The revolution will be Broadcastd. At least, that’s the way Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum, co-founders of the audio file-sharing service Broadcastr, see it.
“Hopefully it doesn’t sound insane,” Hunter told Adweek recently over drinks at the Bowery Hotel, “but we want to create something that’s going to change the way people perceive the world, on a permanent basis.”
Broadcastr, which launched its very first iPhone application today, might be more accurately and modestly understood as a “Foursquare for storytellers,” as Galleycat’s Jason Boog put it.
It works like this: you record an audio clip—about absolutely anything—and assign it a geographical location. The clip is then uploaded to Broadcastr’s global map and made available to listeners who can filter the vast catalogue of audio files by location, keyword, category, creator, rating or date.
So far, the map—which includes posts as disparate as citizen journalism from Tahrir Square, bar recommendations from Tokyo and a story about searching for crack in Austin, Texas—is by turns interesting, cute, fun, boring, random . . . but always chaotic.
No matter. Broadcastr, Hunter and Lindenbaum say, marks a radical transformation in the history of human communication. Its true significance, they maintain, cannot be understood without first understanding the history of the printing press, not to mention religion.
“You have to go back to Gutenberg,” Hunter said. He was drinking a Taddy porter, which, he said, made him “feel like an old British soldier squelching the American revolution.” Hunter, one quickly learns, has a penchant for history, and for revolution.
Since the invention of print, he explained, the written word has had supremacy over oral storytelling, forcing us to use “a form of expression that was less natural.”
“One thing that is common across every religion is this idea of ancestor worship, which is saying that somehow the trace of somebody is left in a place even after the person is gone,” he said. “So, in some indigenous religion in the Congo, that might mean that the trees are imbued with the spirits of their ancestors. In Western society it might mean that there is a poltergeist in a house, or whatever. But every single human society has this kind of concept . . . [Broadcastr] is taking that sort of concept and making it reality.”
Broadcastr’s ability to move spirits remains to be seen. At the very least, it has set itself up to make a few waves. It has partnered with many respectable organizations, including the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Fodor’s Travel Guides and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. It may very well be these organizations, as opposed to the human beings yearning to have a voice, that get the most traction out of Broadcastr.
Given Hunter and Lindenbaum’s faith in Broadcastr’s ability to change life as we know it, they’re not too concerned about the upcoming SXSW festival in Austin, which is typically an important event for fledgling tech companies. Despite the timely release of their iPhone application—the day before the festival—Broadcastr isn’t pushing its product the way most startups are. It isn’t hosting any parties or panels, there are no big corporate sponsors sending out invitations. Hunter isn’t even going.
“For us it’s much bigger,” Lindenbaum said. “It’s not just about creating a better way to check-in somewhere or connect with people professionally or to manage your Facebook page.”
“We want to change the way people perceive place, and think of place and culture and history,” Hunter said. “Broadcastr could have an archive in two years that is already invaluable. And in 10 years, it could be you don’t even think about visiting a place and wandering around without it.”