The ubiquity of smartphones, powered by a range of popular social media apps, has made user-generated content broadly available to publishers. Until recently, people have mostly submitted photographs or videos from breaking news events, but social audio is increasingly giving audiences a voice in publisher content.
- Social audio apps built a strong presence through 2020 and into this year, vying with video and photo apps for attention. The Clubhouse app in particular became the darling of the media and tech scene, reaching a valuation of $4 billion with its series C funding round in April 2021.
- The buzz that flamed up around Clubhouse has disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived, but social audio apps are still hot. The biggest replace the presenter-centric format made popular by Clubhouse with shorter, snappier audio clips that are more like voice notes.
- According to the Verge, the future of audio is short-form, shareable and social. Where the long-form conversations in apps like Clubhouse have a tendency to veer off topic, pre-recorded audio clips deliver much more focus. “Because they’re short, the signal-to-noise ratio is completely flipped,” one investor told the Verge.
For publishers, this new focus on short-form, social audio presents a valuable opportunity to create greater audience engagement. Publishing user-generated audio can add what journalism professor Damian Radcliffe calls “colour, flavour and eyewitness media”.
He recommends four ways publishers can take advantage of user-generated audio:
Audio clips featuring audience opinions on movies, music, books, TV shows or even current affairs are an excellent way to include public opinion in your content. The clips can be embedded into the body of the text output by most CMS or on social media. Damian gives the example of a UK radio show which used social media to encourage its listeners to become ‘correspondents’ by submitting 30-second reviews.
It might seem old school, but in a similar vein, answering machines can be used to let people have their say. The On Point radio show in the US encourages listeners to leave messages with their reaction to stories or questions for interviewees. Using landline technology has the advantage of including certain audience members who do not have access to the latest smartphone apps.
Expert voice memos
Voice memos provide a useful alternative to remote interviews where subjects are busy or have unreliable phone or internet connections. Interviewers can message questions and experts are then free to respond with voice memos in their own time. Transcripts can be used to create text articles and, with the right permission, the sound files can be embedded to deepen engagement.
Over the last 18-months, virtual events have become a standard part of publisher output. But rather than embark on a full scale virtual production, publishers can host audio-only events that avoid screen fatigue and allow the audience to participate while multitasking. Platforms from Clubhouse to Facebook’s Audio Rooms and Twitter’s Spaces will support audio-only events.
One of the benefits of all user-contributed audio is that it can be transcribed for repurposing into text-based content or directly embedded. It can also be curated into longer podcast episodes.