Anchor – Who wants to be an RJ?
When Preshit first asked me to check Anchor out, I was rather surprised. I had no idea what I would use it for. I’m completely at ease listening to online radio (in fact, I do it a wee bit too often. Groove Salad, FTW), but actually RJ’ing, even if it is for short, two minute bursts? No way!
Strangely enough, though, I found myself intrigued. What would I be able to do with this service, I wondered. Would I try it out as my own, personal audition for a podcaster, or would I use it only for consumption? Turns out, I can use it any way I want. The app is, and there’s no better word for it, fascinating. It’s the entire radio experience, in the form of a social network. It’s what I’d imagined Beats One would be, where people listening to Zane Lowe could ‘call in’, and show their appreciation for the RJ’s song choice. With Anchor, you have professional people, as well as Mango People like you and me, playing the role of RJ, and it is absolutely magnificent.
At its core, Anchor is a way for you to create your own personalized radio station. Besides your voice, you can also augment your broadcast with songs from Spotify or Apple Music. Once you’ve made your broadcast, other Anchor users can listen in. You can also use the in-built sharing tools to convert your broadcast to a video, complete with the transcribed text (using Watson, a natural language parsing engine) of what you said, and the music your played, if any. If you like what you hear, or other people like what you’re putting out into the ether, Anchor has an ‘Applause’ system, where you tap a button (helpfully marked by the 👏🏼 emoji), and the broadcaster is notified of your appreciation. Once a broadcast is over, the broadcaster’s followers are informed of the post, and are encouraged to join in. This ‘conversation’ is what makes Anchor truly social.
Besides Anchor users, there are some dedicated stations for you to enjoy as well. These range from Music stations, to dating advice, and comedies. Pretty much anything you’re looking for, you can find. Those you can’t find, well, that’s where you come in!
What else makes Anchor different? Well, Social Media and Audio don’t usually go hand in hand. Of course, you have services like SoundCloud, which have experimented with this format. Unlike SoundCloud, Anchor isn’t a repository. Similar to Snapchat, your content is fleeting. You can archive it for your own personal storage, of course, but it doesn’t live on the platform for very long. This makes it incumbent upon the broadcaster to mix it up, and be creative, to sustain his/her own personal following.
Anchor has many things going for it — The idea behind it, the features, and its cross-platform (read: iPhone, Android and Web) presence. However, it faces the same major challenge any new social network would – remaining interesting and new enough to attract an ever-increasing user base. The app itself is free, as is signing up for the service. This means that, like any new service these days, it’s sustaining itself on VC money. Eventually, however, they’re going to have to find ways to monetise – be it through ads, or charging users for things like longer duration broadcasts, or permanent storage. Both of these strategies require a large, and dedicated, user base. Only time will tell if users will flock to Anchor, and if my personal experience has any bearing on the future, the outlook isn’t great. I was excited initially, but then the inevitable roadblock appeared – mobile data. Anchor is a great idea, but the fact that it needs to always be online is a problem. Sharing text is easy on your mobile data balance, but audio isn’t. So unless you’re broadcasting only within range of a WiFi network, you’ll hit your FUP limit pretty soon. Imagine if you could only use Twitter or Facebook while you’re home. Would you keep using it?
It’s a shame, really. I happen to think Anchor is a fantastic idea, and I do believe community radio is the future. Imagine being part of an interactive podcast! That’s what Anchor promises, and it’s an enticing idea. Unfortunately, the reality of our times is what will probably trip it up, not any shortcoming the service itself has. I hope I’m wrong, I really do. I want Anchor to survive, and flourish. Sadly, I think it’ll just make a splash, and then go away once the VC money dries up. Then again, in the age of Brexit, is anything ever certain?