The power of #iphonereporting isn’t limited to journalists — public safety and other agency spokespeople can harness the iPhone to get their message out more clearly and quickly.
While PIOs are embracing Twitter and Facebook to quickly disseminate information on breaking news, they’re missing an opportunity to provide good-quality audio that can be aired by radio and TV stations and online news organizations.
Historically, after putting out a tweet on a breaking news situation, PIOs are inundated with calls from news organizations seeking a phone or in-person interview, and asking when a news conference will be held.
The result is poor-sounding audio, and a PIO who’s answering the same questions a dozen times.
Here’s my solution that will make reporters happy, and allow you to gather information and organize a news conference: tweet great-sounding audio using the free SoundCloud app.
SoundCloud is a free service that’s like YouTube for audio.
With the free SoundCloud iPhone (or Android) app, a PIO can record several minutes of near-studio-quality audio into the built-in microphone of the mobile device, and quickly upload it to SoundCloud.
The URL from the uploaded file can be easily tweeted, posted on Facebook, and embedded on your agency’s website.
Anyone who clicks on the hyperlink will hear excellent-quality audio.
In newsrooms, reporters and producers can record the audio on their desktop computers.
Radio stations will get the audio on-air quickly. Television stations will have good audio to run over images provided by their cameramen or the public.
Forward-thinking PIOs ‘get it.’
Pete Piringer, Director of Communications for the city of Laurel, Md., and former spokesperson for local fire departments embraces the idea.
“One component that’s often missing as we get the information out is the audio part — good, quality audio,” says Piringer. “It will make things more efficient and improve our use of time if we’re out on a scene.”
Tweeting audio is an improvement over a tried-and-true, but now outdated method of communicating with reporters, says Alan Etter, former spokesperson for DC’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
“We used to maintain a tape line,” says Etter.
But a recorded tape line has two problems — the sound is phone-quality, and the reporter has to call it repeatedly to check for updates.
“Now with each tweet you’ll get studio-quality audio in a way that’s easy for the PIO and the reporter,” says Etter. “I hope it catches on.”
Julie Parker, a former reporter who is now the Media Relations Director with the Prince George’s County, Md. Police Department appreciates being able to provide air-quality audio “while a lack of time or resources might have otherwise prevented.”
“It’s a win for the media outlet, a win for the department, and ultimately a win for the community,” says Parker.
Step right up, PIOs — glad to answer any questions.
"Do you own or have access to an iPhone, iPad, or iPodTouch?"
That’s one of the first questions I now ask in setting-up a phone interview. In almost all cases, the answer is yes.
Most public information and public relations professionals are surprised to hear there are several ways the Apple products can make a newsmaker’s answers sound studio-quality, rather than inferior phone-quality.
I explain the iPhone, iPad, or iTouch essentially replaces a tape recorder.
While the newsmaker hears and answers my questions on a landline or other cellphone, they simultaneously record their answers on the iOs device.
At the end, they email or otherwise share the raw interview, which I edit for air or online posting.
I instruct them to hold the device 6-8 inches from their mouth.
On an iPhone, the microphone is directly to the left of the charging port on the bottom of the phone.
On an iPad, the microphone is a small hole along the top edge of the device.
An iPodTouch requires a plug-in microphone.
With an iPhone, the simplest way to accomplish this is with the built-in VoiceMemo app.
iPad and iTouch don’t have VoiceMemo, so I walk them through setting up a free SoundCloud account, and how to download the free app. UPDATE: For a short interview, the Voice Recorder HDapp ($1.99) is even easier and more intuitive, for iPad and iTouch.
If the public relations pro balks at the “inconvenience,” I remind this will help their client communicate as clearly as possible. If it’s still too much of a bother, I pass on the interview.
Every newsmaker I’ve ever talked through the process has been delighted with the results, and is now equipped to use the technique in future interviews.
For mobile journalists producing content on smartphones, part of the challenge is knowing the limitations of your hardware and software, and working around them.
In news gathering and digital reporting, there are times when a full web story is needed, but there are also other ways of sharing stories with your mobile audience.
The goal: A tweet of on-scene audio, supplemented by a photo can transport your audience to where the news is happening.
SoundCloud’s mobile app has a nice feature that lets your audience click on a Twitter or Facebook link, and simultaneously hear the audio and see the photo in the background.
The problem: One drawback with the current SoundCloud app — it only allows you to add a photo to a new, unedited sound, recorded within the app.
In other words, you can’t fully produce an audio package (in VeriCorder 1stVideo for instance) and upload it to SoundCloud, which is my standard method for tweeting audio. (Update: As of 6/2013, 1stVideo has been replaced by Voddio)
The workaround: Here’s a clumsy, and time-consuming solution for now (hint, hint, SoundCloud) to include a photo with a fully-produced audio report:
Before uploading your audio report to SoundCloud, temporarily change your profile photo to the news photo you want to incorporate.
Granted, the end user won’t see your smiling puss, in a thumbnail, but will see a full-screen news photo in the background while hearing the audio.
(Update: As of 6/2013 SoundCloud now allows you to tweet a photo with audio, making the workaround described above unnecessary)
Other applications, including Twitter’s iPhone app, allow you to tweet an audio link and a photo link, but that requires two clicks, and doesn’t allow for simultaneous viewing/listening.
Does anyone know of an app other than SoundCloud that lets the viewer look at the picture and hear the audio with a single click?
I never met Steve Jobs. But I owe him. And so does the rest of the news business.
His tools have already, and will continue to change the way journalists gather and disseminate news.
You may or may not know it, but since Feb. 2010 I have done all my field production on an iPhone and iPad. Applications running on those Apple products let me record and edit audio and video, shoot and edit photos, write stories for wtop.com, and use social media — all from the same device.
That means the laptop, digital recorders, microphones, cables, video and still camera I used to schlep have been retired. No more carrying heavy equipment, waiting for a laptop to boot-up, or transferring files from a recorder to an editing device.
Now when I leave the relative peace and convenience of the newsroom, my tools to cover news in the nation’s capital are an iPhone, iPad, and charger.
A strange thing happened after I started using the iPhone and iPad, besides my back not hurting — I realized my entire newsgathering process and strategies were changing.
In the “old days” I would concentrate on gathering audio. Now, depending on the situation I might shoot video. Or snap some pictures and tweet them immediately. Or write a story for wtop.com.
Having a tool that facilitates multi-platform reporting frees a reporter from the challenges of technology to concentrate on storytelling.
We (and you) now have the capability of livestreaming video of a breaking news event using the iPhone’s camera. Imagine the possibilities.
We (and you) can produce a video project on an iPhone within minutes and transmit it to the world instantly.
We (and you) constantly have the ability to document history, whenever an iPhone is handy.
Thanks, Steve, for creating the right tool for the job.
Get the most out of Skype: which microphone sounds best?
Skype is a free, convenient way to greatly improve the sound quality of an interview or report. Two of my colleagues at WTOP, Ari Ashe and Dimitri Sotis have done extensive testing and comparisons of microphones over the past months to maximize Skype. Remember, a wired connection will always sound better than WiFi.
Here are their recommendations, in different price categories:
$10-40 Logitech USB H530
$50-80 Blue Snowball
$90-120 Blue Yeti In attached sound clip, the first voice is on a WTOP studio microphone, the second voice is on Blue Yeti, with a wired internet connection.
It’s now been a year since I packed away my laptop, digital recorders, microphones, cables, and cameras, and began covering Washington, DC with only my iPhone.
So, it’s probably time for some introspection into what is going well, and what isn’t. We’ll end each section with a rating — 10 = Incredibly Satisfied, 1 = Not Working.
AUDIO EDITING: I’m very pleased with the VC Audio Pro app by VeriCorder. The three-track recorder allows me to quickly pull cuts, assemble wraps, and adjust volumes. I’m told the ability to import emailed audio into the editor is in the works. I’d still like some basic compression. The amount of time saved by not having to boot up the laptop and transfer audio has been the single greatest work flow improvement. The finished wrap that used to take 30 minutes to produce and transmit can now be done in 10. Rating: 9 (Update: As of 6/2013, Audio Pro has been replaced by Voddio)
MICROPHONES: When I started my iPhone-only reporting on a 3Gs, I liked the BlueMikey. It had some nice bottom, and with three volume settings had enough flexibility for different situations. But BlueMikey isn’t compatible with iPhone4, and the company hasn’t worked out a solution. After trying several iPhone mics that sounded thin, I’ve been using the built-in microphone, and am satisfied with the sound quality.The iPhone is very susceptible to wind. Rating: 4 (Updated May 9, 2011: I’ve purchased an XLR adapter, which allows me to connect a broadcast mic to an iPhone, along with an audio out jack. In an A-B test, built-in mic sounded fuller than my Shure SM63.)
PHOTOS: The ability to quickly snap, edit, and transmit photos to the webbies at wtop.com is another huge time saver. It’s also causing me to rethink my news gathering. Since “once in a lifetime moments” can’t be recreated, at times I find myself taking a few pictures first in breaking news situations, then gathering natural sound. I use the iPhone4’s built-in camera. For editing, I select the picture from Camera Roll, re-frame, then take a screenshot of the improved image by simultaneously touching the sleep/wake button on the top of the phone and the Home button. It’s then ready to be emailed. Rating: 8
LIVE REPORTS: I’ve experimented with two mobile VoIP apps, each which requires a hardware “receiver” in the newsroom. We beta tested Report-IT Live. I liked the ease of the app, and was satisfied with both the wifi and 3G audio quality. However, since the station didn’t buy the needed Tieline hardware the test was brief. The other app, Media5-fone “talks” to the station’s Comrex Access. I find the app “forgets” the number I need to dial, often doesn’t connect, and sometimes provides choppy audio. I’ve decided it’s too risky to use for a live report, so will usually prefeed a recorded report. Rating: 2
VIDEO: I like the flexibility of the VC 1st Video app. It allows precise video cuts and has two audio tracks. Right now, we’re not doing involved production for wtop.com. Short “money shots” to complement text can often be trimmed with iPhone’s built-in video recorder, which requires less time than importing video into 1st Video. Good audio for video is almost impossible using only the iPhone. The built-in microphone points away from the interviewee who is standing several feet away. I’ve experimented with the JK Audio BlueDriver-F3. It’s a Bluetooth unit that plugs into a broadcast mic that pairs with the iPhone. While the unit allows the mic to transmit to the iPhone, the iPhone’s built-in mic doesn’t mute. I fear the only way to get good audio with video may be to use a XLR adapter cable. Rating: 2 (Updated May 9, 2011: XLR adapter mentioned above improves audio for video substantially.) (Update: As of 6/2013 1st Video has been replaced by Voddio)
TWITTER: The role of Twitter in complementing my on-air and website reporting is already major and growing. I find myself reporting stories first on Twitter. At times the first web version on wtop.com is based on three or four tweets strung together. Tweeting pictures has a quicker upload time than emailing them, so often the website will capture the tweeted photos for inclusion on wtop.com. I’m very happy with the free version from Twitter, Inc. My backup is TwitVid. Rating: 9
All in all, I’m pleased so far. I feel like my work output has increased, in the midst of the evolution of my news gathering strategies. I trust the next year will bring some technological improvements, as well as new applications that can be tailored for my needs.
Cellphone and land lines are easy to use, and everyone has them, but they sound lousy.
If I were a spokesperson, or a public relations person whose client was gonna be on the top ranked station in the nation’s capital, I’d want them to sound better than lousy.
There are so many inexpensive and quick ways to get your voice to a reporter, if you’re willing to take a few minutes to consider not using the phone.
Any iPhone, iPad, digital audio recorder, Flip video, or computer with Skype is all you need.
Here’s how it works: you and I do the interview over the phone, while you simultaneously speak into the digital recorder. Then email me your raw audio or video file.
No need to pull sound bites or do any editing — that’s the reporter’s job.
Here’s an extra bonus: the better your audio sounds, you’ll often get better placement in the news hour and will run for more hours.
And, once you’re ready to provide good quality audio, you can make that part of your pitch for interviews. If a reporter knows you’re audio savvy, he or she will likely be interested in talking with you.