In an age where we keep hearing about social media apps that mimic (or straight up copy) Snapchat, it’s refreshing to see a new app that does something completely different.
Enter Anchor, the radio and podcast app that allows you to turn your smartphone into a mobile recording studio. In the same manner where you can use VSCO to edit photos or videos, Anchor wants to change how we interact with audio by simplifying the process and utilizing a tool some of us carry in our pockets.
“Anchor is a type of radio that lets anyone contribute,” explains co-founder and CEO of Anchor, Michael Mignano. “My co-founder, Nir Zicherman and I have always been in love with radio podcasts, but we felt it was really hard to make it yourself. The internet has democratized all photos, videos and other creative formats, yet audio hasn’t really been opened up yet. The goal with Anchor is to bring that idea to life so anyone can create high quality audio and share it with the world.”
Creating a powerful and mobile recording tool
Mignano previously worked for Eight Zero and Adobe, where he says photos were all about striving to make it super simple for anyone to make a photo book look amazing. With that in mind—and the recognition that most people carry a powerful recording tool in the form of a smartphone—Mignano and Zicherman realized they could simplify the process of creating and sharing audio.
“I grew up listening to sports talk radio and, as a drummer, I’ve recorded and produced music in a studio,” says Mignano. “But when I thought about wanting to do that in my own home or wanting to start a podcast, I realized that it was not only very time consuming, but it required expensive hardware and learning software programs.”
Thinking there had to be an easier way to work with audio, Mignano realized that we’re all walking around with internet-connected microphones in our pockets. Thus, he realized there’s no reason why quality audio shouldn’t be easier to create since many people already have the most expensive tool in their pocket.
After a year and a half of developing Anchor, the company launched version one of its app in February 2016. Version two recently launched in March 2017 with an added new feature—interviews.
The interview feature allows users to record phone calls and receive a transcription of the call —a tool that comes in handy for both journalists and podcasters alike.
As a writer who constantly conducts phone interviews, I was excited to be able to conduct my interview with Mignano using the Anchor app and not have to jot down notes or type over him. Instead, Anchor’s tool allows the interviewer to do what we do best—listen.
The in-app experience of recording and producing audio
At first impression, Anchor has a quirky, fun and manageable design. Scrolling makes it easy to add to and view your own station or search and preview what other users are creating.
The fun part is actually setting out to create and play with audio. There are a multitude of options for adding content to your radio station: conducting a phone interview, recording yourself or someone else talking, adding music from your iTunes library or Spotify account, various options for interludes or transitions to set the tone, and, of course, fun clips to add some personality to your station.
Additionally, one cool feature that Anchor offers is known as a “call-in.” This is what makes Anchor’s approach to social media very different and interesting: listeners can call in and submit music, ask questions or share opinions and ideas.
If someone calls in, you can view the call-ins and pick and choose what you want to add to your station. For example, say you’ve always wanted to be a radio DJ so you play your favorite songs on your station. You might receive a call-in from a listener requesting a song— so you could get that request and then decide to play it. It works essentially how a real radio DJ would take call-ins, giving you this cool experience that makes you feel like you truly are running a radio station out of your home right on your smartphone.
For new users, Mignano suggests a great starting point is using the personalized features Anchor offers. When you first download and setup your account, Anchor will ask for location access and doing helps you to take advantage of its “rundown feature” where you’ll receive personalized news and weather updates.
The only downside in my experience with Anchor was the interview feature, which unfortunately is not quite there yet. Though Mignano mentioned that Anchor is still working on making the clipper tool available in the app, right now, the only way to edit your audio segments is on the desktop version. There are pros and cons to this though, as some might find it a lot easier to edit audio on their desktop, whereas, others will want the convenience of doing everything on their phone.
However, the bigger issue I found was that the quality of the audio decreased greatly when imported to the desktop site. It’s unclear whether this was due to a poor connection during the interview, or from the upload process. Regardless, I hope to see this tool improved to make adding segments of an interview easier.
Furthermore, it was unfortunate (though understandable) that the transcription of the interview was not very useful. I was so excited at the thought of being able to just conduct an interview without having to write down much or do a transcription myself. Not too long after I ended my interview with Mignano, I received an e-mail from Anchor with a transcription of the interview. The transcription was not too coherent and overall was not useful for me when setting out to write this piece. Luckily, I made notes of our conversation and knew which quotes I wanted to pull, so it was easy to reference the transcription and make out what was transcribed incorrectly.
The future of mobile recording for radio
Overall, the Anchor app is a great tool and I’m excited to see audio become more accessible, especially given the increase in popularity of podcasts and radio today.
“I’m super excited to see more and more people using the tools and expressing their creativity because we’ve seen so many people doing interesting things on Anchor,” says Mignano. “It’s inspiring to see what people come together to create.”
As for the future of Anchor, Mignano hopes to see more localized content.
“Overtime, I’m interested to see more local stations as the app gets bigger,” he says. “I hope to see people talking about hyper local news or events going on in their area. If I’m in New York, I want to hear a radio station from someone who lives in New York and is sharing news and giving his or her opinion. Similarly, if I’m in Chicago, I want to be getting news and events from a local user.”
I hope to see more people using and listening to Anchor, but if there was one thing the app succeeded most in doing, it’s that it did inspire me to want to start a station of my own, especially after seeing just how easy it would be to do. When an app is able to do that, I’d say it’s a success.