Talk Radio Hops Aboard the SoundCloud
By Gina Goodman
In recent years, talk radio networks have had to face the same hurdles that many other media types have struggled with; namely how to connect with an increasingly digital audience. They’ve kept up by revamping websites, creating Facebook pages and Twitter handles, and by embracing social media. Talk radio can now take it a step further by taking advantage of the reach of a website known as SoundCloud.
SoundCloud serves as an online audio-distribution platform and social media site, allowing users to upload, share and discuss audio content. Until now, it was mostly known within the music community as a place for artists to upload and share their work, but that has changed with the recent collaboration with talk radio outlets.
CNN Radio is one network that has found advantages to adding SoundCloud to its offerings. The CNN.com blog Soundwaves was an ideal spot to integrate the social audio site, said Tyler Moody, vice president of CNN Radio.
“SoundCloud enables us to have a great way for displaying and sharing CNN’s audio content in a desktop web experience,” he said. “And [it] enables us to tap into an existing audience for audio across their platform and through the easy social network integration tool.”
The ease of sharing public radio content was a large selling point for Boston’s NPR news station, WBUR-FM. The station began using SoundCloud just a few months ago because of the user-friendly interface.
“It is a tool that is easily adopted by our web operations,” said John Davidow, WBUR’s executive editor. “It exposes our material to the SoundCloud community. It conceivably broadens the audience for public radio audio.”
Manolo Espinosa is the head of audio at SoundCloud, and said the move to collaborate with talk radio and the spoken word was an organic evolution.
“Audio—that is, non-music content—is very similar to music in that it is a social, human experience that anyone can identify with,” he said. “Moving into the audio space was a natural progression for us and a move that’s been met with great support.”
Espinosa made sure his team created an interface that was easy to use. Nieman Journalism Lab referred to the talk radio collaboration as “the YouTube of public radio” in the way it can be easily be embedded into social networks and allows for social engagement.
“On Facebook, our iconic waveform player plays within the user’s wall, without the need to click to another page on another website,” he said. “Plus our HTML5 player makes it simple to listen via mobile devices.”
That ability to access the platform via mobile device was another big advantage of adding the platform to CNN Radio, Moody said.
“Personally, I think one of the most convenient ways to use SoundCloud is on a smartphone, which appeals to a social, on-the-move audience,” he said.
“Today, thanks to smartphones, people are walking around with not only a camera in their pocket, but a microphone,” he said. “This has led to the evolution in the way we think about and utilize audio especially on the go.”
Although CNN Radio has only been using the platform on its Soundwaves blog for less than a month, Moody said it has helped change the way they think about serving original audio work to a digital audience. He, like many other talk radio producers using SoundCloud, hopes it will bring in more listeners who want to enjoy higher quality original audio stories. Espinosa said that is his hope as well.
“Five years ago, the words 'Internet' and 'Facebook' could strike fear in the heart of a radio producer,” Espinosa said. “However, radio producers of all types now understand that their audiences want the ability to access audio content online. There's a sense of excitement now, as many producers realize that by harnessing these new technologies they can reach the ears of listeners they never had access to before.”
Manolo Espinosa, head of audio
Tyler Moody, vice president
John Davidow, executive editor, wbur.org
Photo courtesy of SoundCloud