Back in the 1960s, pirate radio stations began sprouting up across the US and UK. Voices that previously went unheard suddenly had an outlet, and the crackling AM waves became a haven of opinion, debate and inevitably, marketing.
As the internet picked up speed at the turn of the 21st century, marketers moved away from radio waves and decided content marketing was best delivered in written form.
But now, in an almost nostalgic twist, Anchor is making audio content marketing modern once more.
What Is Anchor?
Anchor lets you launch your very own radio station from your smartphone. With it, you can record five minute audio segments that remain available on your station for 24 hours. To spruce up your station, you can patch in audio from Apple Music and Spotify, use built-in sound effects and interludes and take call-ins from listeners.
Initially launched in 2016, Anchor attracted users from over 200 countries, before receiving an additional boost in the form of a $2.8 million funding round led by Accel Partners. Following that cash injection, Anchor gave itself a facelift and a batch of new features.
The Anchor team has already seen their platform flourish in that time. In a recent blog post, they marvelled at the conversations being hosted by Anchor:
“Some of our favorite exchanges [have been] between people from all walks of life who never would have spoken to one another before Anchor.
"We saw creators going to extreme lengths to inject boundless creativity into their recordings, pulling in external audio clips and interviewing fascinating people— everyone from A-list Hollywood directors, to people on the sidelines of war in Syria.”
On top of reinventing radio, Anchor is also reinventing social media engagement. Instead of “liking" the segment you’re hearing, you can applaud it using the applause emoji button. If your phone is locked and in your pocket, you can applaud by knocking on the back of your phone.
It’s reminiscent of tapping the like button on live video feeds on Facebook and Periscope, but Anchor’s audible engagement process puts a unique twist on things.
Anchor content can also survive outside the app. It converts all recorded audio into colorful videos that play seamlessly on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms that support video.
Plus, thanks to Anchor’s use of IBM Watson technology, recordings can be transcribed into text, so your listeners can listen in without actually listening at all. This all means Anchor isn’t just an audio content marketing tool in and of itself, it’s also a content creation tool for all other social networks, too.
Anchor segments can be played through a wide range of devices, including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Alexa, Google Home and via in-car bluetooth.
The Radio, Reinvented
Large publications like Lifehacker, Gizmodo and IGN have already bought into Anchor’s reinvented radio concept, topping up their stations with new content daily. So I downloaded the app myself to see if all the hype was warranted.
My journey began with the aid of Anchor’s narrated walkthrough, which greets you when you first fire up the app.
In stark contrast to the way newbies experience Snapchat — which is notoriously difficult for new users to grasp — Anchor’s welcome made me feel immediately at home.
The walkthrough got me to sign up, showed me the basic functions of the app and then asked if I would like to turn on location services for nearby news and weather updates. After that, I was left alone to explore.
All the News That's Fit to Speak
I used the search function to find some tech-related stations and began listening. I was soon skipping through stations and segments, and listening to high quality news coverage as fellow listeners applauded in the background when the presenter made points they agreed with.
Because content only lasts for 24 hours, I could only find new and relevant news. Like with Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook stories, old news simply doesn’t exist on Anchor.
But Anchor isn’t just about getting your news fix. Segments also included comedians poking fun at current affairs, culinary guides from cookbook writers and shows on theology.
Applauding as you listen is entertaining, but the applause from others sometimes made listening to the segment difficult. Thankfully, you have the option to disable the audio applause altogether.
Once I had my fill of listening, I decided to get my own station on the road. I recorded my first wave, used some sound effects and exported it as a video to my camera roll. It was easy to do and fun.
If I had to pinpoint Anchor’s position on the social media spectrum, I’d say it was a hybrid between Twitter, Snapchat and podcasting. Like Twitter, anybody can share their views — but this time, via audio.
The Birth of Audio Blogging
Podcasting has taken off over the last few years, and many see it as the audio version of blogging. But the glove never quite fit as far as I could see.
To be taken seriously, a podcast needed to meet certain quality standards. With Anchor, it feels like there’s room to relax.
Launching a podcast is more akin to publishing a book, while firing up an Anchor station is more like typing up a post on Medium.
Will Anchor impact the face of content marketing? That depends (in part) on how long Anchor plans on sticking around.
Will Anchor Make It?
Launching a new social media app is the easy part. Many of them arrive and depart from the Apple and Google app stores, never to be spoken of again. Only a select few stand the test of time, and fewer still grow to rival the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
Anchor hasn’t set the world alight just yet. But it has won the confidence of social media guru and serial-investor Gary Vaynerchuk, not to mention the big name publishers that have already absorbed Anchor into their content marketing strategies.
As far as the addiction factor — a key element in any app’s success — I’m already feeling the pull of Anchor. Before writing this article, I was aware of Anchor as a potential rising star in the social media space after only using it for a few minutes.
Now, having tinkered with it for a few days, it's become part of my daily routine to get my tech news.
Do I think Anchor will ever attract numbers like Facebook or Instagram? No. But at the same time, my gut feeling tells me that Anchor has what it takes to run this marathon and carve out a sizeable niche in a Snapchat-esque fashion.
And if it can do that, Anchor will add a new and exciting dimension to the content marketing scene.