February 24, 2003 4:59 PM PST
Dialing for bloggers
The latest trend in the increasingly popular Web log--a personal or professional online diary--is audioblogging, the posting of audio clips instead of or alongside text entries. In addition to providing a new means of keeping bloggers' fans up to date, the audioblog is inspiring software developers and start-ups to raise a whole new crop of tools and services.
Along with audioblogging, plain-text blogging is undergoing a subtle transformation as people begin to use their cell phones and other mobile devices to send written updates to their Web logs. This technique is sometimes called "moblogging," short for mobile blogging.
One application developer said moblogging would accelerate the transformation blogging has already wrought on the dissemination of news and personal experience.
"More people are going to take part in moblogging than in regular weblogging, as incredible as that sounds," wrote Manywhere moblogger inventor Russell Beattie, a 31-year old Java developer working in Madrid, Spain. "They are going to post their thoughts and experiences with not only text, but also with images and multimedia. It has the potential to actually change how society works (as) people will be able to relate their world around to others using their mobile phone. If an important event happens, people will be able to see snapshots or video of it in real time."
Among the new applications satisfying the needs of the audioblogger and moblogger are audblog, a phone-based service provided by San Francisco start-up Listenlab; NewBay's FoneBlog software for mobile phone networks; Manywhere Moblogger, noncommercial software for posting text, images, audio or video to a Web log through a cell phone; and WAPblog and Kablog, shareware titles that let people "blog on the run" through the use of a mobile phone.
One early adopter hailed the audio version as a natural evolution of the blog.
"I think audioblogs provide a much more intimate experience with the audience," said Jason Killingsworth, a 23-year-old user of audblog and recent graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville. "You are able to engage your reader with both your written and spoken thoughts. I think it's a fantastic idea and I expect it to improve dramatically over time."
The fidelity of audioblogs posted to the Web through cell phones--already notorious for poor audio quality--is one area where Killingsworth and other early audiobloggers are hoping for improvement. Another complaint directed at audiobloggers is the slowness with which audio posts download through narrowband connections.
Should fidelity improve, the ease of posting audioblogs through the phone could dramatically increase the amount of audio content on the Web. Though posing potential accessibility problems for the hearing-impaired, the trend could help bloggers communicate emotions they say can be difficult to express in words.
"In the age of e-mail and computer literature, one of the major complaints I've heard is that the communication format is stale--hence all the emoticons and LOL-type abbreviations," wrote Killingsworth in an instant-message interview. "With the advent of audioblogging, I'm able to make use of the spoken word, which is the most personal form of communication we have as humans."
One analyst countered that audioblogging, while demonstrating the increasing appeal of the blog software market, could threaten the literary style developing among bloggers.
"It does show how we are starting to see more services targeted specifically at the blogging community," said Ross Rubin, analyst with eMarketer. "But I'm not sure it's a great fit for the audience. It's convenient, but while blogging is informal and spontaneous, it does reflect a writing style that would get lost in a voice recording."