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Tool of the week for journalists: Story Wheel, for easy audio slideshows

Tool of the week: Story Wheel

What is it? An easy audio slideshow tool using Instagram and SoundCloud

How is it of use to journalists? If you are a journalist who regularly uses Instagram to share photos, here is a tool that will allow you turn the images into a story.

Go to the Story Wheel site, connect your Instagram account, click the pictures you want to use and then record audio, hitting the space bar every time you want the picture to change to the next in your selection.

An audio slideshow takes just minutes to make and is a quicker option than using tools such as Soundslides.

Although you can’t embed the audio slideshow, it does offer journalists a great way of telling a story around their images and sharing via social media.

You can see examples of Instagram audio slideshows on the Story Wheel site.

According to the Story Wheel site, the tool come out of a hack day. It was built using the SoundCloud api for the audio part and is now part of SoundCloud Labs.

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SoundCloud adds trim and edit features to its apps

September 21st, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Handy tools and technology

SoundCloud has updated its iPhone, iPad and Android apps adding some really useful features for journalists.

Users can now trim and edit a recording, deleting any mistakes before uploading the audio. The app also now allows pause and resume during recording and has a fade in and fade out option.

 

Third-party recording apps are also available that work with SoundCloud.

In a release, the audio recording and sharing platform said it now has 20 million registered users.

Released reading:

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Social magazine app Flipboard adds audio

May 16th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Multimedia

Social magazine app Flipboard has added audio, allowing users to listen to a podcast, an interview or music while flipping through the pages of the app.

Flipboard is an iPhone and iPad app (soon to be on Android) that allows users to sync with their Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook and other accounts to receive personalised news content.

Flipboard has partnered with SoundCloud for audio (which provides content including Journalism.co.uk’s podcasts), National Public Radio and Public Radio International (PRI).

As The Next Web reports:

It’s a marvellous new way to distribute and listen to audio content, one I might just use specifically for podcasts. The user experience is unquestionably superior to iTunes.

And how long before we see Flipboard dive into video? It’s somewhat surprising it hasn’t decided to explore the video space first. The social magazine already includes a video category but is limited in sources and isn’t ideal for video browsing. With no clear winner in the video magazine space (see ShowYou and TNW Startup Rally winner Shelby.tv), Flipboard can still make it its own.

BBC News and TechCrunch both have details on the Flipboard development.

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Ten ways journalists can use SoundCloud

Audio platform SoundCloud has been around since 2007 but it is only this year that it has really taken off as a space for the spoken word as well as music.

Here are 10 ways it can be used by broadcast and digital journalists:

1. Record and share audio. You can do this from a computer or your smartphone or tablet. SoundCloud has apps for iPhone/iPad and Android but consider using one of the third-party iPhone apps that allow you to edit or trim before uploading directly to SoundCloud.

VC Audio Pro (£3.99) (a previous Journalism.co.uk app of the week) allows you to do a full multitrack edit before uploading to SoundCloud.

Try iRig Recorder (free for the basic app, £2.99 for the one with full functionality) and FiRe Studio (£2.99). Both allow you to trim and alter levels before uploading.

At Journalism.co.uk we’ve been uploading audio interviews and podcasts to our SoundCloud account, gathering over 2,800 followers and engaging with a new audience.

2. Search for sources. If you are looking for quotes or audio from a news event, search SoundCloud much in the way you would hunt down videos on YouTube. You will then be tasked with verifying the recordings, facing the same challenges as checking reports posted on Twitter and YouTube.

SoundCloud has an advanced search function which allows you to search the “spoken” category for a keyword. There is also an option of searching for content under a creative commons licence. Try searching for Japan earthquake, Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street to see the type of content available.

3. Discoverability. As with other platforms, SoundCloud hosts content that goes viral and has an embed option so you can post it to your site. Take this interview with US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It is a message to her South Arizona constituents, her first since being shot in the head in January. It’s clocked up over 21,000 plays, and demonstrates the benefits of SoundCloud’s commenting system.

4. Create maps. You’ll need to get some help from SoundCloud, but the team can create a bespoke map to allow you to crowdsource audio or plot recordings from in-house reporters. Ben Fawkes from Soundcloud told Journalism.co.uk how you do this, explaining that all you will need to do is define a location and define a hashtag and audio will then be automatically plotted. Take a look at this example of a map created with audio from Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival.

5. Use the new HTML5 player. If you embed SoundCloud audio in blog posts you should be aware of the new HTML5 player. The standard player is Flash meaning it won’t work on iPhones and iPads. Instead, when copying the embed code click on the “customise player” and toggle through the tags to the HTML5 option.

6. Consider a customised player. There are options to customise the player, including adding photos, such as this example used on the London Literature Festival site.

7. Invite user-generated audio content. Encourage your audience to submit audio into a drop box. You can embed the SoundCloud drop box widget on your site and ask readers to upload their own audio. Here’s an example of NPR adding a widget to encourage listeners to share their summer music memories.

Another option is to consider an embeddable record button on your site. At present this will require some developer assistance but SoundCloud is now working on making an easy option so sites can add a button and encourage user-generated audio content to be submitted directly. Here is an example of a record button being used on a musician’s site. This is a different option, of a mapped audio tour guide of Dorchester, Boston, where readers can submit audio via a record button on the site.

There’s also the option of gathering audio via phone calls, as Chatter.fm has done by using Twilio technology.

Another option for user-generated content (UGC) is to use SoundCloud’s importer tool to allow readers/listeners (or your reporters) to submit audio via email or smartphone.

8. Prepare to add SoundCloud sharing to your news organisation’s app. SoundCloud is working on an iOS and Android sharing kit, which will mean you can submit audio to SoundCloud via your own app. You could encourage readers or reporters to submit stories/field recordings to your app and have the audio uploaded to SoundCloud so that it’s shareable, streamable and has all the relevant meta data.

9. Record a phone interview using SoundCloud. There are easier ways but this is a good option for when you need to record an interview and are armed only with a mobile phone. Make a three-way phonecall by calling this number, dial your interviewee and the SoundCloud line will then record your account. You can then upload the audio publicly or privately.

10. Get your audio transcribed. Speaker Text is a transcription company that is integrated with SoundCloud. It takes 48-72 hours to be transcribed and costs 99 cents a minute.  It’s a way of making audio search engine optimised but you can also link to a certain sentence within the audio, for example referencing a quote or comment.

Related posts: News organisations are increasingly using SoundCloud, says founder

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SoundCloud launches HTML5 widget viewable on iPhone and iPad

November 3rd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile

SoundCloud has today released an HTML5 player enabling audio recordings embedded in news stories to be viewed on an iPhone or iPad.

The move will no doubt be welcomed by news organisations and podcasters, keen to embed audio in posts but aware that the iPad and iPhone audience cannot view them as Apple devices do not support Flash.

In an announcement SoundCloud lists the features of the public beta version of its widget and named those who have been using the first test version.

  • iPad/iPhone mobile support
  • Attractive new waveform design encourages more interactivity with the sound
  • Timed comments now are more usable on the widget (at the request of users)
  • Easier to view information about the sound (e.g. title, person)
  • Easier sharing (e.g. Facebook Like, Google+ and Twitter sharing options)

In addition, this HTML5 widget is the first move to provide creators with clearer indicators of possible sharing actions and further transitions SoundCloud away from a pure music player to more robust, interactive sound object. Thus far, Britney Spears, Big Time Rush, Wattpad, Intelligence Squared (a global forum for live debate), Future Human Podcast and West African Democracy Radio have been using SoundCloud’s HTML5 widget and as this beta test is the first iteration, subsequent versions will include even more social elements.  The public beta is built on a new HTML5 technology platform that will allow SoundCloud to add new features to the widgets at a faster pace from now on.

Last month, SoundCloud announced a partnership with Storify, allowing users to add SounCloud recordings to the curation site.

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You can now add SoundCloud recordings to Storify

Storify and SoundCloud have joined forces, enabling those curating social media to add recordings posted on the audio platform.

Users of Storify, which allows you to drag and drop content from social media, including Twitter, Flickr and YouTube into stories, were already able to add AudioBoo recordings.

The addition of SoundCloud adds possibilities for journalists and those curating stories using Storify. Although the audio platform started out as a music sharing and commenting site, SoundCloud is increasingly used for spoken word.

The integration of SoundCloud in Storify provides a tactile experience in digital news consumption, particularly when using a tablet, and allows users to read and listen to stories, utilising SoundCloud’s visual commenting system to jump to a particular point in the interview or audio.

Journalism.co.uk added SoundCloud recordings in this Storify of news:rewired created on the day the audio platform was first enabled as a source. Both platforms were present at the conference, where Storify co-founder Xavier Damman (pictured above) suggested “journalists should be re-branded as information engineers” as they make sense of the noise of social media by filtering it into stories.

In order to add SoundCloud go to Storify / Settings (below your name icon in the top right hand corner) / Sources.

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Q&A: Audioboo founder on the riots, Libya and ‘friendly competitor’ SoundCloud

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.

And Libya?

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.

Audioboo CEO Mark rock on reporting the riots, Libya and their “friendly competitor” (mp3)

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Five nifty ideas for journalists using SoundCloud

The number of users of SoundCloud has jumped by four million in the past year and the audio recording and sharing platform is increasingly being used by journalists and news organisations, one of its founders, Alexander Ljung, told Journalism.co.uk.

Here are five ideas to help journalists expand their use of SoundCloud.

1. Produce a daily or weekly podcast-like audio round-up

Take a leaf out of the Next Web‘s book. The hugely popular blog produces daily round-up of the previous day’s top tech stories and delivers them to followers’ dashboards in an under five minutes morning update, or Daily Dose, as it is called.

You can also create an RSS feed to automatically send SoundCloud recordings to iTunes as podcasts. This SoundCloud option is currently in beta but if it is not available in your account as present, it may be worth contacting SoundCloud to request it.

2. Add existing audio to SoundCloud

If you have audio on webpages, a third-party app called SoundCloud Importer makes it possible to upload this audio to SoundCloud simply by entering the URL.

3. Record, edit and upload a recording from your iPhone

If you’re out in the field you can edit a complicated audio packages using multitrack recording using VC Audio Pro, which allows you to record, edit and then post directly to SoundCloud. Other apps with edit features include FiRe 2 – Field Recorder and iRig Recorder.

The SoundCloud apps gallery has an ever increasing number of interesting options to explore, from desktop audio editing packages to ways to share and distribute audio.

4. Change the colour of your embed widget to suit your website

This is a really simple option of changing SoundCloud orange to a colour to suit your site. Simply follow the prompts from the share and embed option.

5. Add the SoundCloud plugin to WordPress

WordPress users can install a plugin called SoundCloud Shortcode. It allows you to easily integrate a player widget for a track, set or group from SoundCloud by using the code generated from the share option within SoundCloud.

Related content

How to: record phone interviews on iPhone, Android or landline

How to: Liveblog – lessons from news sites

 

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News organisations are increasingly using SoundCloud, says founder

SoundCloud has clocked up an impressive five million users, with four million of those joining within the past year.

Although born out of the founders’ love of music and created to visualise and reference sound, it is seeing a growth in popularity among journalists.

There are no statistics available to document how many SoundCloud recordings are categorised as ‘news’, but speaking via Skype from his base in Berlin, Alexander Ljung, CEO and founder of SoundCloud, told Journalism.co.uk the number of spoken word recordings is increasing.

It’s a big trend at the moment in that we are seeing non-music content growing very fast.

What is SoundCloud?

SoundCloud allows users to upload audio or record directly from the SoundCloud website, or from its desktop, iPhone or Android app. The really powerful thing about it is the ability to add comments at particular points on the audio waveform and allow others to share their views, too.

For example, I can add a comment to the waveform below at the point where Ljung starts talking about major news organisations using SoundCloud. I can also include a link within the comment to take listeners straight to the app and you can also add comments using your Twitter or Facebook account.

Other big advantages for journalists include being able to embed the SoundCloud recording on a news website, download an mp3 for editing, and engaging with the now vast SoundCloud community. See the report here for five ideas on how journalists can use SoundCloud.

Alexander Jung, founder and CEO of SoundCloud by journalismnews

SoundCloud has been around since 2008, after Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss came up with the idea in response to their need to discuss their own music and sound files, Ljung said.

I was previously a sound designer for film and tv. I was always working a lot with sound effects, voiceovers, things like that, and Eric’s music is also very detailed.

Eric and I felt it’s very difficult to talk about sound through email because it’s a non-visual thing and therefore it’s hard to reference it. We wanted to first visualise the sound and then put comments in to make it easier to collaborate.

Although SoundCloud started with music in mind, it was hoped it would go beyond, and it has done so, both in terms of music-related spoken content and journalism.

Since the launch of the apps, we’ve seen a lot of bands posting interviews from their tours and almost using it like Twitter and just sharing audio with the world.

We’re also starting to see more and more traditional news organisations like France 24 or 77WABC Radio putting up programming. There has also been some stuff by ESPN on the sports side.

Ljung told Journalism.co.uk that he also a big fan of the Next Web’s Daily Dose, a round-up of the tech news from the previous day.

They came up with this really nice format. I get that in my dashboard once a day it’s been really successful.

It is perhaps not surprising that Ljung favours the SoundCloud experience to listening to podcasts, a format he called “broken” in a recent interview in the Telegraph.

Podcasting is alive and great but the system for it at the moment is a bit broken. If you think about how we consume content today, like YouTube videos, we want to have them streamed, on demand, embeddable.

If you have a widget like [YouTube or SoundCloud] it lends itself to a lot of social interaction. When you look at the traditional podcasting system it’s all about subscribing to a feed, downloading, syncing, and there is no social interaction around it.

Even though the system is broken, there’s a huge demand for that kind of stuff out there that people are willing to jump though hoops to experience it.

I think [SoundCloud] has a chance to really bring back podcasting and that kind of publishing back into the spotlight again.”

His argument is that choosing SoundCloud over traditional podcasting methods makes audio “so much more accessible to people in the way that they want to consume it”.

But one problem with SoundCloud is it relies on Flash-based widgets, both for recording and for consuming audio, and Apple products such as the iPhone and the iPad do not support Flash (so apologies for those reading this story in the Journalism.co.uk iPhone app as you cannot see the embedded SoundCloud wave file above).

Although our website is built in HTML5, our widgets are currently Flash only as we haven’t felt the technology is ready for it. As soon as we can do it in a different way, we will.

SoundCloud developers have been working on a non-Flash option for viewing SoundCloud widgets for some time. “It probably won’t be that long before that works,” he said, but was unable to commit to a timescale beyond that a solution would be available “quite soon”.

However, there is an option for developers to build their own SoundCloud apps using the developers toolset or to make sites suitable for devices that do not support Flash, such as the iPad.

We also have a full, open API and different code snippets that we’ve open sourced and made free to be able to integrate that into your application. So if you’re building an iPhone app then you can use SoundCloud right away or if you’re building a website you can build your own JavaScript or iPhone-based widgets.

And developers have been making the most of the open API. SoundCloud Labs showcases various third-party apps and experiments.

One that has potential uses for journalists is SoundCloud Importer which allows you to record and display a phone interview on SoundCloud. At the time of writing the UK telephone number does not work, however. The options of importing audio via email and converting audio already online to SoundCloud do work and offer further possibilities.

Even if there are still obstacles in displaying SoundCloud widgets on Apple devices – and this may discourage you to embed SoundCloud files – remember there is a five million-strong community to engage with and it is not a bad idea for journalists to be adding audio to SoundCloud as a matter of course.

Here are five nifty ideas for journalists using SoundCloud.

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