A new journalism: audio on iPhone

You might have heard of CinchCast. It’s a new app/service that runs on mobile phones. I use the iPhone version. I record audio using it, which posts right after the interview. I can also call a phone number and record an interview that way. The quality is great. I don’t use anything other than my iPhone. The photo above is of me interviewing AirBnB’s mobile developer, Andrew Vilcsak, at the GDGT party last night. You can listen to that interview here.

But I’ve done 168 different CinchCasts already after using it for a few months (you can even follow the feed there, and see when I post new ones, which I do every day or so).

Here’s a taste:

Meeting Bre Pettis, founder of MakerBot, and Alexa Andrzejewski, founder of Foodspotting at the GDGT party.

An audio tour of the virtual meeting robots at Anybot’s headquarters. These robots let you attend meetings without being there. I could get one for Rackspace’s headquarters, for instance (that’s in Texas, I live in California) and then I could attend meetings “virtually.”

My first ride in an “Uber” limo. This service uses an iPhone app to call a driver to you (only works in San Francisco so far, but other cities coming soon). Works really great and the limo driver I interviewed loves it too.

When I visited the Apple store in San Francisco this week a group of people were playing a violin concert on their iPads. I walked up, started interviewing the leader, who turned out to be Jeff Smith, CEO of Smule. The app they were playing, Magic Fiddle, is the #1 music app in iTunes store right now.

I interviewed the CEO of BraveNewTalent.com, this week, but afterward I learned he is a great philanthropist, too, and was named to the very exclusive “Young Global Leader” club at the World Economic Forum. So, over wine and cigars we talk about what he’s seeing in the world. Quite a remarkable guy.

You might have heard all the hype about location-based services. Foursquare. Whrrl. Gowalla. Loopt. Well, here I sit down with Loopt’s founder, Sam Altman, to get the Silicon Valley perspective on what’s going on.

Last week Microsoft’s Kinect came out and the top tech journalist in the world is Walt Mossberg, who is the tech expert for the Wall Street Journal. When I met him at a Dow Jones tech conference I wanted to know what he thought of Kinect. His opinion matched mine, that it’s a game changer. But don’t take my word for it, listen to what he says about it.

Silicon Valley is in the middle of a talent war. You’ve read about that. Google, just this week Techcrunch reported, paid an engineer $3.5 million to stay at Google and not go to Facebook. Why do they have to do that? Well, Olivia Fox studies the psychology of geeks and smart people (she works with teams and execs) and she gives some ways that companies can win the talent war and why people choose to go to certain companies, like Facebook, and not others.

I’ve interviewed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a couple of times on Cinch. The latest was when Facebook announced its new mobile platform a couple of weeks ago. In that interview Mark was very candid and gave you some sense of the social thinking he’s doing that no one else in the valley is doing. The other time was when Facebook announced its new groups feature. Mark was in Palo Alto, I was in a hallway in a hotel in Texas calling in, which shows the power of CinchCast to do remote interviews.

While hanging out at Facebook a couple weeks ago I met Groupon Vice President Mihir Shah and asked him why Facebook isn’t disrupting Groupon.

Zagat makes the top travel guides in the world and now they are making a really great set of mobile apps to help you find restaurants. Here is an interview where I visit Nina Zagat in her New York office.

Paper.li makes virtual newspapers out of your Twitter accounts, or Twitter lists. I’ve noticed a lot of people have been using them lately so when I had a chance to have lunch with Edouard Lambelet, CEO of Paper.li, of course I pulled out my iPhone and interviewed him about what he’s seeing in the real-time web.

Finally, I recorded my own CinchCast about why CinchCast is becoming an important journalism weapon, so you can hear more about my thoughts of this tool in my own voice.

Why do audio instead of video? I’ve found a few reasons.

1. Audio is easier to upload and distribute. I can record remotely without expensive equipment or a good internet connection (the Mark Zuckerberg interview about Facebook Groups, for instance, was done doing nothing other than a phone call). Even if I need to upload, though, it’s faster to upload audio than video, which means I can use CinchCast to do breaking news, while video would slow me down.
2. Sometimes you are in a place that video just isn’t appropriate in, or is hard to do. Often I’m in restaurants, for instance, which are often too dark to get good quality video.
3. Many times talking heads just don’t need video. I love talk radio, but I don’t need to see KGO Radio host Ronn Owens. His voice is just fine. Same here.
4. iPhones aren’t really great for video. Yeah, I’ve done it and it’s fine in a pinch, but it’s very hard to hold steady and it’s a bit blurry compared to the videos I do with my Canon 5D MK II.

Anyway, I’m having fun playing with audio. Hope you’re having fun listening. What do you think?

Oh, did you see you can leave your own audio comments underneath any of my CinchCasts? I listen to every one of those and enjoy hearing your voices come back, too. It’s like a new kind of talk radio.

Update: MarkSpoff asked me why I use CinchCast over AudioBoo, another nice audio product. My answer? For a couple of reasons. 1. AudioBoo limits the length of audio recordings, CinchCast doesn’t. 2. AudioBoo doesn’t let you call into the service, which means I couldn’t have used it for that second Mark Zuckerberg recording. 3. I started on CinchCast long before I heard about AudioBoo and I’m not willing to switch to a service with limitations. By the way, CinchCast works on iPad. You just need to figure out how to get to the MP3 file and listen to that.


Tea with the guy who stole a big fish from Facebook


Yesterday you might have heard that Paul Buchheit, co-founder of FriendFeed and the guy who gave Google Gmail and its “don’t be evil” motto, left Facebook to join Y Combinator as a partner.

Why would someone leave a top job at pre-IPO Facebook, a company that seems to be taking over the world? Well, Los Angeles Times got Buchheit’s point of view. I went the other way, and headed over to Y Combinator to have tea with the guy who convinced Paul to leave and join up. Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator.

What is Y Combinator? It’s the top startup incubator in the world. Every few months they hold a contest where they ask entrepreneurs to send in applications (more than 1,000 did just that last month, Graham told me), pick 30-50 (that process happens next week as interviews with about 100 companies starts), then they work together for a few months, improving their idea, which ends in a demo day in front of hundreds of investors. The last crop, founder Paul Graham told me, ended up with almost every company getting funded (which is admits is pretty extraordinary).

We ended up not talking too much about his big hires, but we talked about some things he’s seeing happen in the startup world in Silicon Valley.

After all, we’ve all noticed that things are getting a little heated again. Om Malik wrote yesterday “Irrationality, Welcome Back to Silicon Valley.”

Graham admits that valuations are about three times the size what they would have been two years ago, which were artificially low because of the financial crash.

But back to getting Paul Buchheit “we got him because we liked him.”

Fun tea, hope you enjoy it.