Musicians and remixers were among the first to settle into SoundCloud, but the social audio-sharing service has been expanding in new directions. The company is sharpening its focus on providing a hub for radio-style journalism and commentary with an interactive twist. (Part 4 of a 4-part series on how journalists are using social networks beyond Facebook and Twitter.)
The initial wave of SoundCloud users from the radio world included CNN Radio, Boston's WBUR and KCRW in Los Angeles. Since then, the company has been cultivating the on-air community in earnest.
This summer, SoundCloud nabbed Jim Colgan from public radio station WNYC to help sharpen its new focus on bringing traditional radio content to the browser. Earlier this week, Philadelphia-based WHYY became the latest NPR affiliate to join SoundCloud, using it to post clips from recent episodes of shows like Fresh Air. For WHYY and many other public radio outlets, it's less about hosting the program's entire digital presence and more about using SoundCloud as a way to extend their brand and grab the attention of listeners on a large - and rapidly growing - platform.
See also: How Journalists Are Using Google+
"The range of usage by journalists is quite broad," SoundCloud Head of Audio Manolo Espinosa told ReadWriteWeb. "Some use it to help fuel the online distribution of terrestrial programs, others for additional content that is of interest to their listeners."
Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, services like SoundCloud have been able to grow beyond content distribution and morph into mobile content creation tools. The potential here is quite powerful, and it just got a boost last week when SoundCloud updated its Android and iPhone apps to support mobile audio-editing along with a few other enhancements.
Columbia University's chief digital officer Sree Sreenivasan uses SoundCloud to publish interviews he conducts with company founders, industry experts and other people at the intersection of media and technology. Robert Scoble is doing the same. New York Times reporter Ben Sisario is more experimental. He uses his SoundCloud account to post recordings he makes in the city's subways. This includes everything from musical performances to soundscapes uniquely familiar to New York commuters.
No social journalism tool would be complete without the ability to crowdsource reporting. The Huffington Post uses SoundCloud to allow readers to submit robocalls it receives from political campaigns. Readers can record and submit calls right in the browser, taking things beyond embedded audio players toward a more read/write experience.
SoundCloud can also deliver audio slideshows. The company has a beta feature called StoryWheel, which lets users pull photos from an Instagram account and add audio commentary. It's a very basic Web app, but taken a few steps further, it could provide an alternative to clunky slideshow software like SoundSlides. The company has no immediate plans to build out a feature like that, but Espinosa said that the demand among media partners certainly exists.