Quick guide to the relaunched Anchor: reinventing the radio format

You may remember Anchor: it started as a sound-based social network where users could start discussions that others could chime in on. A kind of long-form Twitter, but with voice instead of text. I remember getting involved with some discussions started by Bruce Houghton, from Hypebot, but people’s interest soon waned and many of us moved on.

So the startup went back to the drawing board and re-envisioned its service, relaunching with a complete overhaul last week. It now allows users to include music in their audio stories and aims to “completely reinvent the radio format by making it easy for anyone to easily broadcast high quality audio from your phone, to wherever audio is heard.”

Screenshots of the relaunched Anchor 2.0

My first impressions

I paused writing in order to do my first show on Anchor (listen now) in order to get more familiar with the service. You can check it out for my first impressions on the call-ins feature, which allows station hosts to let other people get some airtime, the ephemerality, as well as some thoughts about Anchor as a place for music curation.

Expires in 24 hours, so you may be hearing something else by now.

After playing around with the app a bit more, checking out some of the content, including Cherie Hu’s, I’ve come to revisit my first impressions.

Anchor is like Instagram for audio

Instagram lets people share moments from their lives. It’s used by professionals and amateurs. Some content is more social and some is not. And with the introduction of Instagram Stories, a lot of the content has become ephemeral. That’s exactly what Anchor is, or could be, but for audio content.

While I was initially skeptical of Anchor’s ephemerality, it may be an upside: it reduces the hurdle for sharing content and stimulates creators to deliver content in a bite-size format. People can use it to record their day and share their experiences, like music tech blogger Cherie Hu is doing at SXSW, while others use it as an extension of their professional podcasts or YouTube channels.

When someone calls in, it can be added to the station, after which it lives for another 24 hours. The host needs to take into account that whatever the caller might be responding to is not available anymore by the time their audience checks it, but that can be easily mitigated by adding a short “So yesterday I asked how people feel about fainting goats, and here’s what some of you had to say!”

As people add new audio, it’s added to their stories similar to what Snapchat (or Instagram) do in their apps.

The Instagram analogy extends:

  • station can be seen as a profile
  • Pressing favorite is akin to following
  • Calling-in is like tweeting & featuring a call-in is like retweeting

It seems Anchor may be able to deliver upon Soundcloud-founder Alexander Ljung’s vision of the web becoming a more audible medium, with sound possibly becoming bigger than video:

“Sound is one of the only mediums that can be consumed completely while multitasking, so it has the potential to do so much more on the web than it’s already doing.”

So forget the radio lingo: Anchor is still a sound-based social network and it’s pretty awesome.

Experiment with it. Develop a format. Then ping me on Twitter, so I can check it out.