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Promotional ideas and technique. Always radio, always positive.

Audiograms and shared audio

Audio stubbornly won’t go viral. It seems to have an inbuilt immunity. The way the popular social media sites prioritise video over audio doesn’t help either.

We look to those platforms and to the audience for answers, and none come.

There are some effective workarounds of course: to share their audio, some producers put shows on YouTube as video files, either accompanied by a slideshow or, more often, with a static graphic.

You can upload audio to Soundcloud or Audioboo and embed that nicely in Twitter or on Facebook. But it involves workflow you could do without and it complicates the communication to introduce a third party brand. Your own brand plus that of the social media platform is enough.

Now, an idea from within radio itself provides a better way to package audio for social media in a visually appealing form, quickly and consistently.

New York Public Radio WNYC has been experimenting with visualised audio for social media for a while. It tested audio pictures on Instagram, and some static images with audio on Facebook and Twitter.

The station coined a word, audiograms, for these sonic dispatches:

The station also tried posting complete programmes but found people only listened for a few minutes, and that opened up an opportunity that any radio promo producer will recognise.

I spent many years making promotional campaigns for speech radio. While themed campaigns got the most attention internally, and all the awards, the programme audio itself often can be the best promotion for the show.

One of the great joys of that work is finding and choosing short clips that grab your interest and make you want you to hear more. The right 30 seconds is long enough to sell any story and that’s exactly the kind of audio WNYC is using in its Audiograms.

Having settled on the promotional power of short clips, the station then built a workflow tool that made the production of making audiograms a doddle for producers.

WNYC's audiogram production tool

WNYC’s audiogram production tool

The tool takes an audio clip you’ve selected, lets you add a caption then creates an .mp4 file which includes the branded graphics for your show and the moving audiogram waveform. You can even top and tail the clip within the tool – a great feature if you’re turning round audio quickly from a live show.

Now, in the true spirit of public broadcasting, WNYC has chosen to open source the code, so any developer can use it.

You can read much more about this project in an article by WNYC’s Director of Social Media, Delaney Simmons on Medium.

Simmons says Twitter engagement for an Audiogram is on average eight times higher than for a standard tweet. Audiograms on Facebook are performing more than 50% better than photos.

I like the way the WNYC tool ensures a consistent look and feel across all the station’s Audiograms. The team has struck a good balance between the branding consistency you need to drive attribution, and the flexibility required to include individual show graphics and colourways.

Want the code, developers? Fill yer boots.

It’s too soon to know whether this is a silver bullet for viral audio but the impressive engagement metrics suggest it’s a certain shove in the right direction.

Encouragingly, the elegant, intelligent implementation – both for station producers and users of social media – shows that the people who will finally crack this issue may well be working within radio.