Making Sounds Social

Media Morph:

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WHAT IT IS: Think of it as Twitter for the spoken word. Or YouTube for podcasts. Either way, AudioBoo is gaining ground as the new social-media experience in the U.K.

It was started by Mark Rock, whose mother was a poet. When she died last year, he realized he didn't have any recordings of her reading her work. All too aware of what he calls the "rich, emotive quality" of audio, Mr. Rock set up the AudioBoo site in March with the help of money from Channel 4 TV, and started selling it as an iPhone app.

Now visitors to the site can hear politicians being interviewed, babies being born, London Marathon runners struggling to reach the finish line, chefs' recipes, photographers' tips and commuters' gripes -- all in sub-five-minute sound bites called "boos."

WHO'S ONBOARD: So far there are 30,000 registered users and 24,000 clips totaling 450 hours of recorded audio, mainly from the U.K. but also from Germany, the U.S. and other countries. And the media are waking up to the potential of online audio. BBC Radio has been using AudioBoo as a supplementary outlet, with DJs competing to become stars of the new medium. The Guardian newspaper linked to AudioBoo for coverage of the G20 summit, and TV station ITV is using it to get close to football fans at the Champions League soccer final in Rome.

Mr. Rock said that at a time when the news industry is threatened, "our aim is to document an age in audio."

THE BUSINESS MODEL: "We haven't made a dime out of it yet," said Mr. Rock. Given that finding ad revenue is a challenge at the moment, the idea is to charge subscription revenue for premium services (such as unlimited recording times) and for professional users. "It gives brands interesting new possibilities to interact with people," he said.

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