Rory Cellan-Jones

The audio revolution gathers pace

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 7 Jul 09, 08:43 GMT

A few months ago, I wrote here about what I saw as an audio revolution on the web, with a new service called AudioBoo allowing internet users to share sounds and speech in the way the likes of YouTube help them to share video.

Now this revolution is gathering pace. As I've reported on this morning's Radio 4 Today programme, AudioBoo is attracting more and more content - celebrities like Stephen Fry are "booing", evangelists are using it for daily sermons, chefs and photographers are using it to broadcast daily tips, and citizen journalists have been sending audio reports from events like the G20 protests.

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I particularly enjoyed this offering recorded by the Radio 4 newsreader Neil Sleat as he prepared for an afternoon bulletin. Having started as just an application for the iPhone, AudioBoo is now moving on to other phones, and has ambitious plans to expand further.

And there's now competition in the form of a rival service called ipadio. Unlike AudioBoo, you don't need wi-fi or even a 3G connection to use this way of sharing audio.

Ipadio's idea is to allow any phone user to broadcast live to the internet by simply making a call to the service. That means you only get phone quality audio - unlike the higher quality recordings you can make and upload using AudioBoo.

But Ipadio says it is "a live streaming phone reporting tool" whereas AudioBoo is a "record and publish" tool - and the company believes there is room for both.

Among those who've recorded "phlogs", as the company calls them are the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, the Paralympic champion Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, and a doctor recording an audio diary of his walk across the Pyrenees to raise money for a kidney charity.

Save Our Sounds logoThe BBC's World Service has started an interesting project using some of these new audio tools. It's called Save Our Sounds, and the aim is to gather sounds from around the world which might otherwise be lost.

We're asking listeners to the Today programme to take part in this exercise, by recording audio from around Britain and uploading it to the Save Our Sounds site. If you could use the tag #r4today, that would help us to identify recordings made by listeners to the programme.

So, forget video - the future is sounds, not pictures - and you can be part of it. Or at least that's what my radio colleagues tell me.


  • Comment number 1.

    Thanks for the kind reference to ipadio, I am the co-inventor of the system so I have a vested interest of course. Our approach for a voice product was always one of any phone, any where rather than exclusivity to specific handsets.
    That said we recognise that the iphone has revolutionised the mobile market place with its various whizzy features. That's why ipadio is also available on that platform (and beong developed for other handsets of course). Later on this week we will be extending our ipadio iphone app to include unlimited audio 'record and publish' as well as live telephony. This means greater audio quality (though not live of course) for those of us rich enough and living in the 'right' places who can use the data connectivity that a smart phone provides, but the rest of us (the vast majority) are also included in this revolution - because ipadio works on any telephone any where in the world from Tanzania to Mauritius, from mid Atlantic to the top of Snowdon all places where wifi doesnt go.
    Regards, Dr Mark K. Smith

  • Comment number 2.

    As a business owner, author and professional speaker I find the AudioBoo application an excellent tool. Audio quality is good, it's easy to create and listen to audio. Links to twitter and facebook make it an excellent tube too. If you want to get your voice or someone else's message directly out there, this works

    I have used AudioBoo for self promotion, book reviews, interviews, recording live events and perhaps most daily opinion piece on the Ashes.

    Have a go!

  • Comment number 3.

    I've used AudioBoo extensively since it's launch as a life diary.

    It has been a huge assistance to me in recovering from agoraphobia. It provided a focus whilst leaving my house - a distraction; allowing me to get a little further each time - and then have a log to listen to (tagged and archived) to make sense of how I was feeling after the anxiety had subsided. It was hugely significant to me that here was a company making a product that seemed designed for one thing - Top Quality Audio recording publishing and archiving, available to listen to from any device, in a superbly simple and robust app.

    I could make this an essay - as I feel this 'product' has changed my life. I have started exploring the possibilities of it as I play with web app 'mash-ups'. I've set up to encourage it's use for a less polished publishing of musicians 'work in progress'.

    I've tried the other products : and they have their uses. Tweet Mic is good for throw away audio - a quick tweet. iPadio is great for areas without 3G - and on boats and mountains. But for me, there's no contest - and that's because AudioBoo also, suprisingly for this sort of thing, has a superbly friendly, genuine and supportive community. Good luck to them.

    By the way: I can't comment on AudioBoo without mentioning some of my favorite people to follow : check out @documentally (superb journalist) @philcampbell (lead geek/tech) and @tarabusch (synth godess).

  • Comment number 4.

    I will have to mirror other sentiments made here when talking about how Audioboo has revolutionised how I put content on the web.

    For me simplicity is the key. I have tried other systems including ipadio but the quality of audio from an iPhone and the free audioboo app is unparalleled. I still get comments asking me what mic I am using when it is nothing more than the phone capturing the sounds.

    I'm also really excited about the imminent integration of other phones, more so because of the growth in the community that is expected. When other places strive to get the 'celebrities' involved because they will bring the hits, I feel Audioboo has focused mainly on looking after its core content creators. This is where so many other apps fall by the wayside. There is a constant conversation between the staff at Audioboo and it's users to ensure the service grows steadily and organically. This communication is imperative when creating anything that is to sit within a community versed in social media.

    I have fallen back in love with audio and as a result I'm also listening to more radio. I can digest the content on the move and feel my time enriched with some amazing user generated content.

    These are still early days though. I have caught a sniff of some of the features to come and am quite excited about what this means for the community. That said I am also keeping a close eye on the various competition. More and more new apps are popping up enabling 'one touch podcasting'.

    At the moment though and for the foreseeable future, I am where the community is.

  • Comment number 5.

    Not sure that Rorys blog is quite the place for a discussion, but nevertheless Id like to raise a few points around the issues discussed here:
    Audio quality on telephony is what it is, its interesting that when speaking to each other on our phones were largely oblivious to the quality issues, however when you click a button and play audio on screen your expectations differ and quality perception is different.
    Thats why services like Tweetmic and the rest are picking up such a head of steam and great services they are too.
    However there is a downside. Almost by definition an app on a smart phone needs the internet to work you cant send a picture, a video, or geo-locate without using the wonder that is the web. And given that the smart phone explosion is mainly a developed world phenomena, where we are well served with wifi and so on it is essential that developers like ipadio and the others consider those who are data poor as well as those of us who are data rich. This is why Nemisys (my day job) who mostly work in the not-for-profit world with organisations like Scope, ParalympicsGB, The Childrens Trust etc set out our stall by developing a technology that works on any phone, anywhere.
    That said, the smart phones are just too attractive a product to not look at some interesting developments there as well. Hence ipadio created a phone app which has data (images, location, words) hanging off the back of it. And because we wanted to put to rest the debate about audio quality we are now beta testing (please contact me if you want to join this test) a Version 2 app that includes unlimited audio upload and conversion from voice to text in near real-time as well. That will be available next week (apple store permitting).
    Finally the issue of community; Tweetmic and others have made great strides in creating community, ipadio has focussed in a slightly different way. Our community is businesses and organisations where we provide our voice services to their closed communities. This is slightly counter to the social media norm. But we are most interested in using instant streamed telephony to push information around the inside of a community rather than expecting anyone to come to our community, as it were. So let me give you a specific example albeit not inside a company because I mostly cant talk about that. Four Irish lads are presently cycling to Gaza from Dublin to raise money for the people there. Their community is their friends, their sponsors, and their family. So its really irrelevant if has a stream of data or not in fact the community goes here: or indeed to the excellent charity fundraising vehicle that is so what Im getting at here is that a: the community I want are people who will advise, help, criticise (essential), challenge, sometimes praise and always care; b: that the technology appears inside places they want it to in a website, blog, twitter, facebook etc etc
    But the question that should be on all our lips is how about the money? Well thats pretty simple, in most companies (all I have ever worked for anyway) top of the problem list is communication, with home workers, peripatetic workforces, globalisation etc etc making that a growing challenge. So a tool that can both take audio up from any phone, but critically push audio back down to any phone (more on that story later) is of enormous value. And in these days of new economic reality the technology that will succeed is the one that will make money. Not a nice reality, but true.
    So good luck to us all!

  • Comment number 6.

    AudioBoo and Chirbit for me are the trailblazers in this type of product.

    AudioBoo being the simplest to use as the iPhone app is intuitive.

    iPadio suffers from the quality of the telephone call.

    This is a huge leap for blogging. I hope that it leads people into opening up and then maybe trying their hands at vlogging.

    To me all competition on the net is good. The reason, we as users will get better apps and services to use.

  • Comment number 7.

    Slightly ironic that the embedded audio here is not using AudioBoo - might've been a nice touch if possible ;)

    I do love AudioBoo, though it is slightly restricted in terms of a) time limit (5 minutes) and iPhone only (ignoring the beta telephone number).

    It's useful to be aware that there are other services out there that also host multimedia - Posterous ( is one that can take anything, including audio files, and re-host them in friendly form to most browsers - including the iPhone.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't really have the community feel that AudioBoo can have if one is a dedicate Boo-er, nor can it geo-tag easily, but if you can get it audio, it'll post it.


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