Listen up: how to advance an audio strategy

Audio is the perpetual bridesmaid at the multimedia wedding celebrated on the web today. That’s not to say people haven’t long recognized the value of audio files distributed over the internet. Major milestones include the creation of PRX and the mainstreaming of podcasting, the iTunes store (now 10 years old with 50 billion downloads), and the relatively recent arrival of SoundCloud for more social and embeddable audio. But most people looking to create a comprehensive online presence don’t stop and ask “What’s my audio strategy?” They should, and here are three ways to do it.

  1. Resist the knee-jerk, “let’s make a video” answer for content you want to call attention to. Remember that good video can be difficult to make — and that it requires great audio to be watchable. Evaluate your content resources (story, people, space, equipment) and decide whether audio may be the best fit. Pro-tip: if you do make a video, consider separating out the high-quality audio as a discrete asset, and make both available to your audience.
  2. Consider audio less as a companion retelling of your text piece, and more as a way to add depth and color. Here’s an example of a Harvard Gazette article about Cambridge Phone-a Poem enlivened by one of the poems read by its author, Allen Ginsberg.
  3. Remember that NPR’s oft-cited COPE model applies here: create and store your own audio, but publish it everywhere. Holy wars are regularly fought over the virtues of streaming versus downloading: enable both through as many platforms as feasible. The goal is to keep the content in a format that remains accessible as long as possible with minimal deprecation. Multiple custom players served only on your own website is pretty much the worst way to achieve that audio longevity.

Audio is too often an undersung web content hero beyond the context of radio online. Make sure it has a seat at the table as you plan your next online initiative.

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