Anchor is a new app which allows you to record – and, crucially, reply to – audio from your mobile phone.
Described as ‘audio blogging’ or collaborative podcasting, the tool aims to ride a fresh wave of interest in audio. And it has a lot of potential. We’ve been here before with Audioboo, but Anchor has some key differences.
The first difference is that Anchor uses your social graph (as Vine and Periscope do, for example): link the site to Twitter and you are automatically following the same people on Anchor, so no need to spend time building up your distribution network.
Secondly, not only is audio enjoying a resurgence of interest, but mobile phone use more widespread and more people are on Twitter: in short, it’s a bigger market. Audioboom (As Audioboo is now called) is a great product, but it might once have been the right product at the wrong time.
The other thing? It’s just a well designed product. A particularly nice touch is how the app uses your phone’s motion sensors to begin recording when you move the phone to your ear – a trick used by the ‘hold-to-your-chest’ video app Beme.
This makes it particularly intuitive – and less embarrassing – to record.
Conversational audio, not micro podcasting
The crucial difference, however, is that Anchor is designed to be a conversational tool rather than micro-podcasting.
In this sense it is perhaps more like the original incarnation of video tool Seesmic than the original Audioboo.
There is a 2 minute time limit on each audio recording: short even by internet standards.
As you start to approach this limit a beeping starts up to warn you, and the pace of that beeping increases as the limit gets closer (this doesn’t appear in the final audio).
That might frustrate some users but it keeps audio short and encourages you to be more open in your editorial approach.
That is something that warrants a little editorial thought. This isn’t the platform for detailed analysis or rich storytelling – at least not on your own. It’s likely to be much more effective if you come up with audio which sparks a conversation or, perhaps better still, use the platform to coordinate, publish and distribute a virtual panel discussion, expert conversation or multi-directional interview.
Tags and captions
One feature that’s worth considering closely is the tagging and caption options which you can bring up after recording an audio clip.
I suspect, like Instagram, hashtags may become a more important way of navigating content than on other platforms. And tagging individuals brings them into the conversation.
Embedding Anchor audio in articles
Embedding audio from Anchor relies on an iframe.
This works nicely on Medium, but presents a problem for WordPress.com users.
There is, however, a workaround: WordPress will embed links to mp3 files within a very basic audio player if you paste the url.
To get the mp3 link, just put
.mp3 after the number in the Anchor audio’s URL, e.g.’https://anchor.fm/embed/98a765.mp3′. Here’s an example of how that looks when WordPress presents that in a post:
Another option is to take a screenshot of the audio page and link that image to the original, so users can click through, as in the example below.
Will Anchor stay conversational?
The big question about Anchor is whether it will end up making the same choice as previous platforms in this field in moving to a more broadcast-driven model, extending time limits or allowing text comments and other features.
At the moment discovery is not a big part of the interface (you need to search) and I suspect this will change as they seek to increase the time users spend on the app.
A partnership with a radio station suggests they see content, not just functionality, as a key way to attract users.
But functionality is also key. The founders plan to make it possible to reply directly through your phone without needing the app. If they pull that off, it will make a massive difference. I’ll be watching this one closely.