Pop Up Archive: A partner in production

The Stoop is a forthcoming podcast from Hana Baba, Leila Day, and Julie Caine that tackles oft-ignored aspects of race and identity. They describe the project as “a space where fun, funk, and journalism come together in a podcast that’ll go deep into topics about black identity that aren’t openly discussed.”

Continue reading

Celebrating TryPod one listener at a time

TryPod is a recent effort hatched by industry executives to combat “podcast unawareness.” The goal of TryPod is to grow the overall podcast audience by encouraging people to share their favorite podcasts with those who don’t yet listen.

In 2016, 24 percent of Americans (67 million people) listened to a podcast in the past month, up three percent from 2015, according to last week’s Infinite Dial report from Edison Research.

Nancy Mills is a resident of Washington DC. She’s 67 and retired, and she’s a podcast power listener who is celebrating TryPod in a serious way. We spoke to Nancy about her listening habits and what she’s learned about how to be an effective podcast evangelist.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become a podcast listener?

My daughter encouraged me to try it, but I don’t remember how I actually got started. Lots of hunting and clicking I think. Continue reading

Innovating new forms of audio storytelling

We’re delighted to share that we’re partnering with BuzzFeed and Stitcher to host Come and Play, a two-day audio storytelling hackathon where artists, storytellers, producers, developers, designers, and others will come together to find new and fun ways to tell stories with audio.

Participants will quickly prototype new tools for interacting with sound. They’ll also be treated to lightning talks from amazing speakers, including Lo Bénichou (Wired), Jenny Radelet (Stitcher), Avery Trufelman (99% Invisible), Kawandeep Virdee (Medium), BuzzFeed Audio’s Ahmed Ali Akbar (See Something Say Something) and Tracy Clayton (Another Round), and Audiosear.ch’s very own Bailey Smith.

When: May 13 and 14th
Where: BuzzFeed San Francisco (989 Market Street, one block from the Powell Street station)

If you love audio and want to play around with new ways of using technology to tell and share stories, sign up to participate!

Please note that signing up for the Hackathon does not ensure enrollment. Unfortunately, we have limited space and will be selecting candidates based on need for various skill sets. You will be notified if your application has been approved by April 14. Please let us know if you have specific travel requirements that may necessitate an earlier response date.

We’re excited to start playing. Sign up here.

Come and Play is sponsored by BuzzFeed and Stitcher, in cahoots with PRX.

 

 

See you in the archive,

The Pop Up Archive team

Creating an audio montage from 50+ hours of tape

Source: Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Presidential primaries are a huge deal everywhere, but they garner particular importance in states like New Hampshire, where their early timing positions them as bellwethers of what is to come. 2016 was one of the most contentious and protracted elections cycles yet, and New Hampshire Public Radio wanted to produce as much excellent primary coverage as they could — and make sure their primary night coverage was picked up by other stations across the country that were also following the race closely. Continue reading

CastNinja: a desktop alternative to iTunes

CastNinja is a new web app by Jesse Morris that uses the Audiosearch API. 

Jesse Morris is a big podcast fan. He tries to expose himself to a broad range of topics that interest him, and he’s fascinated by podcasts as a form of unregulated media that can address something as inane as socks or as elaborate as French Revolutionary history.

Jesse is also a software developer, and while he typically uses an app on his phone to listen to podcasts, sometimes he wants to listen on the web to avoid running his battery down. He used to use iTunes, but stopped after he switched to using his Android device for music and podcasts. He found that it was difficult to find a good replacement for desktop listening — so he decided to create his own, CastNinja, using the Audiosear.ch API.

Finding the Audiosear.ch API was a happy piece of luck for Jesse: he was looking for an API that provided metadata and MP3 source information for podcasts, and he happened upon a thread on StackOverflow that mentioned Audiosear.ch. He read the developer documentation and went from there.

“I looked at other tools but didn’t find any great candidates… Audiosear.ch was easy to use and provided all the metadata and hosting information I needed — and it was very easy to get it up and running quickly.”

CastNinja’s user interface is deliberately simple. It provides an interface for seeing top shows and the ability to create an account and subscribe, but doesn’t it push alerts to you. Jesse says he designed it more in the model of Twitter, where you follow a podcast and see the latest episodes. Users can also see popular shows they might be interested in, and create playlists to listen to.

Jesse says he found the Audiosear.ch API intuitive and easy to use. “I looked at other tools but didn’t find any great candidates. iTunes was one option, but I’ve read that their API is poorly designed and difficult. SoundCloud was another possibility, but their API is focused on embedding their player as opposed to permitting access to metadata. Audiosear.ch was easy to use and provided all the metadata and hosting information I needed — and it was very easy to get it up and running quickly.”

CastNinja started as a desktop solution to podcast listening, but — once all the functionality is in place — Jesse would like to develop a mobile app as well. While the app wouldn’t initially add any new bells and whistles, he’s keeping an eye toward what it would take to scale, and what the next steps might be in terms of growing and responding to his user base.

Try CastNinja here, or give the Audiosearch API a whirl yourself!

See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team

TriPod podcast celebrates New Orleans’ past

Weatherbeaten wharves in New Orleans. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

To celebrate the tricentennial of New Orleans, WWNO — the NPR member station for New Orleans and the 13 parishes of southeast Louisiana — wanted to create something intimate and rich that captured the history of the city in a meaningful way. The result is “TriPod: New Orleans at 300,” a unique on-air program (and podcast) that, over the course of three years, celebrates the city’s past through short, documentary-style episodes.

Laine Kaplan-Levenson is the host and producer of TriPod. TriPod’s 10-minute episodes air bi-weekly, and each one is its own mini history documentary. A recent two-part episode (I, II) for example, told the story of a World War II internment camp called Camp Algiers that housed Europeans who the United States thought might be Nazis.

Laine produces the show on her own, but she has an auxiliary team of historians, professors, and museum curators who help her identify the stories behind some of the city’s most compelling pieces of history. Each month they sit down to discuss different topics to cover. After selecting the topic for the next show, Laine reaches out to people to start interviewing. As the sole producer, she knew she would need to rely on tools in order to keep up with the bi-weekly schedule, so rather than transcribe tape by hand — as she has done in the past — she signed up for Pop Up Archive. Continue reading

Streamlining the Mortified production process

A participant in a Mortified stage show. Source: Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Teen angst. Embarrassing moments. Cringe-worthy choices. These experiences are the bread and butter of Mortified, the stage show and podcast that encourages ordinary people to “share the shame” of their childhood writing.

Dave Nadelberg founded Mortified in 2002, and today runs it alongside his producing partner, Neil Katcher. Together they help produce stage shows in 20 cities across the United States and the world — and transform a curated selection of those stories into three monthly podcasts. They use Pop Up Archive to automatically transcribe and tag tape in the editing process. Continue reading

Using Pop Up Archive to bring broadcast stories to digital communities

“Pop Up has been a way to make our process more efficient and allow ourselves to put more online, which is more sustainable for our staff and better for Vermont Public Radio as an organization.” —Angela Evancie, VPR Digital Editor for News

Angela Evancie is the digital editor for news at Vermont Public Radio. She facilitates online stories for VPR’s website, repurposing broadcast news for the web and overseeing special web-only projects such as data visualizations, interactive features, and videos (like this nifty explainer about the Iowa Caucus from 2016).

Most of any public radio station’s content is conceived of as an on-air (audio) product; the digital editor’s job is to make sure that the station is also serving online audiences, who are reading or interacting with the story in ways other than listening. Angela and her colleagues at VPR use a Pop Up Archive team account to transform on-air pieces into written content for the VPR website.

Source: Vermont Public Radio

VPR has three daily news magazines — Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Vermont Edition — and short interviews from each of these shows often find a second life as online articles.

A typical process starts with the radio broadcast being uploaded to Pop Up Archive. Sometimes, VPR editors take advantage of the fact that they’re publishing online as an opportunity to post a longer version of the original piece.  “After we get the transcript from Pop Up Archive, then it then gets edited. If we’re keeping the online piece in an interview format, we’ll just edit it for accuracy. Other times, we’ll rework the transcript into an article format,” Angela says. Next, the article is posted to VPR’s content management system, given art and final polish, and published to the web. A few recent examples that went through Angela’s team to be republished as content for online readers include a story on a children’s book about coping with death, an interview with author Chris Bohjalian, and an interview with Vermont’s new attorney general.

VPR also leveraged Pop Up Archive in the weeks leading up to the general election. The station conducted interviews with all of the major and third party candidates running for statewide office: 24 interviews in total. The interviews occurred over several weeks and aired in different shows and segments. In order for the web content to be valuable to readers and voters, VPR wanted to package the interviews in such a way that their audience could do side-by-side comparisons of the candidates on specific issues. They used Pop Up Archive to transcribe the interviews and repackaged the interview highlights into a comprehensive voters’ guide. “The content was among our most successful in 2016, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Pop Up,” Angela said.

The process of transforming broadcast content into web content is one that occurs at VPR almost daily. But when Angela started at VPR three years ago, its web operations team was much less robust, and the process of translating on-air content into web content happened much less frequently. Each time they wanted to share a written version of a piece online, Angela or another producer would have to do their own transcription by hand.

Pop Up Archive has been an important tool for the station as its appetite to do more online, while being realistic about resource and time constraints, has grown. “Pop Up has been a way to make our process more efficient and allow ourselves to put more online, which is more sustainable for our staff and better for Vermont Public Radio as an organization,” Angela says.

See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team

Analyzing audio with free speech-to-text models from Pop Up Archive

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

An emerging archival speech technology project is underway at the University of Texas at Austin, and its inspiration comes from a piece of software called ARLO that was developed to analyze an entirely different form of aural communication: bird song.

Called HiPSTAS (High Performance Sound Technologies for Access and Scholarship), the project is a collection of software tools and communication channels to help researchers access and analyze archival spoken word collections — for example, by analyzing audio spectrograms to identify particular traits such as pitch, tone, and speed. HiPSTAS was founded by Tanya Clement, an associate professor at the UT-Austin School of Information, along with collaborators at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The group has received several grants since its founding in 2012, including two from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The ability to search archival spoken word recordings along multiple parameters has powerful implications for historical research and literary scholarship. While digital sound recordings are increasingly available to scholars, searching through the files for discernible patterns is time-intensive and cost-prohibitive.

Stephen McLaughlin is a research assistant and PhD student in Information Studies at UT-Austin and a contributor to HiPSTAS. Steve is currently working with WGBH and Pop Up Archive on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, part of which entails a massive effort to use machine learning to identify notable speakers’ voices (for example, Martin Luther King, Jr.) from within AAPB’s 70,000 digitized audio and video recordings. As part of the AAPB project, Pop Up Archive transcribed the entirety of the AAPB and released free models for the open source speech-to-text software Kaldi, with the intention that the models could be used to enable other audio collections to be transcribed and thus searchable.

“The language models Pop Up Archive has assembled are more accurate, and do a way better job of identifying proper nouns, than other tools I’ve seen.”

While testing potentially useful tools to combine with HiPSTAS, Steve downloaded Pop Up Archive’s free models. “The language models Pop Up Archive has assembled are more accurate, and do a way better job of identifying proper nouns, than other tools I’ve seen,” said Steve. “The other exciting thing is that those models can be extended. I can take the model, transcribe a recording or correct its machine transcription, and use that output to make it more accurate for my needs. The flexibility of this system is really exciting.”

Kaldi is free software, released under an MIT License, that can be run on institutional servers, making it a natural choice for libraries, archives, and institutions that have a long-term approach and technical resources to support their projects. This is something Steve has personal experience with: “I’ve seen this happen, where commercial API services are here and gone. So the ability to run Kaldi locally is really an important tool to have in your tool belt. Pop Up Archive is providing a really valuable service by contributing their resources to a project like the Kaldi models.”

As an exercise, Steve recently used Kaldi to run through 80 hours of recordings by the poet Robert Creeley from the PennSound archive, the topic of his undergraduate thesis. Creeley used certain phrases and expressions over and over, such as the word “company” — so Steve searched the Kaldi transcript for every instance of “company” and then generated a supercut, combining the different tones and intonations into a continuous string of audio.

HiPSTAS team members are very interested to share what they’ve learned from their collective experience, and in the coming months Steve plans to publish code demonstrations for other researchers working with archival audio. He’d also like to write about his work with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting to identify speakers in large audio collections. Finally, he intends to run a workshop covering his work with Kaldi at one or more conferences later this year.

Anyone currently working on archival sound projects can access HiPSTAS’ preliminary release of tools called the Audio Tagging Toolkit. You can also download Pop Up Archive’s Kaldi models on Github.

See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team

Find new listens with Alexa’s “Magic Podcast”


Amazon Echo digital personal assistant. Source: Flickr.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just tell someone, “Find me a podcast about science,” and they’d do it immediately? With the Amazon Echo digital personal assistant Alexa, you can.

Erik McBeth is the developer of the Alexa skill called Magic Podcast, which uses the Audiosear.ch API to find and play podcasts based on title or subject matter. This means you can simply say, “Play Fresh Air” — or whatever your podcast of choice is — and the newest episode of that podcast will begin. Even cooler, Magic Podcast can also be used as a discovery tool. Discover podcasts by subject area by asking Alexa to “Find a podcast about food,” or “Find a podcast about business.” Magic, indeed.

Erik got the idea for Magic Podcast after developing another Alexa skill called Magic Jukebox that allows users to stream SoundCloud music on their Amazon Echo. The most complicated part of the skill — responding to requests to pause, start, and skip tracks — was written during the Magic Jukebox development cycle. All Erik needed to adapt it for podcasts was to find an API that could plug into his existing infrastructure.

“So far so awesome. Don’t need to subscribe to anything. Say the name of the podcast and it plays the most recent episode. Simple.” — an Alexa Magic Podcast skill user

He looked at a few different options, including Feed Wrangler and Digital Podcast, as well as others that had seemingly gone defunct. None were a fit, since Erik needed links to actual mp3s served up over HTTPS (Alexa will not play audio from untrusted sources). He also liked the fact that by using Audiosearch’s API he could allow his users the option to play a specific show or look for podcasts on a certain subject.

Users have responded very positively to the skill, commenting on the novelty (“This skill just upped the cool factor of Alexa! Made her more functional for me.”) and simplicity (“So far so awesome. Don’t need to subscribe to anything. Say the name of the podcast and it plays the most recent episode. Simple.”) Erik has many plans for adding to the skill in the future, such as allowing users to save favorites or screen out podcasts they prefer not to listen to.

For now, users are simply enjoying the ability to add podcast functionality to their Echo experience. Have an Echo? Enable the “Magic Podcast” skill here. Or take the Audiosear.ch API for a spin yourself!
See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team