What is it? A tool to schedule, record and archive interviews
How is it of use to journalists? The Interviewr has been designed for journalists. It allows you to schedule phone interviews, add notes and questions you want to ask, record and store the audio, and upload related files.
Free to use, the Intreviewr uses Twilio to power the recording of phone calls. After entering your phone number (with a +44 at the start, if you are in the UK) and the interviewee’s number (again with the country code), both will receive a call at the scheduled time and the conversation will automatically be recorded. You will then be able to download it and play it back.
The Interviewr is still in beta and is developing a subscriber service. There is also an iPhone app (priced at £1.99), allowing you to start the interview and playback the audio from your phone.
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.
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.
This is the browser extension enhancing an invaluable site for journalists working across all sectors. Duedil allows you to view company financial information, lists of directors and more in clear graphs and charts.
Click on any website and then the browser extension and you can look up the financial information on that firm. It may need assistance in recognising the correct company, however.
For example, if I am on the Guardian’s website and click the browser extension, I will get details for a company called Guardian Education Interactive. I must then select “not the company I am looking for” and enter Guardian Media Group. Clicking on a director’s name, such as in this case Alan Rusbridger, links me through to the full Duedil website.
This is a web app for Twitter and social media analytics. Sync your account/s and you will see a dashboard where you can find out the best time to tweet, map your followers and see the ratio of followers to friends.
3. News readers
Okay, this is a group of browser extensions and web apps but worth mentioning as one category. The Guardian, Independent, and several other national newspapers have opted for Chrome extensions, allowing you to read the headlines from your browser.
The New York Times has opted for a web app with more story detail, which fills the browser.
If you record interviews and play them back later to transcribe them this is a must have app. It gets round the problem of playing audio in one application (such as iTunes) and then writing in a text document.
Add your mp3 or wav audio file and you can transcribe by typing in the box below the player. It also works offline. One of the great features are the short cuts: alt+p = pause/resume, alt+i = rewind two seconds, alt+o = forward two seconds.
Mappeo is a useful web app for regional reporters or anyone covering a localised story, such as a protest. Open the app and you will see a map of geolocated videos that have been uploaded to YouTube. You can click on the icon to launch and play the video.
Add this browser extension, right click on a picture or upload an image and you can find out where else it has been used. It could be a valuable journalism tool to verify photographs. It can even scan for reversed images.
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.
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.
For the past 18 months Neal Augenstein, a reporter with Washington DC’s all news radio station WTOP, has carried out all his field reporting from his iPhone and iPad.
Like many radio reporters Augenstein is also shooting and editing video, taking photos and tweeting from the scene of news stories he covers. All the audio, video, audio, photos and scripts he produces are created and edited on his two devices.
A year and a half in, we spoke to him to find out how he is finding the experience. He said he finds the iPhone more valuable than the iPad and tends to produce his live and pre-recorded audio reports on his phone, but writes scripts on his tablet.
Asked how it has changed his job, Augenstein told Journalism.co.uk:
It’s certainly made things a lot easier for me in terms of being able to put my laptop away and all the heavy equipment such as the cables, microphones, recorders, all the cameras that I was using.
There are some challenges to that, for instance, how do you put an iPhone on a podium for a news conference?
Another hurdle he has had to overcome is how to cope with the iPhone being susceptible to wind noise.
So what are his tips on apps and techniques for this form of reporting?
1. 1st Video – Augenstein uses this video recording and editing app for both his video and audio work. It allows multitrack editing and sharing but those familiar with PC or Mac audio and video editing will need to learn a few new swipes and pinches. Here is Journalism.co.uk’s guide on how to shoot and edit video using this app.
2. Ustream – He uses Ustream for livestreaming video, often in breaking news situations. Other app options for free livestreaming include Bambuser and Qik.
3. Skype is used by Augenstein for live reporting, rather than a phone line. He says he finds Skype “a robust way to communicate for a live report”.
One of our goals is the elimination of cell phone-quality recordings from our broadcasts.
Another recommendation from Augenstein was to take the audio from a live video stream, although you cannot have a two-way interview, between the reporter and studio presenter (although you could perhaps do this if you had two phones, one to livestream from and one to listen to the presenter, or if you have a radio to hear the station output, providing there was no delay in transmission).
4. Camera Plus – The WTOP reporter uses this app, also available for Android and BlackBerry, to tweak and edit photos.
5. Spend wisely. Augenstein uses the iPhone’s built in microphone.
There are ways you can plug in other microphones but my goal is trying to minimise the amount of accessories that I need.
As for setting up shots, Augenstein has got a Gorilla iPhone tripod, but opts for handheld shooting for video.
As a radio station our video does tend to be rather rudimentary. Getting a steady shot is important but our web videos are generally not produced, voicetracked packages. What we’re trying to do is work on the synergy between the on air product and the website and the social. If the radio report has sound bites of a person speaking, the website and the video is supposed to complement rather than duplicate what is in the report.
He has looked into the services provided by two companies, Tieline and Comrex, which allow you to broadcast live from a phone. Both options require relatively expensive kit to allow the audio to input via a channel on the radio mixing desk.
I have found, unfortunately, to this point that getting a good connection is difficult. Wifi is always a better-sounding connection than 3G or 4G and in breaking news situations you often don’t have optimal situations.
Since he locked away his cables, cameras and microphones in February 2010, Augenstein has seen his report turn around time decrease.
What used to take 30 minutes to create a fully-produced report I can now do in 10 minutes.
The sound quality is probably is only 92 per cent as good as broadcast-quality equipment, that’s the number I’ve been estimating, but as it can be tweaked and goes through processing at the radio station, people really can’t tell the difference.
And the most beneficial part of his 18-month iPhone and iPad trial?
It’s a chance to re-think the newsgathering process, which to me is the most exciting part about it.
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.
Poynter has an interesting post on SoundNote, an iPad app for recording interviews.
It tells the story of how David Estes, a journalism student studying in Seattle, created the application, paid off his student loan with his earnings from the $5.99 app, and moved to a West Village apartment.
The post explains how the app works.
SoundNote is a simple note-taking application that lets you record from the iPad’s internal microphone. It matches your notes with the timeline of the audio recording, so you just click on a word in your notes to jump to the related point in the audio. If you’re interviewing someone, you point the iPad in the direction of your subject and jot down a few keywords as the person answers.
It is also worth reading the post for the back story of how the app came about.
Estes’ development of the app is a lesson in innovation. Instead of going through a formal process of soliciting requirements or getting multiple people to sign off on wireframes, a 21-year-old student thought about how a device like the iPad could make his life easier — as a journalist and student — and he just made it.