Thursday, November 3, 2011

Using Google Voice for multimedia projects

Merriam-Webster still defines Google as a search engine. Isn’t that silly? Google is so much more than that.
The latest and greatest Google product to grab my attention is Google Voice, a free service that has some really exciting applications for journalism.
Google Voice is essentially a routing service — you get a local phone number with a digital voicemail account that can be tied to other phone numbers and email accounts. For instance, you could route all calls to your work and home phones to your cell phone.
But that’s not what I’m excited about — in fact, I don’t the service at all for how it was intended. I leave my phone lines unlinked and use the Google voicemail account to collect messages.
The voicemail allows you to download audio messages in an editable format.
Think about the possibilities there.
It’s an incredibly simple (and don’t forget, free) way to collect comments and reactions from our audience.
Those messages can be edited into soundbytes and placed over slideshows or even used as simple audio files to accompany a story.

Ways to use Google Voice for journalism
I first used this tool to crowdsource “Where were you” stories for The Oakland Press’ coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Read all about that, A hyperlocal multimedia approach on the 10th anniversary of 9/11
More recently, I’ve gathered fan reaction after Detroit Lions games (check out a detailed case study on that). It was while working on the Lions project that I came across a promising way to crowdsource reactions with immediacy.
I used our SMS service to reach the audience, sending a message like, “Where did the Lions fall short tonight? Let us know, call 248-291-7332.”
People began calling in the very minute the message was received on their phone. The immediacy blew me away. 
With that in mind, I’m excited about the possibilities this has for breaking news situations, timely collective pieces — think about the how the world reacted to Steve Jobs’ death — or even hot-button issues.
What do you think? Is this something you’d use, or something you have used? I’d love to see more examples of how journalists are using Google Voice.

Learn how
Here’s a handy how-to on getting started with Google Voice, and also some information on using the free tool audacity for audio editing.

Listen to why I used Google Voice for the 9/11 project:
Karen-1-1 by jrctraining  

Listen to how I used Google Voice for the 9/11 project:

Karen-1-2 by jrctraining
And hear about the results:
Karen-1-3 by jrctraining

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