The Guardian’s Multimedia section has hundreds of audio slideshows, from both The Guardian and The Observer, on all manner of topics. Art and design, books, business, culture, environment, film, life and style, music, photography, travel, UK news and world news. But when the site also includes video and podcasts, are audio slideshows useful enough at storytelling?
With my first example, the interviewer has collated photos of Southern Sudanese students being asked what their high school dreams are and set this to a slideshow to match the audio of their answers. This got me thinking about the differences in answers depending on how the journalist is recording. I find that some people I interview are against the use of my dictaphone (very annoying since I neglected to learn shorthand) but that knowing I have only my scribbles to rely on, they feel they can talk more freely. Others first look at the dictaphone with fear but then forget it is there, 5 minutes into their answers.
This must be taken one step further when video recording is introduced – especially subjects who aren’t used to talking to camera e.g. southern Sudanese high school students (I imagine). So audio slideshows give us both a visual sense of the subject via the slideshow of photos and their fairly free answers via the audio.
My second example is The Observer New Review’s month in photography. An audio slideshow is a less obvious choice for a purely visual type of story. An image is an image surely? But actually watching the slideshow, set to music, makes for much more relaxing viewing than endlessly scrolling or clicking through images. It allows the viewer/listener/user to expand their attention span considerably and imitates a lean-backward style of viewing more like settling down to some TV than leaning forward to speed through the excess of whatever content you’re consuming.
So, already we can see two reasons why audio slideshows have not been consigned to the graveyard of the web: better content and a better user experience. Not too shabby.