21 Brilliant Examples for Audio in Online-Journalism That Will Definitely Catch Your Ear

Pull out your headphones! We asked for examples of great storytelling in audio that blew up the minds of our Slack Community of digital journalists. Our experts found 15 examples of stories that will certainly inspire you to use more audio in your online pieces. Plus: 2 apps and 4 topics we should think (more) about when it comes to audio.


This article is part of the weekly challenge in our Slack Community “Digital Journalism Rocks”. We started a Slack team for all those who love digital journalism and love to share their knowledge. Interested in joining us? Here you go: www.digital-journalism.rocks. Follow the conversation on Twitter: #djrocks.


STORYTELLING THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND

1. New Wave

found by Marten Hahn

If you want to check out simple but impressive spatial audio used in 360° video, check out New Wave. Best in a headset, at least Google Cardboard.

2. Sounds of Akron

found by Tilman

I just stumbled upon this: A symphony of crowdsourced sounds collected by citizens of Akron, USA. They were asked to collect the sounds that remind them of their city. So it’s more an example of a story about sounds not necessarily with sounds.

3. Fractions of a Second

found by Martin Hoffmann

The New York Times published a somewhat crazy audio experiment for the 2010 Olympics to „audiolize“ the gap between the winners and the people on 10th place. Still don’t know, if I like it — but at least it really tries to make use auf audio in a non traditional way.

4. Plague in Madagascar

found by Martin Hoffmann

Have a look at the intro of this interactive special of Süddeutsche Zeitung about the plague in Madagascar. It won the “Axel Springer Preis” last year — and the intro on the first part is really, really breathtaking. It helps to give the user an immediate feel of urgency before he even starts the interactive. But still it is only a simple rhythm. Very well done! Pro-tip: Listen to it with the volume of your speakers turned up to full power.

5. Polygraph

found by Sebastian Meineck

The #dataviz-masterminds of poly-graph.co tell American rap history in an interactive timeline. Every trending rap song has its own curve. As years go by, users can watch the curves rise and fall, while listening to samples of the current number 1 hit. It actually blew my mind.

6. Every Noise at Once

found by Inge Seibel

Do you know „Every noise at once?“ It was created 2013. But I’m still fascinated by this map of every genre of music and how fast it works:

„The story of music is the story of connections between genres and artists and eras. What does “mellow gold” sound like and how does it relate to r&b, rockabilly, and “pinoy alternative”? Discover and explore these musical relationships at Every Noise at Once by Glenn McDonald, a comprehensive map of every genre of music, including notable practitioners of each genre. The genres are arranged by an algorithm for prominence and relationship, and samples of each play on demand. The map reveals fascinating connections, and it’s possible to chart trends across history and across geography, guessing at the stories that the juxtapositions tell.“ by futureofstorytelling.org

7. One in 8 Million

found by Florian Blaschke

I once stumbled about a series by the New York Times called „One in 8 Million“ — which tells the personal stories of citizens of New York. Short previews give you an idea of each of the 54 characters, and short are the stories themself (more or less 2 minutes). Nevertheless they put every person in a nutshell. Although this series is from 2009 it still fascinates me in it’s simplicity and density, while the black and white design allows the „reader“ to concentrate on what’s most important: the voices and what they have to tell. In my opinion a brilliant piece of audio journalism.

added by Christian Mutter:

Taz, Berliner Morgenpost and Tagesspiegel copied „One in 8 million“ in 2011.

8. Reckless

found by Inge Seibel

I love the „Mirror World“ App for the iPad launched by Cornelia Funke 2013 and renamed 2016 to „Reckless“. But beware, it’s very big data, more than 1.8. Gigabyte.

“The Reckless app is a compendium of living stories that expand on the fantasy world of best-selling author Cornelia Funke’s Reckless novels. The app combines audio, cinema, storybook, and interactive elements in 16 different adventures and experiences.”

It’s such a lovely app, I don’t understand why it doesn’t come to an bigger success. Cornelia Funke told us 2 years ago at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, that she invested a lot of her own money to create Mirror World. She calls it the living storybook, a breathing book.

9. Memory Loops

found by Bernd Oswald

Memory Loops is by far the best audio storytelling project I know. It’s about NS history in Munich. There are narrators that read historic documents — and these documents are linked with the places they refer to. Of course, there is an app, too, so that you can listen to the loops when you are at one of the places.

10. Love Story

found by Madalina Ciobanu

One example I really liked is from CNN, who asked people to leave them voicemails in the run up to Valentine’s Day and then collated the best ones in an interactive on CNN.com. I liked it because it’s so basic yet so neglected, and people are so familiar with leaving voicemails that it removes some of that dread that can come up when you’re straight up interviewed for a radio show or a podcast. I covered the project here. The story also mentions a similar, ongoing project from WashPo which asks people to leave voicemails after in the New Year with lessons learned from the previous year, which then goes into a Tumblr. Would love to see more use of voicemail like this.

11. #unendlichesspiel

found by Teresa Sickert

WDR recently started #unendlichesspiel. It’s a collaborative radioplay in which people read some parts of a Foster Wallace Novel, social reading they say. Chapter by chapter everything is arranged by a director — work in progress. All in all the radioplay will be as long as 100 hours. It creates some kind of a new format — because the director is giving some of his power to the community. People read the novel the way they feel and become part of a collaborative piece of art.

12. Sonification

found by Toby Steinhäusler

Sonification or Audiolisation — this is the use of sound to represent data. A simple recent example was to compare the number of migrants who landed in Greece in 2014 with the number from 2015. Each migrant count was given a short ‘blip’. In 2014 this was sound that lasted a few seconds. For 2015 it went on forever. A clever way to represent and compare large numbers that otherwise are hard to comprehend when you just hear it spoken as a word. A more sophisticated approach of this is shown here. The result can be quite mesmerising.

added by Radiomachen

NPR also makes a lot of experiments with sonification. It’s great and very sensible as ears are much more sensitive than eyes, which means, very fine changes in data are often better heard than seen and better to “audiolize” than to visualize. Unfortunately I did not find yet a good tool for sonification of data.

answered by Toby Steinhäusler

This here is the group that guest spoke on the program I was listening to. They appear to demo a tool they use there.

13. Storycorps

found by Radiomachen

One of my favourite audio storytelling projects still is Storycorps. The project collects life stories all over USA. People tell, what was important in their lives, what formed them, made them, who they are, or what just became unforgettable for them. The stories are very personal, cause people tell their stories on their own in a little traveling recording booth or via app, interviewed by family members. So it’s very intimate.

Especially impressing: Storycorps animated some stories. These videos sound as intimate as only audio/radio can, but are as impressive and catchy for Internet users as only video can.

14. Dark Echo

found by Tilman

Learning from other sectors: There is a game called „Dark Echo“ — which is based on ~85%-audio experience. It has of course a visual basis, but the audio (visualized & to hear) makes most of the atmosphere & experience

15. Blowback

found by Nicola Balkenhol

We tried to combine audio drama with a smartphone audio game — it’s a thriller called “Blowback”. You need phones and then — please have a try, it’s not easy to solve. You will find the app in the Stores (Apple, Android).


APPS THAT CATCH YOUR EAR

16. Narando

found by Andreas Weck

I really like tools and services like Narando. Narando’s team reads out articles for users who can’t read — or users who just wanna do some other stuff while listening. Media publications can integrate an audio bar into their online articles and visitors just have to push play for the audio content. (Edit: t3n is using Narando already. Just wanna mention that.)

17. Anchor

found by Jan König

I really like Anchor, they started out just a few months ago. Really lovely UX. What I love about it is how easy it is to reply to certain waves (how they call their audio recordings) and how it sometimes results in very interesting conversations. Also they did a really good job with sharing and embedding features. Gary Vaynerchuk is praising it as well.

added by Teresa Sickert

The most interesting App these days when it comes to Audio storytelling is ANCHOR. You should check it out — it’s an acoustic social network. All you do is voice commentary. There are beautiful things going on. People from around the world not only collaborate on conversations, there are collabs on music and sound productions where people add different channels of sound to compose something new. Everything is shareable and remixable. Stories can be created in the network itself or by using it’s soundbites for your own story. You will get lots of inspiration on Anchor when it comes to audio storytelling and it’s digital possibilities.


WAIT, WHAT ABOUT…?

Some more thoughts on audio from our Digital Journalism Rocks Community.

18. …Audio in Multimedia Storytelling?

thoughts by Nils Kersten

I have seen a lot of Pageflow & other storytelling stuff. I saw the pictures, I read the articles, but I really got into the stories when audio came in. It creates atmosphere. I think its easier to create pictures in your mind from listening than it is to create sounds from seeing. And when I start creating pictures in my mind I am really deep into the story. Even more than just looking at some pictures. So I would love all of you to experiment with sounds more often. You may need pictures to drive people to your story, but you need sound to drive them into it.

answer by Radiomachen:

What a pleasure to read, I am not the only one who thinks, good scrollytelling gets intensity through sound!

Learned it from radio-expert Francesca Panetta, who now makes multimedia stories for the Guardian. Was first impressed by her soundintense story “Firestorm”. I myself believe in “Webdokus zum Hören” (“Web-Documentarys to listen to”), the Pageflow I do for SWR at the Moment.

19. … the Good Old Audio-Slideshow?

asked (and researched) by Christian Mutter

What happened to audio-slideshows anyways?! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Edit: Still living, on the local level. Example: “Wir sind Nordkirchen

added by Radiomachen

And damn right, @christianmutter and @martinhoffmann, I still believe Audio-Slide-Shows are a good way to make internet users listen. I call it #RadiofürdieAugen (“Radio for eyes”). And we also use it in Pageflows. By the way: ESPECIALLY on smartphones audio-slideshows are in my opinion often much more impressive than video.

added by Inge Seibel

Here is an interesting article about the learnings and evolution of NPR’s picture-audio-stories with examples. Also nice to read: „Audio in the Browser: Horrors and Joys“.

20. … Binaural Audio?

thoughts of Marcus Engert

I really like the evolution of 3D-audio (or binaural audio or immersive sound). This combined with VR / augmented reality drives me a bit crazy :-)

21. … Live Podcasting?

brought up by Benny Denes

I’m wondering, why social live podcasting services don’t become more popular. One App, that allows you to broadcast live and to invite friends to cast with you is „zCast“. It’s like Periscope for a bad hair day.


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