Even in an era where people complain that everyone has a podcast, there are still plenty of curious people out there who’d like to give it a shot but don’t know where to start. (I am primarily talking about myself here, but maybe also you!) It’s one thing to have an idea for a show; it’s another to piece together the necessary software, hardware, and hosting services needed to make your dream a reality.
Today Anchor, an iOS app that aims to “democratize audio,” is releasing a new interview tool that makes broadcasting significantly easier. You can now use the app to record and publish a phone conversation, turning any call into a potential interview for broadcast. And thanks to a partnership with Watson, IBM’s machine learning software, Anchor will automatically generate a transcript of your call and email it to you.
“We want to make it really easy to make great audio, and so we’re making more and more creative tools,” said Mike Mignano, the company’s CEO. Call recording and transcripts come to the app a month after it unveiled a redesigned core interface that works as a kind of Snapchat for audio: a place to put a rolling collection of sounds that expire 24 hours after they’re posted.
To use the new feature, tap the big, red plus button inside the Anchor app and select “interview” from among the recording tools. From there you can dial a number or select one from your contacts. The call records automatically, and when you hang up it gets saved as a draft. To add it to your story, tap the plus button again and you’ll find your call inside the interviews tab. As with other audio recordings on Anchor, you can select a royalty-free backing track for the call if you like. You can also edit your recording on the web, via an email link that Anchor will send you if you request one before publishing.
I interviewed Mignano using Anchor yesterday. About six minutes after our 10-minute interview, the transcript arrived in my email. It was in rough shape: Watson can’t yet differentiate between speakers, so you’re left to parse a massive block of text. (Anchor says this will change soon.) In my experience, the transcription was about as good as the software that transcribes your voicemails on Google Voice or iOS: good enough for a rough guide, but way too rough to quote from without listening to the audio again yourself.
For Anchor to succeed, it has to go far beyond making podcasting easier — it has to make listening to amateur audio fun in a way that it usually just isn’t. Bad audio sounds just sound like voicemail — and most audio is bad audio.
But one way to make audio better is to give creators a rich variety of tools to improve their recordings. Anchor already has a bunch of those tools, including the ability to insert full-length tracks from Spotify and Apple Music. (Non-subscribers only hear previews, but still.) Phone interviews that you can easily broadcast, while receiving a free transcription of the call, represent a nice step forward.
Anchor is now available on iOS.