When should the online journalist use audio?

Here’s a question: what makes good online audio? Having already seen journalists struggle with online video and predictably try to duplicate the qualities of broadcast television, what should we take from broadcast radio – and what leave behind?

I have some suggestions.

Firstly, the audio should be short. Online users don’t have time to scan through a five minute speech. If the subject matter is long, then it should be ‘chunked’ into separate subject-specific pieces of audio.

Secondly, the audio should offer colour. This can come in two forms: a compelling voice; or atmosphere.

Say, for example, you interview someone who fought in World War II – quotes alone may not convey the fear in his voice as he recounts his experiences – or the joy.

Or say you attend a boxing match where the crowd got out of hand. The sounds of booing, the announcement on the PA, the confusion and argument could all make a compelling piece of audio that again, words wouldn’t describe as effectively.

Or, how about a mix of the two? A politician makes a speech and is heckled, for instance.

Now, that’s all I can think of: brevity, and compelling content. Are there any other reasons for using audio? I suppose if you have copyright covered you can use music to set a mood under a story, but that seems a lot of effort to make. Radio can keep its presenters, and the four-minute package that presents a range of viewpoints is just as effectively done with words.

But this seems too simple…

Comments please.

PODCASTS: Podcasts, it seems to me, represent a separate category here. These are useful as a distribution format for news generally, so if you’re producing podcasts you could be forgiven for simply reading out the headlines on the basis that people are likely to be listening to the podcast on an mp3 player as they travel when they’re not in a situation to read a paper or click through a website. Having said that, I think the same considerations as radio news apply – so, brevity again, and the importance of colour.

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