Speaking Up: Using Audio on a Site


19/03/2003

As use of the Internet continues to grow geometrically, we see an increased demand for information to be provided by a variety of media. Viewing options can range from simple text to PDF documents to video clips.

Unfortunately, each option requires more and more resources and technological know-how. As convergence moves inexorably forward, we have to ask ourselves if there is a practical way to combine the best of this technology and still provide the user with a satisfying Internet experience.

One answer, at this stage of Internet evolution, is audio.

Voice, by itself, provides the means to enhance a user’s enjoyment of the Internet. Voice conveys many of the intangibles underlying the written word. A voice can touch the human spirit and deliver a message on its own merits. Audio can build community and maintain relationships. Audio is the most mature of the streaming technologies and doesn’t have the bandwidth requirements associated with video. Any Internet user connecting at 28.8k or better can enjoy FM quality sound without experiencing buffering and other annoyances that can affect video at lower bit rates.

It is common knowledge that people only retain 20% of what they read, but they do remember 70% of what they see and hear. That fact in itself increases the value of an audio message delivered from a website for the typical user. And, the implications of how audio can increase Internet enjoyment for the handicapped are overwhelming.

Streaming audio provides Internet businesses with unlimited opportunities to reach their audience and to simplify their interactions. Streaming audio broadens a product’s appeal and helps to stimulate sales. People are comfortable with audio and have few qualms about using it in their day-to-day lives.

Retailers can integrate audio into their operations in several ways. Use it to enhance product descriptions and deliver product information in ways far more persuasive than plain text. Booksellers can have “special events” that offer audio excerpts from selected titles. Art dealers can use voice to give value added information on an artist or a period of history depicted by an artist’s work. (Think of audio tours that museums offer.)

Organizations that specialize in selling educational tools can use audio clips for potential clients to preview and evaluate the material being offered. The ability to sample the product is a potent and practical selling aid.

Business-to-business sites and corporate Intranets can also harness the power of audio. The need to provide up-to-the-minute information for employees and customers can be well served with streaming audio and the telephone. Integrating audio into the corporate communications mix is a tool that is easy to use and addresses the need to communicate with a distributed work force.

In both the retail and business-to-business marketplace, audio can and should be used to maintain those all-important customer relationships. Voice messages add a personal touch that intrigues the listener and encourages them to remain on the site. (segue)

by Ronni Rhodes

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