This American Life, the weekly hour-long radio programme and podcast produced by WBEZ, has launched Shortcut, a tool for improving the way people are sharing audio on social media.

Shortcut works on both mobile and desktop browsers, so listeners can trim their favourite soundbites from the show's archive of 598 episodes and share them as 30-second videos on Facebook and Twitter.

Stephanie Foo, a producer for This American Life and the project lead for Shortcut, told audio sharing was a challenge she always faced in her six years spent working in public radio, so she decided to do something about it.

"When I worked for Snap Judgement we were a brand new show –I ran our Twitter feed for a while and I saw the challenges that we came up against in trying to share individual stories via Soundcloud and Facebook, and it was always a struggle.

"That became even more difficult when I came to This American Life, because we don't actually separate our stories, it's always just a full hour of content," she explained.

The concept for the tool, which is funded by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund, came out of a hackathon hosted by This American Life last autumn.

For the past year, Foo has been working with creative technology cooperative Field Train as well as other developers and designers to create Shortcut, which will also be open-sourced in the coming months.

The show's episodes have been transcribed and time-coded, so people can jump straight to their chosen quote by scrolling through the text.

They can also preview the audio and edit their selection by dragging the two purple bars left or right, before choosing a background colour for their video, adding a description and posting or downloading it.

This American Life uses a third-party transcription service that speeds up the process, although Foo said the team is working on an open-source version that will be focused on the waveform, for organisations who might not have the time or resources to use transcriptions.

Foo's aim with Shortcut was to make the show, and podcasts in general, more accessible to people who might not be avid listeners or who might not even be aware of the format.

"I felt that sharing for audio was broken. A lot of my friends had never actually listened to my show, or they weren't familiar with podcasts.

"It was difficult to get them to listen because you can't say 'hey, I have a really funny clip in this story, here's the link but you can fast forward to 15:45 to listen to it'... none of my friends wanted to do that.

"Public radio and podcasts to a certain extent, have a sort of specific niche audience, so I wanted to really get it out across the board, diversify our audience, and make it easier to share something to social media."

Other public radio stations have experimented with making audio more shareable and to improve engagement with podcasts.

Earlier this year, NPR partnered with Facebook for a beta audio player that turned audio posts into audio books, and WNYC has recently open-sourced its Audiogram tool, which works in a similar way to Shortcut.

The project has received positive feedback since it went live on 11 October and new episodes from the show will be added to Shortcut every week.

This American Life has already used it to promote its latest episode, My Undesirable Talent, on Facebook and Twitter, and listeners are using the tool to share individual anecdotes from it, Foo said.

"It's being shared in a way that I've never seen any of our episodes be shared before and it's really thrilling."

If you're interested in using Shortcut for your podcast or audio show, get in touch with the team by emailing and make sure you check out these other tools for making audio more shareable, including Anchor and Tapewrite.

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