Audio Storytelling

There’s something happening, at least I’m noticing it. And I’m paid to be a noticer. Audiobooks have been a thing for a long time, even though I just recently got into them.

But audio short stories and audio serialized storytelling seem like new things to me.

This Etgar Keret short story showed up in my SoundCloud feed this past week and the Gotham Gal and I listened to it yesterday afternoon in our home via SoundCloud on Sonos.

As an aside, I really like following The New Yorker on SoundCloud. They have some great audio content, stories, interviews, etc.

At Thanksgiving dinner, our friend Sarah said she and her daughter were going to listen to The Serial Podcast on their drive the next day up to Vermont. So yesterday the Gotham Gal and I put this on in our car yesterday while we were running some errands.

Now we are hooked and we will probably start listening to the series in our apartment on SoundCloud on Sonos.

What’s behind all of this explosion of short audio content? Well for one, our phones have apps (like SoundCloud) which easily stream audio via bluetooth into our cars. We’ve talked a lot about this whole bluetooth streaming thing here at AVC. But it is also true that we have audio devices in our home, everything from a Jambox to a Sonos, that allow us to do the same thing while we are at home.

And audio is easier to consume when you are driving the car, washing the dishes, running on the treadmill, and many many other activities.

For a multi-media publisher, the business model is additional monetizeable audience for content they already are publishing in other mediums. I hope The New Yorker is OnSoundCloud. If not, they should be.

For a new publisher, like The Serial Pocast, it’s a bit trickier. They should be OnSoundCloud as well and I hope they are. But the revenue share they can get from SoundCloud may not pay all the bills for a while. In the interim, The Serial Podcast is soliciting listener donations here and recently announced that they have gotten enough support that they will be doing a second season. I donated $100 this morning.

Another megatrend supporting this new media, then, is crowdfunding. New content can be funded through a combination of ad revenue share from platforms like SoundCloud and listener support raised on the Internet from the crowd. And I’m sure there are many other ways to monetize that either exist today or will come together in time for storytellers who want to leverage the audio medium.

All I know is that the innovation in this sector is exciting and encouraging. If you are looking for something to drink your coffee with this morning, I’d highly recommend both of those audio shorts I posted. Enjoy.

#streaming audio#Uncategorized

Comments (Archived):

  1. Allard Luchsinger

    If you like Serial, you’ll like Startup, from It’s a former This American Life colleague of Sarah Koenig (Serial), Alex Blumberg, who’s starting a next generation podcastig company. The podcast/ audio story follows him on his quest for funding, co-founder, first product etc. As addictive as Serial.

    1. William Mougayar

      Looks very interesting. Figure 1 is in one of the episodes, and they are on SoundCloud.

    2. Vivek Kumar

      Am hooked on it. The mix of his non profit background along with his frank narrative about starting a new venture is addictive.

    3. ShanaC

      it’s interesting watching this american life morph into different variations of the podcast.Planet money was another spinout of TALwhy tal?

  2. Matt Zagaja

    I have been a big podcast person since Leo Laporte basically invented the format with Revenge of the Screen Savers (now This Week in Tech). I mostly use my SoundCloud account to pull content from places like NPR and Harvard, but I’ll have to add these in. I have been meaning to listen to both Serial and Startup, as I’ve been a longtime Planet Money listener.The one thing that seems to be missing, or at least I can’t find it, is discovery. I listen to podcasts based on friend recommendations, but I don’t get why Soundcloud and others aren’t recommending podcasts based on what I listen to and like the way Netflix does.

      1. Matt Zagaja

        Which one do you use?

        1. William Mougayar

          TuneIn, and occasionally Overcast.

  3. Greg Kieser

    I’m watching closely to see if the blockchain helps out in this space. The BitShares team has proposed a platform called bitshares music (the blockchain) with a consumer facing interface called peertracks. The idea: content creators create an artistcoin or albumcoin in anticipation of upcoming project. He or she keeps, say, 50% of the coin and sells the rest to supporters. Now as people download or listen to the content they make auto micropayments of a very small amount (half a penny maybe?). If the song does well both the artists and supporters will earn revenue.I’m intrigued. They are crowd funding the development of the platform now. I’m in.http://www.bitsharesmusicfo

    1. fredwilson

      neat idea

    2. Drew Meyers

      that is pretty cool idea

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Love the fresh thinking here!

  4. coinnetwork

    I was also going to mention Gimlet Media, which in addition to Startup has just launched Replyall. Rather than depending on donations, they are trying to build a business around a network of podcasts. In regards to discovery of audio content, Pop Up Archive is working on this problem through automatic transcription, tagging, and indexing to make sound searchable and discoverable. I am an investor in both companies.

    1. JAJones

      I’m a fan of Gimlet and their Startup podcast. I liked how they allowed listeners to become investors via AlphaWorks.

  5. pointsnfigures

    We listened to the entire Serial podcast series on our drive to and from Michigan. Found out about it from @ShanaC on your blogpost about podcasts. Personally, I was a bit dismissive of the format until I thought about mobile and streaming. Working out on a treadmill, I see everyone with earbuds in consuming some sort of content-most of it audio since it’s harder to watch video (and eats bandwidth etc). At a recent pitch event I was at, I saw a neat new technology for podcasts, They can turn any voice communication into a high sound quality quality studio like experience. No more tinny phone calls.When our kids were little and we were on long car trips, we used to do books on tape (or CD) all the time.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      This is interesting and solves a problem that many podcasters seem to battle with. Two things I would wonder though:1. How well does RINGR handle drifting? Does it automatically compensate?2. Why are they limiting themselves to a smartphone and tablet application? Many if not most professional podcasters are going to be recording using semi-pro or pro equipment on their computers to achieve optimal audio quality. At the point someone decides they care about quality, they are likely to want to upgrade to a better microphone that they’ll use on their computer.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Drifting? What’s that in this context?

        1. Matt Zagaja

          In podcasts a frequent scenario is where two people talk on Skype, record their end of the conversation, and then send their end to one person who recombines them so that the podcast has high quality audio from all ends instead of the skype compressed audio. An issue that people run into is that the timing of the recording on each computer is slightly different so when you look to combine them if you line up the starts, the audio is not lined up by the end so you have to compensate for this. Otherwise halfway through people are talking over each other. Maybe not an issue if you are recording the audio on the centralized server, but honestly I’m not versed enough in it to know.

          1. JimHirshfield


      2. Vivek Kumar

        Based on the website, they seem to be using post-processing to enhance the audio quality on the receiving side and making it easy. So 1. I wouldn’t expect any drifting as recoding is on one side. 2. Probably because it makes life easy. Getting recording from both sides and then recombining needs tools and time.Not sure about how big the market might be ? Plus I see a dependency on phone line quality.

      3. pointsnfigures

        As far as I know, it was built to solve the drifting problem. They are limiting themselves because of scarce resources. Have to handle one market at a time.

    2. ShanaC

      can we hear a sample of ringr

      1. pointsnfigures

        think you will have to sign up. i have heard it, it’s interesting. doing a seed round now.

  6. William Mougayar

    Wow, Serial’s donation page could use a make-over. Fill out 7 boxes or Paypal? They need a Pay by Bitcoin button there.

    1. JimHirshfield

      I think SoundCloud should build in a feature for artists and publishers where listeners can automatically pay per listen with bitcoin. As an optional tool it could help.

      1. Matt Zagaja

        If they had that I’d finally use my bitcoin for something other than tipping Fred.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Here. Here. Not that there’s anything wrong with tipping Fred.

    2. ShanaC

      bitcoin does not have mass adoption yet…….

      1. William Mougayar

        But it’s getting there. Point is I’d rather have one-click (or 2-clicks) donations buttons, rather than filling forms. (aside from Paypal)

        1. ShanaC

          i should ask nontechie friends about it

  7. Richard

    Audio content (particularly with professional sound talent) are great for books. I can’t say that I am sold on shorts though, save podcasts). Love soundcloud, but it’s is lagging big time in UX, such as forwarding and rewinding (we need a new word for that) and AI.

  8. William Mougayar

    It’s interesting that these sorts of programs used to be broadcast on FM radio. Growing-up there was a serial murder mystery, Agatha Christie style, that would be narrated, and I remember being hooked on it.

    1. JimHirshfield

      When podcasts are as easy to find and play as radio stations, then we’ll see explosive adoption. Is that day coming?

        1. JimHirshfield

          No doubt. But availability of apps is different than ubiquity and ease within car radios or home audio systems. IOW, my parents won’t be listening to these audio programs.

          1. William Mougayar

            One of them I use a lot is TuneIn, it’s dead simple, and I just learned they are including podcasts. They even have a “car mode” which makes it even simpler.

          2. JimHirshfield

            Took your recommendation and installed TuneIn. Added 30 shows. I like how they’ve categorized by subject. Now I have an overwhelming amount of content! Will be good, I hope, for upcoming road trip later in December.

          3. William Mougayar

            Great. I use it to tune into local radio stations I like in France, Italy & Lebanon. Lets me pretend I’m there.

          4. JimHirshfield

            I like that use case. I added WFUV (NYC station) so that we could listen from afar.

          5. Richard

            Know any moukarims ?

          6. William Mougayar

            No, I don’t.

          7. Girish Mehta

            Have been using TuneIn for a while and like it a lot, great product…use it primarily for radio. For podcasts I tend to use Stitcher.

          8. Richard

            Yep, I’ve been using tunein for a few years. Good product.

      1. Chimpwithcans

        automatic podcast downloaded on every iPhone sold, as per U2’s latest album?? I bet Apple would love to do that.

        1. JimHirshfield

          hahahaha 🙂

    2. Ana Milicevic

      Speaking of hooked, I’m definitely feeling Serial’s bye week (they didn’t air an episode last week because of Thanksgiving and I think I have the shakes).

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Wow, now I’m intrigued.

    3. Vasudev Ram

      I read somewhere recently that Charles Dickens and some other authors of his period first published their novels in serialized form, in magazines, thereby getting crowdsuggesting (on the direction of the novel) as well as maybe crowdfunding or at least product-market fit :).As @kirklove said above:”Time has a way of making things seem new, when they’ve been with us all along and it’s just the cycle coming back again.”

      1. ShanaC

        That’s true about Dickens. I actually think the web is still in ints early creative days because we are just starting to see people play with how to tell stories.Until you figure out how to start “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” for the web, in a web based way, we’re going to have an interesting time having a go at it.Many pieces of the puzzle are part of that process too – including advertising. The discussion about “ads being interruptive” or “ads are native” are embedded in the discussion of how we don’t fully understand what makes a good story format yet.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          The web is definitely still in its early stages of creativity. I see many new models of doing things emerging, particularly in the last few years. And I’m not talking about Web 2.0 or 3.0 …Marc Andreessen ( @pmarca ) has a lot to say about that, ha ha. Its interesting, his stuff, whether one agrees with it or not.

          1. Vasudev Ram

            >Marc Andreessen ( @pmarca ) has a lot to say about thatA certain person called @fredwilson too :)Doing that is part of both of their jobs …

  9. kirklove

    Neat. It’s the 1930s serial radio all over again.Time has a way of making things seem new, when they’ve been with us all along and it’s just the cycle coming back again.

    1. fredwilson


      1. JimHirshfield

        Lots of p…as opposed to lots of s.Interesting.

    2. ShanaC

      That was my first thought too. My other thought is it takes time to feel out the medium – radio was around for 15ish years at least before serialized storytelling became popular, and I am not surprised that it is only now the format is becoming popular in podcasts

    3. RenataBliss

      goes to show that content is and always will have universal appeal. the trick is real monetisation for excellent work

  10. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’ve gotten into comics (print and online) recently, and a lot of them use for crowdfunding.With Patreon you can subscribe to an artist. You pledge to a monthly amount of your choosing that is dinged from your card until you tell it to stop (recurring subscription is a great business traditionally for content). In return, the artist usually commits to a minimum level of output. Some do quite well, I hear.I don’t know if any SoundCloud artists are using it, but it seems like a good match.

    1. LaMarEstaba

      Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is there, and I really like the Patreon model.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I do, too. It’s so much easier to commit to $10 a month than it is to $100 up front (and the artist gets twenty more dollars in the deal).

    2. William Mougayar

      That’s a cool one. Had never heard of it, and they seem to have traction. thanks.

      1. ShanaC

        I have. For certain formats (aka anything to do with serialization or mass ongoing sponsorship of a craft behavior) there was unhappiness with kickstarter and the kickstaster model within the art community. Serialization and patronage do not lend themselves to the one off model of kickstarter – and many artists don’t want to be in the business of business of art. The big question is will there be big names that defect (aka those that managed the business of the business of art) I can think of one or two names that actually might, but I won’t speak for them until they speak for themselves.

  11. Jeff Jarvis

    There’s another factor in the success of both Serial and Vice, I think: transparency. They show how the sausage is made. Turns out it’s not only revelatory but also engaging.

    1. Will Mayo

      Jeff, what about that is engaging to you?

  12. brian

    uhh…check out which has been carrying The New Yorker for years, as well as The New York TImes, Wall Street Journal – both since 1999. and other print-based mag’s. (disclosure: I worked there from ’97 to 2012)

  13. Yair Riemer

    The brilliance about audio storytelling / podcasting in a mobile world is that you can multi-task with it, while video content or reading requires nearly full attention. You can drive + listen, wash the dishes and listen, grocery shop and listen, but you can’t drive + read (safely) or drive + watch a film (safely).In certain niches, audio storytelling has reigned supreme for years: International soccer, for example, boasts podcasts produced by the BBC such as World Football that take you around the globe and inside cultures like no written piece could ever do.There is something about the background noise, the interviews, and the presentation that makes the long car drive now enjoyable. Am addicted to Serial and happy you are amplifying this genre, trend, and specific piece of content. On my weekly shopping trips to the grocery store, those BBC soccer podcasts have been a staple in my earbuds for the past decade. The expansion of audio storytelling / podcasting as access via mobile / autos is more pervasive will likely only lead to more projects such as Serial. After all, everyone has a story in them.

  14. Will Mayo

    There is also the whole world of publishers becoming audio storytellers, like what has done with the News Brief –… taking the already great content that digital publishers have created and enabling them connect with the growing audio audience.

  15. Oz Nathan

    Maybe Soundcloud should integrate micropayments to monetize these audios… Coinbase just launched a micropayments widgets… know anyone on their board? 😉

  16. Ana Milicevic

    What excites me here is SoundCloud’s opportunity to create a next-gen audio marketplace that extends well beyond iTunes. To do this, they’ll need to improve discovery & recommendations and create a payments platform — as a few others have suggested, I, too, think this can be based on the blockchain.In other words, remember Odeo? 🙂

    1. William Mougayar

      I’m not sure how easy it would be to bolt blockchain technology into an existing app, versus the blockchain being native to it. In theory, blockchain-based decentralized apps favor peer-to-peer relationships a lot more than they favor the center’s role in controlling things, so by virtue of that, it is a disruptor to just about any current marketplace. I like the concept behind Bitshares Music that was mentioned here.

      1. Ana Milicevic

        Yes, Bitshares sounds really interesting.Re: decentralized vs. somewhat central apps & the blockchain: wouldn’t the structure be similar to what was discussed in Fred’s ticketing post a little while ago (… Or is that a different use case entirely?

          1. Ana Milicevic

            Thanks William — I mostly seem to be thinking about semi-centralized marketplaces these days and definitely need to dig in deeper into how those would interface w/ blockchain. Your posts are now on my homework list.The SUM site is looking lovely.

  17. Jonathan Stark

    RE crowdfunding for episodic audio content:Folks might be interested in Castbacker, which just went live this week:http://castbacker.comIt's crowdfunding specifically for podcasts. There’s a 2 minute video on the homepage that explains it. (Full disclosure: I’m a Castbacker co-founder)I completely agree with Alex L from SoundCloud who says that sound will be bigger than video online:…There’s a perfect storm of factors – not the least of which is SoundCloud – that are contributing to the resurgence of interest in – and quantity of – compelling audio content.Happy listening!Jonathan Stark

  18. Agnieszka Maryniaczyk

    I’ll check this for sure. There’s nothing better than good talk while I am doing something totally boring. It stops procrastinating in some way.