Despite the well documented, and much discussed, rise of social media there has been one last outpost of traditional news media that has remained relatively untouched. Standing proud since its first scratchy broadcast over 100 years ago, radio news has so far seemed relatively untroubled by newfangled upstarts.
The latest RAJAR statistics point to consistently high listening figures. BBC Radio 2 has 13,966,000 million monthly listeners, and the number of people tuning in across the board has remained strong. As print news media outlets count the mounting cost of local newspaper casualties, it’s impossible to deny that digital platforms have changed the way we consume news media.
Radio news, inevitably, has had to adapt over the past century, however the spoken word still appears firmly anchored in the 20th century. Indeed, previous digital audio developments such as podcasts have offered limited challenges to the established radio news broadcasters. If anything, they have helped to draw a new generation of listeners to live programming.
Based on the lacklustre social competition to mainstream stations, should radio even acknowledge the ‘next big thing’ in social media? Arriving in the form of a crowd-sourced, audio-based social network, Audioboo could just drag radio news, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.
So, what is Audioboo? The service allows users to record audio clips (‘boos’) and share them across a variety of social media outlets. While this may not seem revolutionary in itself, clips can be recorded on the high quality microphones found in many smartphones and when combined with a wifi connection, almost anyone can become an instant radio news reporter.
With conventional stations relying on complex outside broadcast equipment and a trained reporter, the question remains: can Audioboo do to radio what Twitter has done to crowd-source breaking news? Despite not having reached the same user levels as existing social networks, it certainly appears to have potential.
The serial, digital early adopters at The Guardian listed Audioboo as ‘one to watch’ in 2010, and its online presence has been growing ever since. The paper has already started to embed ‘boos’ into their live text events and several radio stations, including Sky News Radio and Absolute radio have been experimenting with the technology.
At the moment, there are no hard-and-fast rules about how brands or corporations should approach the Audioboo platform. With a small, but growing user base now would seem a good time for organisations to find their feet. As with other social networking channels uploads attributed to an individual, rather than a faceless corporate entity, seem to generate the most interest.
Engaging with an inquisitive ‘citizen radio journalist’ could offer organisations an organic and innovative way of generating social content around large set piece or ‘stunt’ events, as users are likely to report back on their experiences.
At present the jury is still out on the potential of Audiboo, but it does look like the service will give spoken-word reporting an opportunity to make its mark in the fast moving 21st century. However, it does remain to be seen if anyone is actually listening.