Following the record-breaking success of Serial, many news organisations have started experimenting with audio storytelling. And as podcasts are making a comeback on all fronts, these experiments have been covering topics from the US presidential election to more specialised investigations.
Some radio programmes and podcasts, including Serial, have also taken to Facebook as a way to share audio clips and connect with the audience where they are.
Meanwhile, CNN and the Washington Post have created audio projects using voicemail as a medium for collecting stories and engaging with their audiences.
Love Story is CNN's first social media experiment with audio. It kicked off in January, as Masuma Ahuja, social producer for CNN, and Ashley Codianni, CNN director of social publishing, had been looking for ways to gather and showcase love stories in the run up to Valentine's Day.
"When you do it over voicemail, it's really intimate and personal, but it's also not as terrifying and doesn't put the same spotlight on someone like video does," Codianni told Journalism.co.uk in a recent podcast.
"You have a captive audience and you know the person on the other side is going to be listening, but there's also no judgement in that moment," Ahuja added. "You don't see someone's face responding to you, you don't feel like anyone's looking at you, you just know this is a space where you can tell your story."
To spread the news about the project, Codianni and Ahuja started by distributing flyers in different locations around the United States.
As more people have found out about it, they have been contributing by leaving voicemails to tell their stories, but also by sharing pictures of the flyers and the hashtag on social media.
The anonymous messages left by members of the audience are uploaded to Soundcloud and shared on Twitter, at @hellolovestory.
A selection of voicemails will be published in an interactive on CNN.com, together with video animations, but the team is hoping to continue and expand the project throughout 2016.
"It's crowdsourscing and being able to tell a story differently, but it's also something that is very personal and emotional, and gives our audience a way to relate to other humans," Codianni said.
"But I think the best part about the project is how it's really bringing an online community together.
"There's so much noise on the internet and this is something we can all connect to and feel," Ahuja added, "so it's nice to stop and take a listen."
Previously, Ahuja helped create a similar project at the Washington Post. She and Julia Carpenter, social embedded editor at the Post, launched ThisYearILearned in 2014.
The Tumblr voicemail experiment asked people to leave messages about their milestones and what they had learned, as a way to sum up their year around the holiday season.
Every year, we have asked for stories about what you have learned – about life, about change, about love and about yourself. Instead of asking you to fill out a form or tweet us your thoughts, we want to collect your stories and reflections as voicemails. To leave us a message, call in to (314) 643-6152. When prompted, leave us a message: all we need is your name and the story you want to share. We will share your calls at thisyearilearned.tumblr.com.
"There are some advantages when you leave a voicemail – there is a prompt before you do that, instead of just recording a voice memo or sending something into the void," said Carpenter, who has continued to run the project for the past two years.
"But it's also just a really familiar behaviour, people are used to leaving voicemails, dialling a number, waiting, composing themselves before they do that, so we wanted to tap into that familiarity."
The initial entries for ThisYearILearned came from the Post's newsroom, before the team started promoting it on the outlet's Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr accounts.
The similarities between the stories, sentiments and lessons people have shared are "striking", Carpenter said. Some recurring themes in the voicemails have been living in the moment, breaking out of one's comfort zone and reconnecting with family or friends.
"Something I learned from this project is that asking something more specific would maybe yield a variety of responses.
"We were trying different prompts in the subsequent months after the first success in 2014, asking people to share stories about fears that they'd conquered or stories about inspiration, and I think trying to blend some of them into the project would be something fun to try."
Listen to the full podcast with Ahuja, Codianni and Carpenter below:
Free daily newsletter
- Washington Post releases year-in-review feature for subscribers
- From Reuters to The New York Times, Big Oil pays 'most trusted media brands' to push greenwashing
- 38 mojo apps from BBC trainer Marc Blank-Settle
- What do audiences need from climate journalism?
- The Washington Post discovers an engaged gaming audience