Having spent 8 years at Antenna Audio, I was recently sharing some thoughts about the audio guide industry with a friend and former colleague.
For years, audio tour providers forged themselves a niche market providing interpretive content to museums and historic sites (and other non-
However, the delivery vehicles are irreversibly shifting towards portability while content is becoming increasingly shared, open source and user-
In “The Curse of the Mogul, What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading Media Companies” (By Knee, Greenwald and Seave, published by Portfolio 2009 – http:
Granted the cultural audio industry is different from the film, publishing and news outlets sectors. Still, all are about the creation and the delivery of content, and to some extent, the epilogue in “The Curse of the Mogul“ can be extrapolated to the audio industry in so far as the model employed by the main industry players is no longer adapted to the structure of the business because of the erosion of content creation and the diversification of delivery platforms.
So for the industry to remain competitive and adapt to the shifts in the business environment, it needs to replace an already high cost/
So how to survive? First by letting go of hardware – all of it - and outsourcing it instead or letting sites furnish themselves; and second, by focusing on content design. It is never about the technology. It is about the experience. The experience is the message, not the device. Providers should focus all their efforts by designing exciting content that can be fed into multiple delivery vehicles and across platforms. And the content should elicit learning and curiosity by searching for and discovering information as we all do when searching the web, and by allowing sharing and content generation from users themselves. Developing mobile apps is where the industry should invest.
But perhaps, interpretation per se ought to find a home with exhibition designers whose job then becomes not only to imagine the space but also to optimize the visitor experience, including such services as audio and multimedia content, in collaboration with content designers, curators, educators and the public.
Originally published in February 2010.