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  • Writer's pictureRon Jaworski

5 ways every newsroom can use audio content to better engage audiences

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

The love of audio continues to expand as the medium emerges in more and more places. From traditional radio to its modern iterations such as podcasts and streaming platforms, to audio-only social networks, the way listeners consume audio content keeps growing and evolving.

The ability to listen is becoming essential for those who want to consume content at their convenience, regardless of the activity, time, and place. In turn, this is simultaneously creating vast new opportunities for newsrooms of all shapes and sizes to take advantage of this more encompassing user behavior.

The good news is that no legacy in audio whatsoever is needed to jumpstart an audio strategy. All it takes is a bit of help from AI and creativity to make the most bang for your buck (yes, I looked for a phrase that includes an audio aspect).

Here are five ways every newsroom can use audio to drive greater engagement and form closer relationships with its audience.

1. Add an audio player

The absolute first step toward any kind of audio strategy is offering some form of listening experience. While audio may be a new addition for some newsrooms and may seem overwhelming, it’s really not.

One thing there is not a shortage of in a newsroom is news, meaning there is already a truckload of published content, including archives, that can be quickly leveraged. Hence, the easiest way to delve into the world of audio experience is to embed an audio player on your website and let AI and text-to-speech technology do their thing.

A small piece of code is easily embedded in the article page, which then performs a quick scan of the page and automatically adds an audio version of the article. AI-powered text analysis determines which part of the article is the textual part meant for audiofying and which is not. Further customization allows the player to fully adapt to the page’s look and feel without diminishing the user experience.

From there on, every new news article will also feature an audio version, complete with multilingual support. This not only adds a new level of portability for those who are on the go and don’t have time to read the news but also improves accessibility for those with visual and learning disabilities.

The top of the audio AI cherry cake is the ability to fine-tune almost every aspect of the listening experience, from pronunciation of every letter to adjusting voice styles and features for entire pieces of parts of it. This is particularly relevant for journalists who gain full editorial control to shape the audio content as they wish.

From there on, it’s easy to distribute content on a massive scale, incorporating leading streaming audio platforms and voice assistants into your content distribution mix. The process is automated in the ‘set it and forget it’ manner.

Of course, you can consider recording professional narrations of your written pieces, which certainly introduces a unique feel and nuance to the content. Still, due to the cost-heavy nature of scaling this method, this is an option best reserved for specific segments which could be used to promote more exclusive content, for instance.

2. Curate more content

Those who already have an audio player or some form of audio content can maximize the value of their content by introducing contextual recommendations to the mix.

In a world of diverse people, this is a chance to create a personalized stream of information for each member of the audience.

The process is almost identical to embedding an audio player, only here various forms of audio content such as audio articles, podcasts, radio shows, and so on are collected across an individual publisher’s ecosystem, but also the almighty Internet. Then, recommendations are made based on continuous learning of the user’s behavior, contextual analysis, popularity, and more.

As a result, the audience spends more time on the site, explores more content, and continues to drive a new revenue channel, depending on how you choose to monetize your audio offering.

The engagement of the audience is expanded in a seamless and natural way across desktop and mobile devices, while audio content becomes even more accessible and leveraged in more than one way.

3. Incorporate voice tech

As a medium that is most immersive and trustworthy, audio should be perceived as an opportunity to enhance and strengthen relationships with listeners. So, newsrooms should think bigger and create experiences for smart speakers and other voice-enabled devices.

This connected experience is envisioned to add another layer of audio strategy by creating a smart audio experience. The idea is to have the content consumed within a shouting distance of a voice-enabled device through a customized set of voice skills or actions via voice assistants.

Some media houses are already well underway when it comes to producing flash briefings, with AI audio and human narration. These are quick overviews of news and other content such as comedy, interviews, and lists. It’s short, to the point, and provides the listener with everything they need to know about.

These are ideal for daily distribution to engage users, but also to help associate their daily news habits with a brand. They are also a neat promotional tool, where other products, including other audio content, can be highlighted.

With smart displays, there is also a visual element along with a spoken response. This means more possibilities both in terms of content and branding, like an interactive game or a quiz based on current news, or a branded channel or playlist.

In addition, as conversational AI keeps pushing forward, soon we’ll have more of the interactive elements that will make it possible to have a two-way interaction via voice.

In short, the intersection of audio and voice technology is generating various possibilities to create portable, personalized streams of information and further build experiences designed specifically for eardrums.

4. Create audio-first events

Many newsrooms saw the pandemic as an opportunity to expand into new territories, creating live online events on video platforms such as Facebook Live and Zoom, to discuss topics that were previously hosted in-person, only.

It worked great, no doubt about it, but the reality is that many participants kept their screens turned off for a myriad of reasons, with screen fatigue definitely being one of them.

Audio-only events in-house or on other platforms like Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse play into the screen-free trend and take advantage of audio as an amazing background medium. These events can connect with existing users as much as they can attract new ones, eager to participate whether it’s a discussion about a particular topic, guest, or the newsroom itself.

What’s more, this audio content has some high recycling potential, as it can easily be turned into an audiogram, for example. And don’t even get me started on the potential of online webinars, and their high ROI, particularly given the low production cost.

5. Pure audio files

By harnessing user-generated content, there’s a heightened feel of authenticity. Newsrooms can embrace this idea by copying radio and its decades-long tradition of seeking input from listeners.

The idea is to encourage audiences to send audio clips on a number of topics, whether via social media accounts or the native website. These pure audio files can be audio comments, reviews, short commentaries, and other audio files that can help newsrooms better understand their target audience and their communities.

Plus, it’s very easy to embed audio on most platforms and CMSs so the integration should be quick and seamless.

Final thoughts

In this ever-evolving sonic world, it’s clear that every format, platform, and device has a distinct role in building deeper and more meaningful relationships.

If done properly, adding audio to your content strategy can, at the very least, provide audiences with something extra to encourage them to hang around a little longer. For the earliest of the adopters, this arguably hottest media today has become the tipping point between them and others.

So, it’s no longer a question of should or when, but how.

Digital audio is everywhere these days - we even have social networks dedicated solely to audio-only conversations! How cool is that?

Thanks to this omnipresence, audio has a two-faceted application, both as a primary channel for content consumption and as a complementary medium to written and/or visual communication.

The best thing about it is that it doesn’t matter if people are seeking information and entertainment. They want all of it, and in more ways than one.

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