FL#175: Shortcut from This American Life

Sharing audio with a new tool called Shortcut

A new tool called Shortcut from This American Life allows listeners to share clips from episodes of This American Life. Users can select text from episode transcripts, which the app turns into short videos that can be downloaded or posted to social media.

Reporting by Hailey Godburn

For more information:

  • Shortcut is a web app that works on desktop and mobile.
  • The team refers to the short videos created by the app as “audio gifs.”
  • The idea for Shortcut came from a hackathon hosted by This American Life in September 2015. About 80 audio journalists and hackers — comprising 30 percent people of color and 50 percent women — came together to brainstorm solutions of how to make podcasts more shareable and digestible.
  • While the primary goal was making audio more shareable, This American Life producer and Shortcut project lead Stephanie Foo says she also hopes it helps attract a bigger and more diverse audience. “We hope that if social media users are inundated with moving, funny or tragic audio snippets from our episodes shared by their friends, they will feel far more compelled to listen to our podcast,” she writes.
  • According to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism — who, along with the Knight Foundation, provided funding for Shortcut — there was a set of questions the team had in mind during the design process. Those questions were:
    • How can we reduce the friction of hearing a great podcast moment and sharing it?
    • How can we support multiple kinds of listening and sharing experiences?
    • How can we guide this tool away from being seen as a generator for promotional materials, and towards a tool for users to express their fandom?
    • How can we do this for a variety of podcasts and listening environments?
  • Shortcut is currently only available for This American Life episodes, but the team plans to release an open-source version in early 2017.

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