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Nov. 15, 2011, 1:30 p.m.

Hear this: Audiofiles aims to make radio more shareable, discoverable

A new site (with a Lab connection) tries to create a way for radio fans to find great content.

There’s a whole universe of great public radio beyond Weekend Edition and This American Life. But how are you supposed to find it?

Self-promotion alert: A few months ago, Lisa Tobin, a producer and former coworker at WBUR Boston, came to me with an idea. She wanted to make radio more shareable and more discoverable. She wanted to build the Longreads for radio — part curated, part crowdsourced, a place to collect all of the best radio stories ever told. I agreed to build the website, and we named it Audiofiles.

This week, we formally launch the Audiofiles website and Twitter account. And while we don’t write much about our personal, non-Nieman Lab projects much around here, I figured this might be of interest to our readers.

Lisa has amassed an impressive database of radio favorites, all tagged and sortable by producer, source, and topic. We’re hoping each week to have a guest blogger known to public-radio fans who will share his or her favorites.

How might Audiofiles be interesting from a future-of-news perspective?

Social first

Audiofiles is all about sharing, so it makes sense to make it native to the platforms where people share. That means you can use Twitter to discover new work without ever visiting the site. Our lofty goal is to make #audiofiles an industry standard, much the way #longreads has become de rigeur for news organizations promoting long-form material.


In this over-aggregated world, Audiofiles is designed to promote producers and drive traffic to their websites, not the other way around. Story summaries are short, rarely more than four sentences. There is no such thing as an Audiofiles permalink, as every story is linked to its original source. That means we’ll be helping the original story appear higher on Google searches rather than competing with it. Crazy, right? I don’t see other aggregators following suit anytime soon — but then again, we have no ads to serve.

The struggle for a common audio platform

The site does not host any audio, not yet, linking out instead. This is a challenge this project has made clear: An “Instapaper for audio” or “Pandora for public radio” would be a killer app, but that has proved pretty tricky from a technical perspective. Audio is far less portable than text, and the public radio system has no shared infrastructure for audio delivery. While NPR provides an open API, American Public Media does not, let alone KOSU in Oklahoma City or some independent producer in Brooklyn. It’s a confusing mess of widgets, competing file formats, and licensing issues.

Organizations like PRX are working on that, however. NPR is partnering with PRX and other distributors to create the Public Media Platform, a sort of super API for public media. That could be a boon not just for Audiofiles but for app makers everywhere who want to mash up media from lots of different sources.

I hope you’ll check it out — we would love to hear your thoughts on what we’ve built and where it’s headed.

POSTED     Nov. 15, 2011, 1:30 p.m.
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