Experimenting with audio-journalism

Published 04.05.2018
Innovation is booming in the media cluster. Tech-company Beat is collaborating with Bergens Tidende to build new products around audio-content.

The two member companies presented their joint project at Straight from the Labs, an event hosted by NCE Media to showcase the latest innovations in the cluster. 

– It was amazing to get a project with a major media house before we have even established a company for our product, says Njål Wilberg, CEO of Beat.

– And today, when I was talking to attendees at the Nordic Media Festival, another newspaper expressed their interest, so I think we are on to something. 

Originally a music streaming provider, Beat has developed technology that enables newspapers to keep audio-content within their own domain. 

Njål Wilberg (Beat) and Øyulf Hjertenes (Bergens Tidende) presenting their joint project. 

– A year ago, we developed an audiobook service, and saw very high engagement. On average, each user was listening for about 20 hours per month, which is around one whole book, Wilberg explains. 

– Based on this success, we wanted to test shorter pieces of content. Something you could listen to during a commute, for instance. In order to get good, short pieces of content, Beat had to team up with established media houses. 

– So I met with Bergens Tidende (BT). We also had to verify if podcasts really solved all their issues, or if it could be of value to keep audio-content within their online domain. Turns out, this was a perfect match for them, Wilberg says, and continues: 

– We know that people use audiobooks a lot when they are commuting - and some people use them at night, before falling asleep. We can help BT become more relevant to their readers, also in these situations. 

Podcasts vs. audio-content 
For Njål Wilberg, the timing could not have been any better, as audio is very much in line with BT, and Schibsted's strategy. 

– When I first sat down with Beat, I thought this was brilliant, says Øyulf Hjertenes, Chief Editor of BT. 

Together with Wilberg, Hjertenes was presenting their joint project at Straight From the Labs in the Media Lab. 

– We are now experimenting our way forward, to see what kind of stories we need to make for our readers. Our focus will be on business-models and content, rather than technology. How can we use audio to become more valuable to our subscribers? And how can we develop new business-models around audio? 

– The problem with podcast as they are today, is that the volumes are too small. And people are taken outside our domain, and the channels we control, Hjertenes says.  

The Beat-BT collaboration received 200.000 NOK from the NCE Media innovation fund, to further develop their products. 

Around 80 per cent of the cluster-companies launch new innovations every year. Members Hubii, Vizrt and NRK Beta were also presenting their latest innovations at the event. The Media Lab was filled to maximum capacity this afternoon, as media-professionals from all over the country were in Bergen for the annual Nordic Media Festival. 

CEO Jacobo Toll-Messia presenting Hubii Mind, a fact checking platform built on top of the Ethereum Blockchain. Hubii is implementing a solution, together with the Global Editors Network, ahead of the European Parliament election in 2019, to identify the publication of fake news.

Erik Solheim from NRK Beta entertaining the audience. Here with the story of how they built a mobile live broadcast operation to follow Lars Monsen around in the mountains, minute by minute.

Chris Black from  Vizrt demoes their latest, ground breaking AR graphics tools.

Text: Hilde Gudvangen