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May 28, 2014, 1:15 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 28, 2014

Interesting tweet an hour or so ago from New York public radio giant WNYC:

That’s audio of an interview WNYC’s Brian Lehrer did with Angelou in 2013 — playing right in the tweet. Reaction was highly positive — and there’s nothing stopping you from doing the same thing on your tweets.

It’s all done with Twitter’s Cards — specifically the Player Card. A number of web companies, like Twitter’s Vine and (nearly Twitter’s) SoundCloud use them, but I haven’t seen many news outlets take advantage. Here’s the key code on the WNYC page that tweet links to:

<meta property="twitter:card" content="player" />
<meta property="twitter:player" content="[widget embed code goes here]" />
<meta property="twitter:player:width" content="280" />
<meta property="twitter:player:height" content="54" />

(You do need Twitter approval to use Twitter Cards, but I haven’t heard of any news organizations being turned down. And video works just as well as audio.)

It’s not a perfect experience. Twitter is all about the stream, scrolling through tweets — it’s not exactly optimized for having the same tweet in front of you while a 16-minute audio clip plays. (On the Twitter iOS app, for instance, the widget is only playable as a separate web page, which both is unattractive and means you can’t look at any other tweets in your stream for 16 minutes.) And I imagine many news orgs would much rather direct traffic to their website than share even more of their content on someone else’s platform.

Still, at a time when people are talking about how difficult it is for audio to go viral, smarter (and, likely, shorter) embeds of this kind could be part of the solution.

And — maybe most remarkable from a tech perspective — because the Player Card is an iframe, you can get analytics data from it. I see that the WNYC player loads a Google Analytics tracking code. So WNYC is seeing how many times that iframe is loaded across Twitter’s various experiences, including (on some) how many times it’s being seen — data that’s hard to come by. In theory, you could also get interesting data on plays or other user behavior. At the moment, the player experience is different enough across Twitter experiences that the data may be hard to decode reliably. But gaining that extra knowledge of how your users are engaging with your tweets might be worth the cost of a little experimentation.

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