The Belgian audio designers have put some extra fizz into Champagne FM
When I started out in radio, the idea of being able to record, edit and send audio back to the head office within a couple hours would have been laughable, but with smartphones — well, here we are.
Radio journalists began using smartphones for work years before their TV peers, because onboard microphones have been good enough to record broadcast-quality audio since third-generation iPhones in 2009.
Nowadays, there are a host of apps created specifically for radio and podcast reporters. So, what are the must-haves? Here are some of my top recommendations, which I shared recently with participants during UNESCO’s Remote Radio Week.
- Audio recording: Voice Record Pro (iOS / Android) — Free
Most phones have a native audio recording app like Voice Memo, but Voice Record Pro was designed with audio professionals in mind. You can choose to record in .WAV or .MP3 and adjust the sampling frequency and bit depth. On iPhones, the app offers extra options like automatic transcription.
- Audio recording and editing: Ferrite (iOS only) — Free; Pro version: US$29.99 (about €25.70)
Ferrite lets you record audio and edit it with a full-featured multi-track audio editor. You can add trim and mix, create fades and pans and import audio clips from other apps. Also, with the ability to add cover art, show notes and lyrics, you can turn audio into a podcast and file it to iCloud or a cloud server, all within the app.
The pro version gives you access to eight-channel recording, an 8-band EQ, noise gating and dynamic range compression, plus the ability to create templates, automatic ducking, silence removal and an “auto-leveling” tool.
- Call recording: Skype (iOS/Android) — Free
Zoom captured the video-call spotlight during the pandemic, which may have surprised those of us who’ve been using Skype for years. So, you may have forgotten — or never have known — that Skype offers call recording within the app. Either party to a call can select “Start Recording,” and both parties will see the recording as a video in their chat history.
Once you finish the call, you open Skype on a desktop and download your video as an .MP4 file. You can extract the audio of the recording by importing the file into paid software like Adobe Premiere Pro or the free editing program Audacity.
- File Transfers: Send Anywhere (iOS/Android) — Free
Lots of radio journalists use WhatsApp to receive audio, and while that’s fine if your guest doesn’t have time to download an app and your broadcast operators don’t mind compressed files, there are better options if you need uncompressed audio.
Send Anywhere is a free file transfer app that works on iOS and Android phones as well as on Mac and PCs. You can use it to share a whopping 10GB per transfer, and it will happily scoop up and send images, video, audio and text. Once the app is open, select the files you want to send, and tap “Share Link.” This generates a URL that your recipient can use to access and download the files to their device from the cloud.
- File Transfers: Telegram (iOS/Android) — Free
Telegram is WhatsApp’s closest rival, and a little-known feature of the app is that it can be used to send full-sized files of up to 2GB. Unlike WhatsApp, no compression is applied, and there is no limit to the number of files that can be sent.
- Podcasting: Anchor (iOS/Android) — Free
Anchor has been around for a few years, so the fact that it allows you to publish a podcast from your phone without having to get to grips with the confusing world of RSS feeds may not be news to most. However, the app’s purchase by Spotify in 2019 has made what was already a brilliant app into something truly phenomenal.
You can record up to four guests on a single call, trim and edit tracks, and add music, all within the app. Music options include Spotify tracks, your own music and sound effects. The app will publish your show to key aggregators — Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and more — and there’s even a built-in cover art creator. Integration with Spotify has meant access to good analytics, and Anchor Sponsorships open an avenue to monetizing your show.
Of course, smartphones are also a great video and photography production tool, and there are dozens of apps for multimedia storytelling to choose from. If you want to discover more of them, I have written the Mobile Journalism Manual, which has a whole chapter devoted to apps for every aspect of multimedia storytelling.
The author is director of the Digital Skills Agency, which provides training and consultancy to newsrooms, NGOs and businesses globally on mobile journalism, social media, multimedia and digital-first strategy. Her clients include WAN-IFRA, the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, Thomson Reuters Foundation and BBC Media Action.