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Yes, Virginia: There is a Future for Social Networking in Sound

Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD) held a webinar this week on Social Media Trends of 2009, led by the inimitable Andy Carvin, the social media guru at NPR. Andy surprised many by pointing to Facebook (take that, Twitter!) as the most important development over the past year. That’s because Facebook membership more than doubled in 2009 to 350 million (and counting…) While many more people access NPR through npr.org, Andy says there is evidence that NPR’s Facebook page (created by a frustrated fan) does drive more traffic to the network’s web site.

Other important trends ’09 included the spread of iPhones and apps (30 million iPhones sold; 25,000 developers have created more than 100,000 apps.) He pointed to a few cool new apps such as foursquare, Kaboom, and the Extraordinaries which integrate geolocation awareness with nightlife, playground mapping or two-minute volunteer opportunities (aka “micro-tasking”). Another big trend is social gaming, such as FarmVille on Facebook. Andy hopes to see more social gaming in the public media world and mentioned that NPR will roll out some games next year.

The fourth big trend is data portability (Facebook Connect; Posterous) and Andy showed how he could post a photo or text to one site and it would get automatically distributed out to his various platforms. And, last, but not least: Twitter, which has grown four-fold in the past 11 months. Looking ahead to 2010, Andy said he expected more of the same, plus a growth in “augmented reality” programs which enable you to use your mobile device to see not just what is, but what could be. ¬†

Most of the presentation focused on the social aspects of image and text, so the sound lover and radio producer in me cried out to hear if there anything’s happening on the beloved audio frontier. Andy mentioned a site still in development called Audioboo, which enables people to post and share on the spot podcasts. This is especially exciting for iPhone users since the coveted device gets such excellent audio. Audioboo might just be the platform for participatory audio content in 2010.

Andy’s slides from his presentation are here. The audio is posted here.