October 19, 2017

Is audio part of your digital storytelling? This week we explore three tools that can help make that happen.

Hare:  Hi, Ren! What are we talking about this week?

LaForme: Hi, Kristen! I was hoping we could dig into something I’ve been covering in my newsletter. Out of all the formats we use to share news, I think audio got the worst rap when we started paying more attention to internet. Plenty has been written about how audio isn’t as shareable as video, pictures or even text, and about how it can’t really go viral. We’re at a time now where there are some great tools out there trying to change that.

Hare: Oh excellent. I actually have a story coming that I think shows why radio is so powerful in this digital world. What’s our tool?

LaForme: I actually found a series of tools that produce pretty similar outcomes, but do it in different ways. The OG is WNYC’s audiogram generator tool. If you’ve never seen an audiogram, it essentially turns audio into a video file that you can share on social, embed on web pages or do whatever you’d normally do with a video file.

There are a couple of reasons this is great. First, most social networks don’t allow you to upload audio. It just doesn't work. That’s really the major reason that audio is not shareable and doesn’t go viral.

Second, the generator also renders a waveform of the audio. So as people are listening, they’ll see a little moving visualization of what the audio actually looks like. It’s a great indicator that they should turn up their volume, if it isn’t already, and it adds a little visual flair.

Hare: That one is a classic. What other tools do you like for audio?

LaForme: So the issue most people have with WNYC’s audiogram generator is that it takes some effort to install. The instructions recommend installing on a Linux machine running Ubuntu, and even calls the Mac installation process “a little rocky” and the Windows process “an uphill battle.” I’m not a coder, but I’m fairly comfortable with following directions about coding, and I totally got lost.

But WNYC also made the code open source. So this company called Sparemin used it to install a public-facing version of the audiogram generator on its own site. It’s quite similar to what you’d get if you did install WNYC’s version on your own.

You get a couple of basic features. You upload your audio file, choose a resolution for the video, pick a wave visualization type (there are a lot of interesting options), pick the color and where it goes, and you can upload a background image if you’d like. You can also add captions. Then you export. The first time I tried this, it took a while. Something like 20 minutes. I made one a few moments ago and didn’t have to wait at all.

Hare: So you found a tool that makes another tool easier to use?! Very cool.

LaForme: If you’re jonesing (how old am I, again?) for a tool with a little bit more pizazz and a little bit more technical support, check out Wavve.

Hare: One more side question. Why do tech companies always spell things wrong? They’re like “Real World” character names for technology. Sorry, go ahead.

LaForme: I think it’s probably a Googleablity thing? Or maybe it’s a millennial thing. But there’s no way all these companies were made by millennials because we’re all just sitting around, being poor with our avocado toast, right?

Anyway, Wavve is not totally free like the others, but it allows you to make different reusable templates, stores all of your completed videos in one place and can share directly to social and the like. It’s a snazzy little tool.

Hare: So we have three pretty excellent options here. What are some ways journalists could use these in their day-to-day work?

LaForme: There are so many ways! You can promo a podcast or a longer story with a short, social audio version. You can create stories from interview audio and background noises and music and put them behind an audiogram and tell entire audio stories on social. You can post parts of an interview with someone who says something particularly noteworthy and either link to a larger piece or let it stand on its own. You can record a short explainer about why and how you covered a particular story.

The great thing about audiograms is that it makes all of the possibilities with audio, which is such a versatile format for storytelling, available on social. That’s awesome.

Hare: It really is. Will you make one for us to see/hear how it works?

LaForme: Done and done. Let’s post it below. I’ll say hi to the tool-heads.

Hare: Excellent. Hey, you know what I just realized? You totally have a “Real World” name.

LaForme: Thanks! I always thought it was NPR-worthy. Not quite as great as Audie Cornish, but close, maybe?

Hare: That sounds aspirational. I think you should stick to the “Real World.”

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles that highlight digital tools for journalists. You can read the others here. Got a tool we should talk about? Let Ren know!

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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