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Audio first: Nordic social interactions in the year of the pandemic

Audio first: Nordic social interactions in the year of the pandemic

Statistics show we have collectively stigmatized randomly phoning someone up and as a result, over the past decade, the number of texts sent monthly have increased with 7,700% and US smartphones users allegedly receive and respond to 5x more texts than phone calls. We have built handheld walls against direct interactions at the same time as social platforms have moved us into the filtered, scripted and perfected feeds that currently fill our lives in the form of images, videos, audio books and podcasts.

Everyone is a content creator and we showcase and enhance our lives and ourselves in ways we see fit. We compartmentalize and dehumanize both ourselves and others in a hunt for likes and clout.

However, closing in on a year of mainly staying in means we have far less content to perfect and share. Trips. Fine dining. Elaborate bar orders. Gyms. Social gatherings and events. All #canceled. Suddenly we are left with what is at the core. Our thoughts, knowledge and ideas. And the human urge to share them with others, in order to get them (and thus ourselves) validated. 

With single households extremely common in the Nordics (with Sweden and Norway as well as Denmark making it into the top five of all European countries) a huge target group have also seen the amount of other forms of social interaction minimized this year.

Enter the unfiltered version of audio, in this piece simplified into two categories.

1. Catering to lost serendipity / spontaneity 

A good example in the first category is Clubhouse, a “Drop-in audio chat”. Born out of Silicon Valley it recently took its first daring steps out of TestFlight and into the App Store. Having raised $10M from well known investors, despite not even having a website, the way it works is like a huge digital house party where you can pop in and out of rooms in which people are conversing about anything and everything. 

In this form of audio, you can choose to either join in on the conversation or eavesdrop like you would a conversation in public. In previous Townhall’s (a weekly all-welcome chat hosted by the founders) they have braised the subject of a function that lets users record dialogue. However, focus at the moment lies on facilitating live conversations and interactions. 

What sticks out is the unexpected intimacy of voice. The unfiltered thoughts from people you would not otherwise have been in contact with and perspectives you might not ordinarily have, delivered without caution or script. However, on the downside, it’s hard to get up to speed entering a room in the middle of – sometimes several hours into – a conversation and this means the magic is on occasion lost. Other examples in this category are /talk, VoiceHer, and Houseparty.

2. Making everyone a podcaster gives everyone a voice

The second category is more closely tied to the podcast phenomenon, rather than exclusively spun out of social interaction. With listener figures forecasted to grow from 287 million in 2016 to 1.85 billion in 2023 podcasts are already a huge market. Looking at the Nordic countries around a third of the population listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, in the US almost 100M people do per week. However, the way we produce podcasts today is time, energy and cost consuming. Most available platforms for podcasting, such as Spotify, Acast or Apple Podcasts cater to the longer form of podcasts and mainly target professional creators. 

As a result, only 1.7M podcasts exist – globally – out of which roughly a third did not exist when 2020 started.

If we circle back to how technology and platforms made everyone a creator in the first place, and add to that the rising interest in audio, perhaps we are ripe for a new way of podcasting. One of the alternatives is the team behind Logcast. A swedish startup best described as “social podcasting”, which is like a love child of Spotify and Instagram. It lets users record, publish and discover short-form audio updates (mostly under 10 mins), from friends but also from brands and creators. 

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Much like Patreon, Logcast lets people share and monetize e.g. a creative process by letting users log their thoughts or moments in an authentic way – from wherever they are and without the need of a studio setup or editing team – and share it directly with their community. Other examples of startups working on this form of audio are HearMeOut and Storm Inc

So…now what?

Asking one of the founders of Logcast, Leni Andronicos to share her thoughts on what we are in store for in terms of audio/social her response is:

“The next 10 years will see the emergence of community networks, platforms designed with an ease of creation, mirroring the ebb and flow of real conversations and the way we communicate with each other in real life. We all have valuable perspectives, experiences, expertise that can be expressed creatively — a creative process, an experience, knowledge, interesting thoughts. And we are excited to be part of this new breed of social networks.”


What other alternatives are there (preferably #NordicMade) on the audio trend and how do you see yourself using them?

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