Beyond audiograms: The challenges of making audio shareable on social media


Getting people to share audio on social media is no easy feat. In fact, with all the effort that Facebook has been putting into making video the dominant form of content on its platform, a whopping 85 per cent of Facebook video is watched without sound.

Podcasters and radio stations who publish audio online face the unique challenge of getting social media users to listen, a behaviour that’s completely opposite to what is now the norm. It can be frustrating, since there are so many great audio stories being made but no obvious way to make them shareable, what with the web being so dominantly visual (think memes, GIFs and viral video).

But NPR seems to be leading the charge in experimenting with different methods of sharing audio. The NewsWhip blog recently published a post looking at 4 ways the network is bringing radio to Facebook news feeds. You can read the full post over there, but the TL;DR version is that they’re:

  1. posting direct links to audio streams
  2. livestreaming their newscasts via Facebook Live
  3. creating audiograms, which are audio sound waves in video format
  4. creating images with quotes from the interview on them (This one’s a stretch, in my opinion, since there’s no actual listening happening)

And it may be working apparently. According to NewsWhip, NPR has seen sustained growth in engagement, going from 5.4 million engagements in February 2016 to 11.9 million in February 2017. That’s an increase of 121 per cent — although how much of that is actual listening isn’t clear.

At CBC Radio, we’ve played with audio slideshows, which can be beautiful and compelling, but are time-consuming to make.

Whatever the solution is to making audio more shareable on social media, I believe it will come from the platforms themselves developing an easier method of listening, rather than publishers trying to find workarounds with existing tools.

Last Spring, NPR wrote about their experiment with a beta audio player that actually appears in the Facebook feed (It was designed for music services like Spotify). I’m not sure what happened to it, and I still have never seen the audio player pop up in my own feed (although I’m sure if Facebook had prioritized audio in its algorithm the same way it prioritizes video, it would have done a lot better than it has).

Facebook is currently testing Live Audio players with some of its partners, including BBC World. The player includes continuous streaming even when the app is closed (at least for Android phones), which lines up with how people generally listen to audio on their devices. Whether it will catch on remains to be seen, but more thinking like this is a step in the right direction.

Image credit: PixaBay


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