The “audio slideshow”- a picture that tells zero words.
If you like watching screen recorded Powerpoint lectures, you’ll love a derelict version you can’t find, play or see.
In the world of multimedia journalism, legends tell of a medium so beautiful that God became jealous and cast it out of heaven. This is the audio slideshow.
In truth, I really wanted to love the audio slideshow. It looks great on paper- none of the endless tweaking of video or copy with all of the glory of the most meaningful photography, the most powerful audio. This dream soon became a nightmare when I attempted to find a single extant story in the year of our lord 2020.
It took well over an hour to find a journalistic, seemingly un-broken audio slideshow from a source with any kind of legitimacy. When I did, it required Adobe Flash Player. In September 2020, that’s a bit of a problem.
Adobe announced in 2017 that they were beginning the end-of-life process for their flash player, a necessary building block of many kinds of online content in the 2000s and early 2010s. As such, virtually no news outlet is currently publishing content that requires the plugin. This means that the audio slideshow, once touted as the golden goose of multimedia, no longer has a home.
Technical difficulties aside, I believe that the audio slideshow format is a dated relic of early experimentation in the ongoing shift to digital journalism that made significant waves in the late 2000s and early 2010s. It’s a format that doesn’t have much place in 2020- if you want to listen to your news, the world of podcasts is your oyster. If you want to listen and see photos, an audio story paired with short written copy and captioned photos certainly seems like a more robust way to convey information.
The audio slideshow almost seems anti-multimedia in its outright intentional avoidance of video: with video cheaper and easier to produce than ever, you would almost have to be trying to make a point to not use any in a clip over a minute long. Who is going to spend five minutes staring at a slow-moving, glorified powerpoint when 30 second clips of actual video struggle to hold a viewer’s attention until the end?
My main takeaway here is pretty simple- this charming artifact of a bygone era deserves the dignity of a respectful burial. The audio slideshow is dead and it shouldn’t make a comeback.