Audio to video: Keep audiograms short and compelling

This month for Innovation in Focus we explored audio to video tools. Audiograms can be a great tool to engage with readers by transforming audio stories into visual content. Rachel Thomas spoke with Podcast Producer Amy Eason about her role at CNN Digital and how they utilize audiograms to engage with their audiences. 

Amy Eason

Amy Eason’s team produces ongoing podcasts at CNN such as “The Forecast Fest” and “CNN Town Halls & Debates” and series such as “Election 2000: Over/Time.” She pilots and develops new audio content and consults on CNN’s podcast portfolio and audio strategy. Photo courtesy of Amy Eason

Thomas: How many podcasts does CNN currently produce and what topics do they cover?

Eason: We currently have 19 podcasts in regular production. Our portfolio is a mix of Show Podcasts, which are audio-only versions of our most popular TV shows (like “Anderson Cooper 360” and “Cuomo Prime Time”); Political Briefings (“The Point with Chris Cillizza” and “The Daily DC”); and Original Podcasts (“Boss Files with Poppy Harlow” and “The Forecast Fest”). In addition, we produce several series throughout the year, like the three I mentioned previously as well as “Apollo 11: Beyond the Moon” and “RBG: Beyond Notorious,” to name just a few.

Thomas: What are the building blocks of a CNN audiogram?

Eason: The most important element of any audiogram is the pull quote we decide to use. Yes, the image we include needs to be eye-catching and also easily recognized as being associated with our brand, but ultimately a good audiogram starts with compelling audio. Another key ingredient is brevity. We try to keep our audiograms in the 45-second range, but definitely under a minute in length.

Thomas: How does CNN utilize audiograms? 

Eason: We use audiograms as a marketing tool to promote our individual podcasts and the CNN Podcast brand overall. Our Original Podcasts, Political Briefings and Series have their own style. Our hosts are often more laid-back and conversational than what you might see when you tune into CNN on TV, and we aim our content toward a younger audience. So, one of the things that audiograms help us do is distinguish that voice from what’s on TV.

Thomas: What platforms and audiences are your audiograms created for?

Eason: Research has shown that social media is one of the top ways that listeners discover new podcasts. My team has decided to focus on Twitter as our primary platform for sharing content and attracting new listeners to CNN podcasts. So, we create audiograms almost exclusively for Twitter. In terms of our target audience, we’re not just making content for our core CNN audience, we’re also trying to reach an audience who wants to consume CNN content, but maybe doesn’t have cable or watch TV very often. So, we see audiograms as a way of getting our podcasts in front of those consumers.

Thomas: What do you think the main benefits are of newsrooms or journalists using audiograms?

Eason: There are so many podcasts out there, and it can often be challenging to cut through the competition. What audiograms uniquely do, is allow us to take a slice of an episode and make it easily consumable. The more barriers to listening that we can remove, the better.

Thomas: What tools do you use to create audiograms? What works and doesn’t work for you?

Eason: My Production Assistant Emma Seslowsky uses a program called Headliner to create the audiograms. She begins with the artwork for the podcast we’re promoting, and pairs that with the audio clip that we want to feature. Then she adds a waveform layer and, finally, transcribed text of the audio. We’ve found Headliner to be an easy and reliable program to use, and it fulfills our objectives for quickly turning around short, shareable audio content. 

Thomas: How do you measure your success?

Eason: Engagement is our primary measurement of success for audiograms, so on Twitter we look at impressions. Our most successful audiograms have achieved impressions in the six figures.

Thomas: For newsrooms who want to try audiograms, what are the first steps they should take?

Eason: My recommendations would be to find a program that allows you to easily and quickly create audiograms, and then give yourself the freedom to experiment. Keep them short — ideally under a minute — and use compelling audio, but play around with the tone until you find a style that fits your brand.

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