Audio is the Future of Social Media

I’ll start right off the bat by saying I realize it’s ironic that I’m writing a blog post about why audio is the future.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, why do I think audio is the future?

Time

“Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say”

Because of all the ways that we can consume media, audio takes up the least time. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t take up time at all!

Think about what you’re doing when you listen to podcasts, playlists, radio shows, etc. Because of the nature of audio, you don’t need to use your eyes or hands to consume audio content. You can be at the gym, in your car, or walking your dog (everyone always says this, but I like to be pretty aware of my surroundings when I’m walking Tesla).

In a previous post, I talked about parallel processing, musing on the idea that the only way to assuredly get more output is to have multiple processes “running” at once, which can be done by outsourcing or automating your work.

Audio is another form of parallel processing, allowing you to do physical tasks with one part of your body/attention and consume verbal/musical content with another. But why does that matter?

Depending on how long you’ve been using the Internet, you might remember the early days of email, Facebook before there were “Likes,” or Snapchat before “Stories.” As time has progressed and the Internet (or “Social Media”) has matured, things have gotten a lot more noisy. So noisy, in fact, that Facebook, Twitter, and the like have introduced algorithms to optimize your content so you are more likely to see things that you want to see.

Whether or not you like their solutions, the problem they’re attempting to solve is a real one. Instead of 36 channels on TV, we now have multiple media platforms on our smartphones with millions of options of content to consume. It’s overwhelming, and we simply don’t have enough hours in a day to consume all the relevant content that is out there.

So, as we bump up against the bounds of our day and run out of time, apart from completely unplugging and going “off the grid,” one of the easiest ways to consume more relevant content is to do so while you’re doing things you would already be doing (e.g. going to the gym or commuting).

And, as it currently stands, audio content is the only type of content that allows you to do that!

Problems with Audio

Now, no platform is perfect, but audio is definitely behind some of the other types of content. Here’s why I think that:

  1. Usability – The places where people are consuming audio content (examples: Spotify, the Podcast App on iOS, Soundcloud) feel clunky and outdated, or at least not well-suited for podcasts. If you disagree, a good thought experiment would be to think about how much easier it is to consume and interact with content on Instagram than it is on the Podcast app.
  2. Intelligence – The idea of using machine learning on audio data is not unheard of, but it’s certainly a “newer” concept than doing so on pictures. The deep learning algorithms to determine whether a picture is of a dog or cat are ubiquitous, but not so much for audio. Still, companies like Google, Anchor, and others are making strides here, and I’m confident we’ll be seeing some really cool machine learning applications on audio.
  3. Interaction – We haven’t quite landed on the “best” way to interact with audio yet. Is it sending emojis during a livestream (I’m looking at you, Live.ly & Facebook and Instagram Live), commenting (SoundCloud), sending a “call-in” as a verbal reaction (Anchor), or talking to a mysterious anthropomorphized AI (Alexa, Siri, Google Now)? Who knows, but I am confident that we aren’t far from a sort of “convergence” of best practices for interacting with audio, similar to how you can now see “Stories” on anywhere from Snapchat to your toaster…

So even if it’s clear that audio is the future, its exact “form” is still unclear. But not knowing the “answer” is what makes this exciting! We are still in the Wild West for audio-form social media, yet millions of people are tuning into podcasts every day. It’s only going to get better, and I’m really excited for that. I hope you are too!

To inject my own opinion, I believe the two groups to watch when it comes to audio are Amazon Alexa and Anchor. I recently started my own Anchor station and it has been a very rewarding and fun experience thus far. I also own an Amazon Echo device, and while I don’t use it as much as I’d like, the volume of new “Skills” that have been arriving for it has been quite impressive. I also love that I can listen to music, the weather, and dictated Wikipedia articles in between ordering pizzas.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now! As always, let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments! Tell me if you think I’m some sort of clueless hack, if you thought this post was insightful, etc., or go ahead and share your favorite Podcasts or Anchor stations.

Until then, I’ll be ticking away the moments that make up a dull day 😉

– Nick

Is Parallel Processing Good For You?

I always try to do too many things at once.

Even right now, I’m working a full-time job, and in the evenings I’m working on starting an educational technology business. Throughout the day, I’ll have thoughts racing through my head that I write down “for later.” I’ll have conversations with various people throughout the day. Amidst all that, I find time to go to the gym, exercise my dog, eat, do the general “life” maintenance tasks I need to take care of…Admittedly, it’s hard to stay organized.

Before my current line of work, I was an industrial engineer supporting multiple manufacturing lines. My goal was to continuously improve the systems I was working with, and one of the primary KPI’s (key performance indicators) we used to measure “success” was lead time, or the time between when an order was started and when it was delivered. Simple enough, right? Faster deliveries provide all sorts of benefits.

One of the techniques I learned for how to reduce lead time was to implement parallel processing. Instead of putting all the processes back-to-back, parallel processing allows for some of the processes to happen “in parallel,” or at the same time as other processes. This becomes possible when you’re employing automation or you have multiple resources (that is, there’s more than 1 person working on the larger problem at hand).

Parallel Turkeys

Image result for turkeys

Two turkeys walking in parallel

The example of parallel processing that comes to mind that I find the easiest to relate to is Thanksgiving Dinner. At the end of the day, your goal is to have a dinner for multiple people with a turkey, sides, dessert, and drinks all ready around the same time. Each item takes time to prepare, which is typically referred to as processing time. Here’s a simplified example of Thanksgiving items and how long they take to make:

Turkey takes 3 hours
Green bean casserole takes 30 minutes
Rolls take 15 minutes
Pumpkin pie takes 1 hour
Stuffing takes 45 minutes

So adding this all together, it takes about 5.5 hours of work to get Thanksgiving dinner ready. Wow! No wonder we always eat so late in the day…

That’s not really how it goes down, though. Are you telling me you sit there and watch the turkey the whole time it’s in the oven? Of course not! You watch football, begrudgingly talk with family members, or *gasp* work on some of the other food that needs to get done before dinner.

That’s parallel processing! If you were to take all the other items and complete them while the turkey is in the oven, that’s only 2.5 hours of work. So even though there’s 5.5 hours of work that need to be done, it could theoretically take only 3 hours to “make” Thanksgiving dinner (since the Turkey has to cook for that long), thanks to automation (the oven), and even some of that other stuff can be split between multiple people (other guests at dinner), freeing you up to do other stuff (like talk about politics with your extremely opinionated in-laws!).

Real Life Is No Walk in the Turkey Park

The second you start trying to implement parallel processing in real life, things get difficult. While it’s not impossible to automate tasks, it’s not always exactly realistic, or at least it isn’t easy. But it is getting easier! Tools like Mail Chimp and Edgar are allowing small businesses to automate things like email marketing and social media posts, and people with programming skills are able to automate an increasingly larger number of basic life tasks using tools like IFTTT and Amazon Alexa.

As far as “having other people do the work,” Tim Ferris advocates hiring a personal assistant in his New York Times best selling book 4 Hour Work Week. This, of course, costs money, and requires some level of trust to have someone do the work, but it’s certainly worth considering. If you are able to delegate tasks in a bite-size manner to other people (like giving a step-by-step recipe for green bean casserole), you may benefit tremendously from such an approach. If not, well, there’s no better time to learn than now! The second you start to feel overwhelm from doing “too much,” chances are–if you have the funds–it’s time to start hiring or contracting more people that you can trust and train to do the work. Websites like Upwork and Freelancer work well for this! I’ve used both.

So is Parallel Processing Good for You?

For you? Well, only you can answer that. For me, I know it’s the next step as I move into the business world. Later today I have meetings with 7 potential contractors for my new business. As we start to generate income, after they’re paid, I’ll continue to contract out work, giving up the short term dollar gain to allow myself to look at the big picture, scale, and continue to do what I love: building relationships with people, providing value, and planning for the next big thing. I’ll also employ automation as I start to get my email and social marketing grind on.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever employed parallel processing your personal or professional life and how you fared. I could talk about this for days…so let’s talk about it!

Tripling Down

Nothing’s worse than “I’m gonna.”

I’m gonna study more, I’m gonna lose weight, I’m gonna start a business.

Cool. Get back to me when you have.

Now, I can’t say I’m innocent. I’ve done this. I still do this. Everyone has done this. You tell your friends about your grandiose plans. It’s so much more fun to live in the future, because there’s the prospect that it will somehow be better than now.

But I’ve finally started doing. After a long break of making excuses, sustaining, and living in a world of “get by now/fix later,” I am taking concrete, finite steps to build the lifestyle I’ve always “dreamed” of.

It’s almost as if my dream has already come true. I flipped the mental switch, and every day, even though I still struggle to balance between living in the present and building the future, simply having the company of the version of myself that won’t let me slip back into my old self-defeating habits is a huge win.

I’m tripling down on what I know, what I’m good at, and what I like, and I hope that if you haven’t already, you are someday able to do the same.

3DOWN

Until next time,
Nick