Facebook Messenger: Not ready for #iphonereporting
I had high hopes when I read Facebook Messenger on iOS devices was updated to include voice messages.
As you see in the first photo, a reporter could choose to Record Voice, in addition to sending a photo to a Facebook page.
In the second photo, by pressing and holding the red button, the reporter could record and automatically upload up to one minute of audio.
In my mind, this would be another, even easier way for an #iphonereporter to deliver studio-quality audio from a mobile device, directly to the WTOP Facebook page.
Even more encouraging, I envisioned this as a one-touch method for listeners/viewers with iOS devices to add studio-quality, rather than phone-quality audio to the conversation, which could be recorded from the WTOP page and used in reporter pieces.
Here are the problems:
1. While the Facebook Messenger mobile app quickly and effortlessly uploads clip to another’s page, the audio quality is mediocre — about as poor as a cell phone.
2. Facebook Messenger only facilitates interaction between an individual user Profile, not a Page, which is geared for businesses (like WTOP) and organizations.
With so many ways to deliver studio-quality audio, including the Vericorder apps and SoundCloud, the ease-of-recording for a reporter is far outweighed by the degradation in sound quality.
And, the inability for listeners with Facebook Messenger to interact with a commercial page, means they’ll still have to switch to the station’s website, or Facebook page, or make a cell call.
I wanted to love Blue Mikey Digital — but I don’t.
After loving and using the analog Blue Mikey, I had high hopes and waited patiently for the oft-delayed Blue Mikey Digital.
Unfortunately, it’s not going to work out.
Mikey Digital looks beautiful, fits snugly into my iPhone 4s, even with a case, and has great features including line input and and USB pass-through.
At first listen, Mikey Digital delivered a warm, nice bass response compared with the slightly metallic sound of the built-in microphone.
The problems occur when trying to produce multi-track radio pieces.
Audio recorded in Vericorder AudioPro, SoundCloud, and BlueFiRe all contained an unacceptable amount of digital ‘noise.’ (Update: As of 6/2013 AudioPro has been replaced by Voddio)
While the ‘noise’ is often inaudible, it is very apparent when looking at the wav file.
By the time audio is edited and amplified, and run through the radio station’s audio chain, several of my reports sounded distorted to the end user.
And that’s a fatal flaw.
My testing was done with both Airplane Mode On, and off, with similar results.
The digital noise problem is not Blue Microphone’s alone — I experienced the same phenomenon with Tascam iM2.
So, as of now, I have not found a plug-in microphone that improves the sound of iPhone’s built-in mic, without adding other complications.
I’m open to suggestions.
How to turn your iPhone into a microphone — a guide for newsmakers and public relations professionals.
"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.
Simple, easy, effective.
Why I WON’T be using my new iPhone microphone I had high hopes for the new Tascam iM2 microphone — $79, compatible with iPhone 4s, iPads, iPods, looks cool, easy to operate out of the box. But after two days of field testing it, I’m not feeling it. Unfortunately, at least when used with my standard audio and video editing apps (VeriCorder AudioPro and1stVideo) the audio file has too much “digital noise.” While the noise is almost indiscernible with headphones or a speaker, by the time it’s multiplied by the radio station’s audio processing chain, the end user is bombarded with a fluttering or motorboating sound that obscures the desired audio. Outdoors, the iM2 (like many iPhone mics) is susceptible to wind noise. However, with its digital noise problems, a juryrigged windscreen isn’t going to help enough. Even in the best possible recording conditions, several coworkers agree it doesn’t have the range of response that the built-in microphone does. It sounds flat. Since my job in the field is to bring listeners to the scene, losing the ambience is a problem. So, for now I’m back to the built-in microphone and the ongoing search for something better. (Update: As of 6/2013, AudioPro and 1stVideo have been replaced by Voddio)
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?
Can you tell a photo shot with iPhone 4 from one taken with the new 4s? Megapixels aren’t everything but the 4s has 8mp, the earlier model has 5. (Roll over each photo for the answer)
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.
I’m trying to improve the sound/look of my webcam stuff — I’m tired of having my headset in the shot. This A-B test compares the sound of the Logitech C-910 with the sound of the Blue Yeti. I’m finding the Yeti sounds best when worked within about 3 inches. Unfortunately, I can’t get quite that close without the Yeti getting in the shot. So, I’m splitting the difference — raising the Yeti as close to my mouth as possible, and still having it out of camera range.