BBC journalists have been using AudioBoo since shortly after its launch in 2009 and the Radio 4 Today programme has providing catch-up audio for some time, getting around 20,000 listens to the 24 “boos” it posts each week, the FT states.
According to the article, the deal will “result in a series of branded BBC channels using AudioBoo, which the BBC hopes will broaden its audience reach worldwide”.
The FT states:
The decision to back such a small home-grown technology company is also a big step for the BBC, which has until now limited its official media partnerships to larger companies, such as Facebook and Twitter.
AudioBoo allows users to record and share up to three minutes of audio using the iPhone app or website. It also offers paid subscriptions for those who want to record and share longer interviews and sounds.
After launching in 2009, London-based AudioBoo gathered a loyal following of journalists and well-known personalities such as Stephen Fry who gave the platform an early boost.
AudioBoo founder and CEO Mark Rock told the FT that the BBC deal “took 18 months and 38 meetings to complete, because it was the first time a large media outlet had given official sanction to his business”.
Mark Rock, CEO of Audioboo. Photo by Kate Arkless Gray.
Since it launched in 2009, Audioboo has become widely used by journalists and so-called citizen reporters. You can add a picture and geolocate your Audioboos and simply engage with the community or use it as a audio player in a blog post.
Stephen Fry’s love of the audio recording and sharing platform, as well as the committed community of users have helped to cement it as a popular tool for journalists, and app on the reporter’s phone.
The Guardian listed the top 10 most-listened-to Audioboos back in June. We have been finding out about the latest developments by speaking to Mark Rock, CEO and founder, about Storify, the riots, Libya, its API and his thoughts on “friendly competitor” SoundCloud.
How has Audioboo developed, particularly now Audioboos can be added to Storify stories?
Part of the reason behind Audioboo is that the spoken word has been a really neglected area on the internet. All the innovation has been around music when it comes to audio, and the spoken word is a really evocative and emotional medium for reporting stories. If you just look at the Audioboo trending lists today probably several of the most listened to clips are from Libya.
What we set out to do was to make it as easy as possible for people to report or tell the stories or share an experience. Part of the deal with Storify is to be able to integrate that in a journalistic medium for not only reporting a story but also retaining it for future reference and use.
How was Audioboo used during the riots?
The riots were really interesting in that most of the journalistic output, so the Guardian, the Telegraph, Sky News, were using Audioboo to rebroadcast stuff they had already done.
I think where it really came into its own was people on the ground, with their mobile phones actually recording their experiences and some of the recordings are quite incredible in terms of what you can hear in the background: the riots, the sirens and fires blazing.
It’s a technological experience that even five years ago was not possible. And the audio was uploaded in two, three, four, five minutes of the recording being made and traditionally that would be a day or two days later.
We’ve seen the same in Libya. There are stories there which would probably would not get into a traditional radio broadcast. Very powerful stories, a lot of them done by non-journalists.
There’s a fantastic blogger called Libya17 who phones people up from America, phones people up in Tripoli and throughout Libya, and gets them to recount their stories live and then puts them up to Audioboo [you can hear the Audioboos from feb17voices here]. It’s a fantastic social record, I think.
You’ve opened your API. What are you hoping will come of that?
Even though we have mobile apps and a website, we really see ourselves as a platform to be used and abused.
Part of the Storify use was them accessing our API and just making it very easy for people to drag Audioboos into a Storify story.
We have a public API which does everything that we do so you can pull down clips, search, record, playback. All of that is out there now.
What we have done recently is a couple of things on the mobile front. There is an iPhone plugin. We have taken all our code for recording and playback and put it into a library for iPhone, which if you are an iPhone developer takes you about 20 minutes to integrate into an existing app. That’s been used by about four or five news outfits in Germany and Absolute Radio in the UK has incorporated it into three of its apps. It’s essentially a new way of citizen reporting or radio phone-in but with metadata and photos with location and tags.
What we also did recently is we open-sourced the code for our Android app. Android is a really difficult platform to support when you are a small company because a HTC works differently than a Motorola etc. We’ve actually stuck the entire codebase at github.com so that other developers can continue working on it.
Where do you see Audioboo in relation to SoundCloud?
SoundCloud has actually been going a year longer than us and I know [founders] Alex [Ljung] and Eric [Wahlforss] really well so we are friendly competitors.
SoundCloud is a fantastic system, a lovely website, lovely embed tools but it is 99 per cent music. Alex is a sound guy, loves that, and that shows in the product.
Where Audioboo works is in the spoken word. We’ve always been primarily about that.
Hopefully they can coexist. I know SoundCloud is looking to push much more into other areas of audio. But I think where we excel is on the stories that audio allows people to tell. Up until now that’s been news stories so we’ve been known as a news platform. We’re rapidly going to push out into other areas, whether its musicians talking about their music or sports people talking about their training, and we should see the result of that fairly soon.
Have you any plans to change the price and accounts structure?
We have a five-minute limit for free accounts. Hopefully soon we are launching a 30-minute account to appeal to podcasters. We think we can convert a good proportion of users to a paid service and that is going to be £50-a-year and with that you get additional stuff like a better iTunes listing and the ability to post to Facebook pages.
And we have our professional service which is used by BBC London, Absolute and Oxfam, which is much more about the curation and moderation of other people’s content.
Audioboo and SoundCloud have some differences when it comes to the player. Are you planning any developments to yours in the near future?
The commenting on the [SoundCloud] audio player is nice and I think it works for music and I would question as to whether it works that well for news. If I had a bigger team I’d love to have it. SoundCloud is 60 people, we’re five. We have a list of stuff we can do.
Any plans to cope with the problems of iOS native apps (such as the Journalism.co.uk iPhone app) which does not display the Flash Audioboo player in blog posts and news stories?
We currently have a player which, if you have Flash installed, will play in Flash. If you’re on an iPhone or an iPad, it will plays back in HTML5. That’s all in place for the site but where we haven’t got that at the moment is in the embedable player, where you can take the code from the site and put it in your own blog. It’s on a list at the moment. Stay tuned, is all I can say.
Any other developments in the pipeline at Audioboo that we should know about?
We’re continuing to improve the paid product. One of the things we’re doing is bringing back Phone Boo, which allows you to telephone call into the Audioboo website. If you haven’t got a smartphone and you haven’t got access to the web you can just make a telephone call and we record that and put it up on the web. We have partnered with an HD voice telephone provider so if you have an HD enabled phone it will record in infinitely better quality than a telephone call and it also means it integrates quite nicely with Skype.
We launched Boo Mail a couple of weeks ago. That’s the ability to send in a file by email, a bit like Posterous.
And for our Pro users we’re launching pre and post rolls. That is the ability to specify a sting or an ad or whatever you want at the beginning or the end of an Audioboo and that automatically gets stitched on.
One of the afternoon panels at the BBC’s Social Media Summit today asked the question: Can mainstream media compete with start-ups in social media innovation?
The panel featured Mark Little of Storyful, which provides a platform for those in the centre of the action to build a story and have it published, and Mark Rock of Audioboo, which enables the recording and uploaded of audio which can then be widely shared and published.
There overall message was that the difference between mainstream media and start-ups is the ability to fail and as a result mainstream media is still in the “electrical age” while start-ups have stepped into the digital.
The BBC itself came in for some criticism. Rock said Audioboo was not allowed to be embedded on BBC website, which he called”ludicrous”.
Individuals are the ones pushing innovation. At some point you will lose them. I don’t think you’ve got the right mindset.
“The BBC should be leading innovation in the UK and it’s not,” he later said. Little added that on this side of the Atlantic he feels there is a different attitude to innovation.
I get the sense that if some test product comes out that doesn’t work it’s destined for the bin. We need to try things all the time.
The other issue he added, is the focus on the word “compete”. It is about collaboration instead, he said, with both sides having valuable lessons to learn from the other.
We’ve worked with YouTube and US organisations and learnt a lot about verification and discovery. I don’t care who’s first to break news, it’s the opposite of what it’s all about, collaboration. On social media you need to learn and move forward. I’m still a little disappointed we’re being asked to choose between gurus … For us it is about seeing the problem with mainstream media and finding the solution.
Experimentation is on the cards at the New York Times, fellow panelist Liz Heron from the New York Times said.
We don’t really have any social media guidelines – use common sense and just don’t be stupid. We don’t want to scare people into not using social media to it’s full potential.
Part of the Times’ focus in the near future in this area is to bring social media into the high-impact projects the newsroom is working on, such as it did in the run-up to the Oscars.
By collaborating with the Times’ developers it enabled users to personalise the story by voting for their favourites and sharing that information with their ‘friends’ using Facebook.
Facebook will give you a lot of info, so we were able to show what kind of person was going in for the Kings Speech, for example, so got some interesting visualisations. In a way we therefore used a form of gamification to engage users. We want to do more to build platforms around our journalism in this way and allow our content to not only get distributed further but get some interesting information back on our key readers from it.
She added that Facebook, having “cracked the code” of Twitter, was now the focus for experimentation and innovation.
Our journalists have not figured out how to interact with it just yet. We’re working to bring Facebook journalism onto the main page.
Twitter is not being ignored though, with the New York Times’ “ciborg” account having its autofeed turned off next week as an experiment to take the Times’ participation on the platform “to the next level”.
If you are reporting on the referendum on the voting system, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies or from one of the 305 town halls across England and Northern Ireland with local elections, how are you going to present the results?
As a text only story which reports how many seats have been lost or gained by each party? Or are you going to try visualising the results? Here are five free and easy to use tools to liven up the results.
OpenHeatMap is a way to visualise your results in a map. It is free and very easy to use. You start by creating a spreadsheet, uploading the data and you can then embed the map in your web page.
A. Go to OpenHeatMap (you don’t need a login);
B. Create a spreadsheet. The easiest was to do this is in Google Docs. You must name your columns so OpenHeatMap can understand it. Use ‘UK_council’ for the local council, ‘tab’ for the party and ‘value’ for the number of seats. In this example, the tab column indicates the party with the most seats; the value is the number of seats;
C. Click ‘share’ (to the right hand side of your Google Doc), ‘publish as a web page’ and copy the code;
D. Paste the code into OpenHeatMap and click to view the map. In this example you will see the parties as tabs along the top which you can toggle between. You can change the colour, zoom in to your county or region and alter the transparency so you can see place names;
E. Click ‘share’ and you can copy the embed code into your story.
Anyone can now join Storify (it used to be by invitation only). It allows you to tell a story using a combination of text, pictures, tweets, audio and video.
A. Sign up to Storify;
B. Create a story and start adding content. If you click on the Twitter icon and search (say for ‘local election Kent’) you can select appropriate tweets; if you click on the Flickr icon you can find photos (you could ask a photographer to upload some); you can also add YouTube videos and content from Facebook. When you find an item you want to include, you simply drag and drop it into your story;
C. The art of a good Storify story is to use your skills as a storyteller. The tweets and photos need to be part of a narrative. There are some fantastic examples of story ideas on Storify;
D. Click to publish;
E. Copy and paste the embed code into the story on your site.
C. The video will be automatically posted live to your Qik profile but you’ll need to add the code to your website before you record (you can also live stream to your Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel).
D. To do this go to ‘My Live Channel’ (under your name). Click on it to get your embed code for your live channel.
E. Paste your embed code in your website or blog, where you want the live player to be.
How did you get on with the five tools? Let us know so that we can see your election stories.
Developers in Brooklyn, New York are working on a platform that allows people to upload audio stories and geolocates them on a world map.
Broadcastr, which the developers describe as ‘a social media platform for location-based stories’, launched recently in beta.
The service is similar to the UK-based audio platform AudioBoo in terms of geolocation, but it is different in that Broadcastr’s site is entirely based on a world map.
The beta site already includes eyewitness reports from the Brisbane floods, and the site is working with Human Rights Watch in Egypt to encourage audio uploads.
Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, spokesperson Kate Petty said that in cases where a country’s internet is blocked, Broadcastr could set up a voicemail service for witnesses to leave messages via a phone rather than uploading them directly to the website. Petty likened the facility to a similar response from Twitter’s when the internet was blocked during anti-government protests in Egypt.
Asked if broadcasters can use the audio reports, she explained that the contributor keeps the copyright but said the site makes it clear to those uploading audio that they are offering it up to an open community.
Petty added that it would take at least six months before the full site could be released. Free iPhone and Android apps will also be available.
Co-founder and president of Broadcastr (and former snowboarder) Scott Lindenbaum acknowledged they are not alone in developing audio-based social media applications. “The start-up space is competitive, like snowboarding, and you want to be successful, but it’s also about seeing what’s possible, and advancing the community as a whole.”
Andy Hunter, co-founder and CEO added: “Just like Facebook proved that our friends are important, Broadcastr will prove that our neighbourhoods are important.”
Petty was unable to reveal the cost of creating the startup, but said it is currently funded by developers’ friends and family.
London-based journalist Rosie Niven has some interesting thoughts on her blog about how journalists can make use of the recently launched personal messaging service from Audioboo.
The site sent an email to some users yesterday detailing the new service, which Niven says could be a useful tool for journalists, such as the sharing of audio quotes between sources and journalists.
The privacy that the personal messaging service offers is likely to increase Audioboo’s use as a way of quickly recording and sharing quotes. Of course, it relies on both parties being tech savvy and Audioboo users. However, as mobile platforms are added, I can see personal messages becoming yet another tool for anyone whose job includes interviewing people.
Back in April 2009 I listened as a group of bloggers at the G20 protests in London sent in reports using the new Audioboo iPhone application. The rules of the game are clearly changing fast, I thought.
The application allows users to record and upload high-quality sound files in an instant. In the same way that a photo of a plane floating in the Hudson river circumvented traditional channels and made its way around the world online, journalists (including Guardian staff) and bloggers on the ground were able to instantly upload reports on the unfolding activity with the immediacy and colour of front-line reports. I happened to be home ill that day and listened to the action with fascination. Then a contact from ABC News in the States contacted me via Twitter asking me if I knew any of the reporting bloggers and to pass on the direct number of the ABC newsroom. It was quick, energised and direct, and I was immediately hooked.
On the surface, the domain of the journalist and the developer seem poles apart. Journalists trace and shape stories, uncover information, and on a good day bring hidden truths to light. Developers build tools, marshal data and on a good day make the impossible possible. But a convergence is taking place that will ultimately rewrite the rulebook for both camps. Journalists have long been sifting and filtering forbidding mountains of data, looking for a story in the noise. Now they are going further, familiarising themselves with the tools to cohere and present this data, adapting to remain relevant in the new digital space. Developers in turn are doing far more than pushing data around. With rich social media tools and networks available to all, they are starting to report, telling stories with code and changing the way people in the online world relate, work and communicate. It’s a vast social experiment taking place in the production environment of the real world.
Back in March of this year, a small group of developers and journalists met in a pub in Islington to explore this overlap between coding and journalism in an intensely pragmatic fashion – the former teaching the latter the rudiments of web programming over a few beers. Ruby In The Pub was born.
A few days before, I overheard an online conversation between Joanna Geary of the Times and self-proclaimed ‘relapsed blogger’ James Ball. They were discussing the possibility of starting a regular event to get developers and journalists together. They touted Ruby as a possible language and with a speed typical of events incubated in social media circles the venue was sourced and the date decided.
As a Ruby developer (with the penchant for the odd beer) I immediately decided to attend and offer whatever support I could. The first event was warm and freestyle in nature, and the second drew a significantly larger group to the Shooting Star in Spitalfields, including the lead developer of the New York Times. One whole side of the pub was taken over by laptops and energised conversation. Due to the spotty wifi, I hardly managed any teaching at all, but became engaged in a wider discussion around journalism, the digital arena, and the changing media landscape.
Like that difficult third album, the next meet-up will probably define the future of this freestyle session. Ideas will gain traction, people will gravitate to familiar faces or pick up on projects that have been discussed. Karen Barber of Audioboo will be in attendance and has already taken up my offer of help on a project she has been kicking around for a while. We’ll get a drink, sit down, and start building it, responding to feedback from newbies and experienced hackers as we do so. Along the way, the communication channels between both sides will be strengthened and clarified and, what with all the activity on Twitter around the event, feelers of energy will spread out and spark up satellite meetings.
In fact, this has already happened. Paul Bradshaw, a journalist who teaches the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham University, has already activated the wonderfully-named Ruby Tuesday up North and hopefully we’ll see a lot more. In a series of regular posts I will attempt to cover the process as it unfolds, as well as looking at the wider interface between word and code.
There’s no end to this journey, it’s a vibrant buzz of collaboration and exploration. Why not join us?
Audioboo Pro will be the version used by ITV tomorrow, ‘which will contain a series of web tools which make it easy for companies, particularly media companies, to manage content coming from their audiences’.
Key to these tools are ‘magic tags’ – a private tag that the account use can apply to any Audioboo content creating a specific feed for use in a player on their site. ITV are using this system to help moderate the ‘boos’ left by fans.
The use of Audioboo by ITV marks a focus by the broadcaster on capturing the online buzz about the match alongside the roar of the crowd within Wembley Stadium. As such, the site will use Twitter aggregator Twitterfall to stream relevant updates to the microblogging site.
In addition, using a tool developed by thruSITES:
“The players’ names and faces will appear alongside bars which will move up and down to reflect the buzz around players during the game. The tool will be available after the match so that fans can scrub along a timeline to see which players caused a buzz at crucial moments.”
“Although the big clubs are well catered for of an afternoon with live commentary we felt that the smaller clubs weren’t really in a position to service the information requirements of their fans who can’t make it along for whatever reason or those ex-pats who are keen to find out what’s happening from afar on a Saturday afternoon,” explains MacDonald.
“We pick up the information via feeds from Boo which automatically populate the appropriate section of our site.”
P&B has tried updating web pages using email to text gateways and experimented with SMS updates, but these were time consuming and failed to convey the mood of fans at the game, he adds.
“It’s early days but we feel this could be a really neat, low cost way, of getting information back from around the grounds to those unable to attend. We’ll continue to grow the trial and get a few users on it and see how it goes from there,” says MacDonald.
London SE1 Community Website
James Hatts, editor of community website London SE1, published by Banksidepress said the site is also experimenting with Audioboo and has uploaded newsworthy clips, such as updates on a local fire.
“I think AudioBoo has great potential for local reporting – it’s just so easy. No waiting to get back to the office, no transcribing endless recordings, no editing, no waiting for YouTube (for example) to process your video,” says Hatts.
According to Hatts, the ‘idiot-proof brilliance’ of the app is comparable to using a Flip camera and could make it an important part of a modern reporter’s kit.
However, using it in a way that makes economic sense is a key consideration for Bankside:
“It’s early days for Audioboo but at the moment there’s no way to drive traffic to our own site from a boo page, for instance,” explains Hatts.
“There are interesting future possibilities for using voice recognition software to display contextual adverts around the audio player (or even to insert relevant audio adverts).
“At the moment it’s great for novelty value and building an audience and building a brand, but even an operation like ours which is run on a shoestring needs to be able to derive some revenue from our content.”
Our Man Inside
Rock said Audioboo should be used to augment other reporting and that audio was an emotive medium – both ideas that seem to have been taken on board by ‘social media mongrel’ Christian Payne in his use of the app.
“[W]hile i experiment, I have fallen back in love with audio. It makes you think more about how you describe your surroundings. It makes me want my surroundings to explain themselves. Either by getting close to a person and their opinion or close to environmental sounds,” he writes in a blog post.
“Combined with a photo attached to act as a catalyst for the imagination, the listener is not being force fed the story. They have to take a moment to let their imagination get involved in the media.”