Imagine yourself walking in downtown Manhattan towards the 9/11 memorial. Once you get there, a story plays on your iPhone. It’s a first-responder telling you of her experience in the World Trade Center attacks, and her story took place at the very spot you’re standing. More stories about 9/11 come streaming through your earphones, and suddenly you’re not only at the 9/11 memorial, but you’re also immersed in it. This is Broadcastr, a location-based social media platform that allows users to share stories connected to a certain place in the world.
Co-Founder and President Scott Lindenbaum describes the platform as a walking tour of just about anywhere. “We’re in the business of providing meaningful and immersive experiences of a place. The human voice is an incredibly intimate and expressive medium.” The main interface of the app is a map of the world via Google Maps, canvassed with dots. Each dot represents a story that a person uploaded and plotted to that specific location. You can set filters based on numerous categories ranging from architecture to citizen journalism to “WTF.” Or you can go with my preferred method, choosing dots at random. I’ve experienced a fantastic range of stories such as a man’s first kiss on Long Island, a woman’s escapades in Nairobi, a man’s experience being mugged in Manhattan and a bittersweet tale of a Peace Corp volunteer.
The platform was launched this February by Scott and fellow Co-Founder and CEO Andy Hunter. Although it’s still in Beta, they’ve already seen exponential growth. There have been 110,000 unique visitors, with 33% of those visitors staying for more than five minutes. In addition to smartphone apps on iPhone and Android (20,000 downloads so far), Broadcastr can also be accessed on the web. The phone app allows the user to engage in “geoplay,” enabling stories to play as you make your way around the city.
Broadcastr already has dozens of partnerships. Their partnership with the Shoah Foundation Institute gave them access to 105,000 hours of recorded testimony archived at the University of Southern California from Holocaust survivors . “It seemed like Broadcastr could be a great way to start unlocking that archive to reach a younger, mobile audience with this historically important and incredibly moving material” Scott tells Untapped. So they started with testimonies from survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland. They’re involved with Central Park SummerStage in June, where they’ll have backstage interviews with musicians while people wait for performances to start.
But the partnership with the 9/11 memorial is the one they’re most proud of. Stories are in the process of being uploaded so when the memorial opens in September there will be hundreds. They plan to introduce embeddable maps, allowing anyone to create a playlist of items and then embed that playlist into another app, like Facebook, while still retaining the same user-friendly map and playback functionality.
Another planned feature will be the ability to enclose an area by “geofencing.” Geofencing would alert you to a set of stories or tours once you enter the boundaries of a pre-defined area For example, say you’re walking downtown towards Bowery and you cross 14th Street. Once you traverse the boundary of 14th street, the app would direct you towards location-appropriate content. In the same vein, Broadcastr also plans to implement a promotions channel during the first quarter of 2012 to accrue revenue through the promotion of local businesses. This would “create meaningful economic exchanges around those experiences” says Scott. So for example, someone could be walking around Manhattan and break a geofence, one of the tours that could come up would be a shopping tour of Soho, meshing exploration and discovery with shopping while promoting local business.
This platform is an innovative way to incorporate the oldest form of communication with the digital age. The ability to hear stories of survivors from Auschwitz, survivors of 9/11 and those of strangers begets a new form of sharing, discovery and learning. “We’re creating an ever green archive” Scott said. “Digital content, if it’s done right, can have relevance in the future – This is an idea we’re interested in. For us that longevity of content is very important.”
At the TechCrunch conference here in New York last week, one of the battlefields was called “Location, Location, Location,” indicating the immense amount of resources currently focused on this aspect of social media. Broadcastr is certainly part of this trend. Location-based technology will give us “more ways of discovering a place beyond where the dot is on the map…and back to something rich and more meaningful” Scott says. “As media consumption becomes more mobile and social, gone will be the days of entering terms into search bars to discover content on the go. The experience of moving through the world will be your main search query. Having meaningful, moving experiences in a place will happen just by virtue of you being there with your device. Broadcastr seeks to create the first version of this kind of experience.”