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Audio Blogs: Online Diarists Sound Off

In the 18th century, people recorded the mundane details of life in diaries. Today, bloggers -- or Web loggers -- share their most intimate thoughts and opinions with the entire world on the Internet. The online journals, known as "blogs," are increasingly popular. And while they've been dominated by text and photos, they're now also going in a new direction, using audio as well.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on "audio blogs" -- online audio diaries that can make anyone's life a serial drama. New technology allows them to be updated via a simple phone call.

Here's a typical audio blog entry: "...and then I remembered the bottomless wine glass last night. Every time I took a sip, the busboy came and filled it up. And then I recalled the platform shoes. And I said, 'ohhhh....'"

Text blogs have around since the mid-1990s, but audio is just entering the mainstream. Dave Elfving runs a site called The Greasy Skillet, which uses both text and audio. He prefers to call his site an "online journal," saying blog "sounds like some sort of unfortunate medical condition."

Elfving says audio blogging appeals to a universal desire to make one's voice heard. "There's only so many people who can write in major newspapers, there's only so many people who can be on the radio, but with very little or no money you can be on the Internet."

But, as Shapiro reports, that's not always a good thing. "Type in 'blog' on your Internet search engine, and you may find journals about cats. Or hear one audio blogger say: "I am in love with Luke Wilson. I am absolutely, phenomenally captivated by him."

But there are also blogs with solid information and interesting perspectives: pundits covering the political spectrum, and discussions of every hobby imaginable. Elfving says it's worth sifting through the frivolous sites to find the jewels.

And whereas books and magazines have a publisher's seal of approval, anyone with Internet access can write a blog. So you can find viewpoints outside of the mainstream. Laura Moorehead, senior editor of the magazine Wired, says finding a good blog is just the beginning.

"If you find a blog that you really like, chances are somewhere on that page are going to be related bloggers that are being recommended, and from there you can kind of branch out and investigate some others."

Moorehead predicts that once the novelty of audio blogging subsides, it will become just another tool in a blogger's repertoire.

Since audio blogs are relatively new, they don't yet cover the range of their written equivalents. But some people are already using audio in creative ways. A site called The Quiet American provides audio travelogues submitted by people around in a feature called "one-minute vacations."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.