Wally McCarthy,” complete with made-up players and teams, and a friend from Minneapolis writes and narrates the ads for fictional products.

King, who will only say about his background that he “isn’t a complete novice,” hasn’t turned fake radio announcing into a full-time career yet.

But Benjamin Boster of Pleasant Grove, Utah, is literally living the dream. The 43-year-old trained vocal performer’s boss once told him he had a boring voice. Now he has made a side hustle, his “I Can’t Sleep -- A Boring Podcast,” into his family’s livelihood since being laid off in January.

A sleeper hit

Boster’s episodes have been downloaded about 10 million times across various platforms, and he doesn’t even have to write his own material. He slowly reads entire Wikipedia entries. Recent gripping subjects include Seahorse, Utility Pole, Beard, Pasta and Automated Teller Machine.

“Often for listeners,” he says, “the challenge is: Can I stay awake for a whole episode?”

Boster has 54 episode requests pending, some of which -- reading about skeletons, for example -- are a hard pass.

That is probably wise. Boster says his majority-female audience uses the podcasts as much for stress management as for sleep.

Shelly Cox, a retired magazine editor from Virginia, has restless legs syndrome and often wakes up in the middle of the night during her travels around North America with her husband in their Airstream recreational vehicle. Finding herself in a strange campsite is a very lonely feeling, she says, and she turns to the podcast “Sleep With Me,” which bills itself as “bedtime stories to help grownups fall asleep.”

“It is like being next to a very good friend at a time of need,” she says.

Adult bedtime stories, the most common technique for putting people at ease, require the right reader, such as Tom Jones, a 30-year-old Englishman who has long been told he has a distinctive voice.

“People would say, ‘You have quite the monotone.’ Now I take it as a compliment.”

‘Audio Ambien’

Known to listeners as “Thomas,” he is the soporific star of the “Get Sleepy” podcast with around 140 million downloads to date. Jones writes some stories himself, while his employer, Slumber Studios, employs freelancers and produces other sleep podcasts.

Appropriately, Jones, who struggles with sleep issues himself, records episodes from his bedroom outside Cambridge, England.

The business of sending listeners to la-la land is no sleepy corner of commerce. Executives at Audible, an Amazon subsidiary and leading U.S. audiobook platform, noticed many customers were listening to its books with a sleep timer and launched its “Sleep Collection” four years ago, featuring bedtime tales read by stars including Brian Cox, Eva Longoria and Keke Palmer.

But for dozing off, many listeners find audiobooks originally intended to entertain do the trick just fine.

According to a Reddit audiobook forum, actor Peter Ganim’s reading of Arthur C. Clarke’s 1973 novel “Rendezvous With Rama” is “audio ambien.” Customer reviews, mostly five stars, include one that says the narrator sounds like the voice on an automated phone menu.

Droning American narrators apparently face tough competition from the Brits, especially posh-accented men, when it comes to bringing on shut-eye. Jones, who grew up in Essex, calls it his “special sauce.”

Shelly Cox often wakes up to the hypnotic voice of a British narrator emanating from the headphones worn to bed by her husband, who also has trouble sleeping. SleepPhones, a maker of bluetooth-enabled audio headbands for listening to recordings in bed, recommends books narrated by actor and author Stephen Fry:

“The British timbre of Fry’s voice is modulated, plummy, yet silvery; a perfect concoction for a peaceful night’s sleep.”

Sometimes the subject matter alone is enough to induce slumber. One insomniac endorses the translated version of Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” And listening to the classic, 4,000-plus-page French novel comes with a bonus:

“Other people love Proust and you will be able to say you’ve read it, even if you slept through enormous chunks of it.”

Write to Spencer Jakab at

Copyright © 2024 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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