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TikTok Adds Disney Character Voices to its Text-to-Speech Feature



This is a pretty cool announcement in itself, but in terms of timing, it’s also a brilliant example of corporate trolling, and clapping back at a competitor.

Today, Disney has announced a new partnership with TikTok which will enable TikTok users to choose from a range of Disney character voices for TikTok’s text-to-speech feature.

So now, instead of that regular, slightly too happy female voice that you hear over and over again in TikTok clips (I’m talking about you ‘Jessie’), you can use C-3PO or Rocket instead, which could be a good way to boost engagement, and will no doubt lead to new viral trends related to characters saying things that they probably shouldn’t.

But here’s why it’s extra great – just yesterday, Instagram announced that it’s adding text-to-speech to Reels, its TikTok replicant, along with its own voice effects tools.

Reels text to speech

Which, of course, trails TikTok significantly, as you’ve been able to add this to your TikTok clips since December last year, and as noted, it’s already a highly used feature in the app. Given this, it does make sense for Instagram to add the same, but it also means that TikTok is leading the way on another key innovation, and with Instagram constantly trailing, that will make it hard for it to win back young users, and become the cool place to be one again.

And now that Instagram finally catches up on this element, TikTok one-ups them straight away.

That was unlikely planned, as the feature has been announced to coincide with Disney+ Day, and couldn’t have been timed to align with Instagram’s feature launch. But still, it once again underlines that TikTok is the leader in the space, and that Instagram is the older, less cool app that catches up on the cool new thing months – almost a year – after it began trending.

And now, TikTok’s already advanced to the next stage, so Instagram’s speech-to-voice is second rate, a day after it’s released.

That is incredibly serendipitous timing for TikTok, and a perfect illustration of why it’s currently the most popular app, especially among younger, more tech-savvy audiences.


If Instagram, and parent company Meta, really want to win back the youth, they’ll need to take the lead in the space once again, and right now, they don’t look close to doing that. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the company will primarily focus on younger audiences moving forward, as part of a broader strategic shift to maximize long-term viability. But in the early stages of this new push, those efforts appear to only be focused on messaging, and trying to regain popularity by – somewhat ironically – partnering with TikTok influencers.

That will help increase exposure, but it’s not like anybody’s not aware of Facebook or what it does, so that’s not really going to matter. The question is, will it help to make Facebook, and Meta, more broadly, cool again?

Right now, it feels a little forced, like Meta’s trying too hard to ride the latest trends, and be ‘down with the kids’ in its outward communications.

The real winner for Meta on this front would be leading the next wave of innovation, and becoming the originator of new trends, based on the latest features and user response. Which is a more difficult path, as you can’t control what catches on and what doesn’t in this respect, but Meta can invest in new tools, and it can build features that are not available in other apps.

That hasn’t been Meta’s forte for the last 5-10 years – and oh look, that’s the timeframe in which it’s lost connection with younger audiences.

Facebook usage chart

Facebook originally rose to prominence by beating MySpace, because it was better, it was cooler, and people eventually migrated to the blue app, and its functionality, instead. Instagram then rose to become the next cool place to be, so Facebook bought that, then Snapchat gained traction as the trending app of choice. Facebook tried to buy Snap too, but since then, it’s essentially lost its spot as the leader in creative innovation, with Snapchat’s Lenses becoming the leading trend-setter, in terms of key updates, then TikTok taking over after that.

When was the last time Facebook or Instagram had a must-see, must-use feature that got everyone talking? As noted, Snap Lenses have done this at regular intervals, while TikTok’s also been able to spark new trends with features like Duets, creative AR tools, and yes, text-to-speech.

Getting people talking about, and sharing these experiences is a key step, and Meta, right now, is not the leader in any sense.

It’s interesting to see this illustrated so clearly in one announcement, which, again, was likely not planned that way. Which may make it even more significant in this respect.




Ahead of World Cup, influencer ‘Mr Q’ lifts veil on Qatar



Khalifa Al Haroon, known to his followers as Mr Q, has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil on World Cup host Qatar

Khalifa Al Haroon, known to his followers as Mr Q, has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil on World Cup host Qatar – Copyright AFP KARIM JAAFAR

Raphaelle Peltier

At a time when prickly questions are being asked about Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup, Khalifa Al Haroon offers a smile, a sigh and a shrug as he seeks to explain its mysteries.

Known to his growing number of followers as Mr Q, the 38-year-old has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil over the tiny but mega-rich Gulf state that describes itself as a “conservative” Islamic country.

The first World Cup in an Arab nation has put a spotlight on Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers, gender rights and even the use of air conditioning in stadiums.

Haroon’s cheerful #QTip videos broach everything from saying “Hello” in Arabic to the right way for men to wear the flowing ghutra headdress. There is also an edition on labour rights.

With less than 60 days to the November 20 start of the tournament, he now has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and more than 115,000 on YouTube. And the numbers keep growing.


Qatar has dozens of online influencers on topics ranging from “modest” but expensive fashion, to the latest sports car being imported into what is now one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Haroon carved out his niche by elucidating Qatar’s unknowns to its growing expat community — and now the hordes of football fans expected for the World Cup.

Haroon — who was born to a Qatari father and British mother and spent 16 years in Bahrain — said he was first confronted by global stereotypes about Qatar and the Middle East while studying for a law degree in Britain.

He had wanted to become an actor, but instead launched his social media presence in 2008 with a blog.

“I was in the perfect position because I was a Qatari who has never lived properly in Qatar,” he said.

– ‘Trust your own eyes’ –

“In essence, I was like a foreigner in my own country and so I had the same questions that foreigners did, and so it just made it easy for me to start putting together information.”

Haroon said there has to be a distinction between “negative news” and misinformation about his country.


“When it comes to fake news, obviously, I think everybody understands that it’s not true and so the only thing that I could do is show people videos and pictures and show them what we’re really like because you can trust your own eyes.”

Some people, he said, have told him they decided to move to Qatar after watching his videos.

Haroon, who is now a consultant to the Qatar Football Association and an eSports entrepreneur, said he is excited about the World Cup “because people can now come here and experience it for themselves and make their own judgements instead of just believing what’s written”.

His main grouse is how outsiders see something negative about Qatar and then believe that all Qataris “accept it or we all agree with it”.

Many supporters of the 31 foreign countries who will play in Qatar have raised concerns, however, about the welcome awaiting them. Can they drink? And what will happen to same-sex couples in a country where homosexuality is illegal?

The government has insisted that beer, normally restricted, will be available and that everyone is welcome. Haroon wants outsiders to experience “real Qatari hospitality”, with its food and coffee culture.

“Of course there are going to be certain social norms,” said Haroon. “What we are asking for is just respect the country. And of course the country will definitely be respecting everyone that comes.”

“Some people might make mistakes because they don’t know what the rules are and that’s OK,” he added.


“The point is our culture is all about intention, our religion is about intention, so as long as you have good intentions and you want to do the right thing, you have nothing to worry about.”

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