Digital-first audio

Two interesting stories from the world of American public radio last week.

First, the creation of Radiotopia, a new podcast network:

With $200,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation, PRX will attempt to create a new model for what they call “digital-first audio programming.” The seven shows will make up a collective, helping to market one another, providing guidance on technical issues, and sharing lessons on growing audiences. Radiotopia will provide the framework for raising money through grants or Kickstarter campaigns, selling sponsorships across the network, and sharing revenue between the shows.

“Digital-first” is an interesting focus, with the potential to shake up the way stories are told in public radio. There’s a huge difference between “podcasts on the radio” vs. “radio shows that happen to be available as podcasts, too.”

Second, a nice piece by Eric Athas, summarizing NPR’s attempts to make audio “go viral”:

Audio doesn’t translate to the Internet the same way an image, video, or text article does. It’s not produced for the social web, which means it doesn’t have the look and feel of the things we’re used to sharing and seeing on Facebook and Twitter. That’s why NPR and member stations often “webify” radio stories. This process turns an audio story into a text story.

Particularly resonant is NPR’s focus on finding “must-listen” audio. That is, radio stories that contain some sonically interesting element (i.e. not just an interview) that can be excerpted and used as a hook. Examples:

Indeed, Spark found some success with this when my colleague Kent produced an interview with Julian Treasure about the most beautiful sound in the world.