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An example of a conversation on Anchor. Users post Waves, audio clips of up to 2 minutes, and respond to each other in an out-of-time conversation. Screenshot: Anchor.
An example of a conversation on Anchor. Users post Waves, audio clips of up to 2 minutes, and respond to each other in an out-of-time conversation. Image: Anchor.

The rise of social media has given us unbridled access to an endless world of text, images, links, hashtags, and videos. But one form of media isn’t on the same level as others: audio.

As the amount of audio streamed online has skyrocketed, sharing audio remains incredibly difficult. For example, it’s hard to record and post a quick thought to Twitter or share a clip from a podcast on Facebook.

Anchor wants to fill that gap with its audio-based social media platform — think Twitter, but instead of Tweets, users share recorded Waves, and instead of 140 characters the limit is two minutes of sound. Users can browse Waves by topic, search for hashtags, and follow other users whose work they like.

The app is available for free on iOS and Android, and also publishes a podcast online highlighting conversations and Q&A sessions that take place on the app.

Listen to our App of the Week segment below, and keep reading for the full review.

Anchor’s core concept is fabulous because there’s a huge gap in social media when it comes to audio. Even dedicated audio platforms like iTunes and Spotify have failed to key into social listening, although Soundcloud has had some success in that area.

Anchor fills several of these needs well. First, it is incredibly easy to record and share your own Waves, and find Waves recorded by other Anchor users. Browsing by topic brings up lots of interesting material, as does searching through hashtags, and recording a Wave is as easy as leaving someone a voicemail.

Users can browse Waves by topic, follow other users, or search by hashtag. Image: Waves.
Users can browse Waves by topic, follow other users, or search by hashtag. Image: Anchor.

It’s also easy to engage with users by replying to their Waves, something I noticed many users doing. The conversations are quite strange — stilted, like a Skype conversation with a bad connection — but every Wave I saw had at least two responses, so it’s clear the community is excited about interacting.

I posted a Wave to Anchor when I first made an account, introducing myself and saying I was writing a review of the app.

An avid Anchor user named Novax Jok immediately responded, and we had a conversation about what he liked about the app.

“I just like talking to people, getting to know about people,” Novax Jok said. Several other users responded with similar thoughts.

“I’ve made some phenomenal connections on here. That one-minute, two-minute [limit], it causes us to focus so much longer than Twitter or Instagram, or any of the other visual social media platforms,” user Chris-Anne said.

In the span of six minutes I made an account, recorded my first Wave, and interacted with other users. In other words, the social aspects of Anchor are engaging and smooth to use.

But social networking is only half of the equation, and unfortunately the second half is not so successful. There just isn’t enough content, user-generated or otherwise, to make the app truly revolutionary.

Novax Jok said that, although he loves Anchor, he wishes more people would use it. He also said people had started drifting away from the app, making it less fun to use.

There are probably several reasons the platform is having difficulty retaining users, and I think a big one is that most of the content is user-generated.

I listened to lots of Waves of people reading their own writing or popping off an improvised saxophone solo, and there’s nothing wrong with that sort of content. But a good mix of user-generated content and content from professional audio creators like musicians, podcasts, and radio personalities would be much more engaging overall.

This approach would also fill a huge gap in the industry, as there’s really no app or social media platform focused on listening to and sharing professionally made audio.

This American Life, the iconic radio show and podcast produced by WNYC in Chicago, recently made a bid to fill this need with Shortcut — an app the show developed so listeners can share audio of their podcasts.

But even then, the program has to make the audio into a video so it can be shared on existing social media sites — which are much more video friendly —and only works with This American Life episodes.

Despite being a cool idea and having a good setup, Anchor’s lack of content makes it much less appealing. But with the right level of engagement with professional audio producers, this kind of platform could be immensely successful.

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