Integrating Audio with Other Content
One of the best things about audio programming is that it can be used to supplement and support other output. In your campaign strategy you may have print products – ad space in newspapers, or flyers and brochures – and events, such as public meetings. Audio can support and amplify all of these – it can repeat and reinforce your print content, it can be a feature at an event, or can extend the event by recording it and making this documentation a feature of future media output.
The term that new media strategists use to describe this integration is ‘multiple platforms’ – this refers to the ability to put your message or content out via as many routes as possible at the same time, online and offline: playing a recording via local and even national broadcasters can be augmented by also making the recording available online as a podcast download, as a streaming Web file, as a transcript, and even with video and photo clips, all linked with easy-to-navigate Web links. All of these platforms mutually reinforce and benefit each other – they literally amplify your message. In on-air radio programming, mixing audience participation with audio recordings is also a powerful way to engage and involve people in your campaign or advocacy programme. Your target audience can be encouraged to call in to a live programme
and have their say – and if well-planned, this format can complement pre-recorded and in-studio content.
Here’s a checklist of things to consider while planning your audio project.
Producing informative and entertaining audio is an effective way of reaching different audiences. People like to listen to other people and new situations – whether it is via radio, online or in person. Rural audiences use radio more than any other medium, particularly if it is in their own local language; people who are not literate also find audio a powerful way of finding out information and learning; and increasingly youth who have internet access are ‘switched on’ to online audio.
The cost of making audio is relatively low. It involves access to a digital recorder, and then access to software for editing the sounds into a distributable piece – and both these resources can be shared, and accessed by each producer on a temporary basis. It is also possible to record sound using old style analogue tape recorders (such as a Sony Walkman, which records onto cassettes) and feed this analogue sound into a computer, which converts it into digital sounds for editing. You can learn how to do this and more in the guide to using Audacity on the Message in-a-box website under Audio.
Audacity is the free and open source audio editing software featured in this toolkit. It can record and edit audio. You might use Audacity for recording sounds, like interviews or music. You can then use Audacity to combine these sounds and edit them to make documentaries, music, podcasts etc. Time and duration
Audio pieces normally range in length from 30 seconds (the length of most radio or TV ads) to five minutes (the length of most news items on a radio programme). Documentaries and longer features, however, may be up to half an hour in length or more. The time needed to make an audio piece can be calculated approximately as an hour for every five minutes of broadcast time, but of course this varies enormously with the nature of the piece and the experience of the maker/s.
Skill levels required
For gathering audio, simply being able to get the sound right – through listening to your interviewee and adjusting sound levels as they speak – is all that is required. Most community radio volunteers learn to record sound well within a few days of practice. The editing stage requires a higher skill level, but it is also increasingly accessible to the beginner.
The ‘1 hour for every 5 broadcast minutes’ rule is not a scientific assessment but one based on many radio producers’ experience. At least half of this time is spent sourcing and recording the piece, along with going through the content and making decisions about what to use and what to leave out, and then additional time distributing it to listeners.