Innovation in audio, the missing path in the media

Never, as today, has such a broad catalog of experiences and sound content been found. There is a podcast for every taste, audio book collections, movies with IMAX or Dolby Atmos ( surround sound) technology, and video games using Virtual Reality (VR) that have a strong sound and immersive component. From cinema to music, from video games to the arts, sound has been gaining prominence, especially in media that are not purely audio – the queen in this field is still radio.

In this multiplatform and ubiquitous universe, audio has been the bet: see the Portuguese examples of newspapers Público and Expressothat have contents in podcast, or the American newspaper The New York Times, which not only uses audio for journalistic content, but also acquired the Serial Productions, the company responsible for the production of investigative journalism podcasts Serial e S-Town . And this brings us to the question: Why does it matter to innovate in sound formats?

The opportunity to innovate in audio has become more and more attractive, both in terms of production and distribution, namely through digital platforms and smart speakers.

In terms of content, it becomes interesting to think about how a narrative that is not visual can attract the listener and how sound can be used to create immersion. There are several paths to these questions, but two of them involve, first, the construction of the content that is to be presented. It is important that it adds value to the listener through its narrative or its format since there is no visual support; and second, by the type of sound that is used.

Mono and stereo audio are the most common, but in recent decades spatial audio, namely binaural sound, has gained a new dimension in journalistic narratives and content production. This type of three-dimensional sound is increasingly used in podcasts and has been occasionally applied in journalistic content of public radio stations such as the BBC (UK), Radio France (France), Lab (Spain) or Antena 1 (Portugal).

These sound experiences and the growing consumption of podcasts (point out the data from Reuters Institute Digital Report of the last three years) indicate that we live in the “golden phase of sound”: Today it is possible to listen to a protein from the new coronavirus or experience all the three-dimensional soundscapes of the Disneyland park without ever having visited him. All because innovation in sound can be made on a more technological side, through content such as Data Sonification or binaural sound, or on a narrative side, with a bet on radio soap operas, audio dramas, or stories with a strong sound component.

This is how the importance of audio has been growing – both in technology and in storytelling – because it allows the media to create or enhance journalistic content through sound, and to give the listener the opportunity to consume content that is different from visual or written, an immersion made only with sound stimuli or the spoken word. This path is taken in sound innovation, increasingly interesting and enticing, lacking the media, especially radio, the etymologically sound medium.