April 24, 2009

Voicethread – Group Conversations Around Images, Documents, and Videos


Voicethread is an extremely interesting development in social media. It’s at the stage where it’s a great idea, but it’s only as good as the participants in the site. It has plenty of possibilities, but given that it’s a bit more difficult to understand and use than, say, a blog it may not become an overnight success.

OK, so what is it? Voicethread is a kind of online interview platform. There could be a picture in the middle displaying a proposed design for an upcoming novel. Participants in the Voicethread can then record an audio comment. So the author could say, “I wrote this because…” or a designer could say, “I chose to use these images because…” These voice comments, along with the commenters icon, appear around the image of the bookcover. There are a number of different ways to use the service and not all promotional – but at heart it’s a kind of audio blog with people all talking about one subject.

The example given on the site is an entire family giving their separate perspectives about a family photo and this is a great way for family’s connect – especially if they live in different places. The promotional possibilities, though, is what makes a social media application become truly popular – this is what happened with Facebook and Twitter, so if this is how Voicethread comes to be used it could become another household word. The educational/classroom possibilities are also great and could revolutionize how computers are used in the classroom.

Practical Uses:

  • Create a discussion group about a work of art with each person offering their own audio commentary and interpretation
  • Promote a product by getting real people’s reaction and talking about unique ways that they would like to use the product
  • Integrate a Voicethread into the classroom to spur discussion about coursework and research assignments
  • Connect your family together by having everyone talk about old vacation photos

Insider Tips:

  • Get people involved in using the service – this may be the hardest part. Providing detailed instructions for how to use the service may be necessary, especially for those who aren’t experienced using computers
  • Though voice is the most common usage – you can also record a video response, or text message, for people who might be shy about providing audio
  • Moderate comments because a large thread can get out of hand – and could even lead to offensive material
  • The doodling feature is a fun addition and helpful for annotating design work
  • Try embedding your Voicethread pages on other websites to spread the word

What we liked:

  • Totally unique and interesting service
  • Great variety of methods for adding new content – audio, text, and video
  • Easy to use and navigate, which is saying a lot given the number of different features the service has to juggle

What we didn’t like:

  • Advanced packages are fairly expensive for the everyday user, unlike free social networking platforms
  • Pricing structure is geared towards business and educational institutions, rather than casual users
  • Not necessarily easy setup for novice computer users


Company Info:

  • Launched: 2007
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: Boca Raton, FL
  • Founded by: Ben Papell and Steve Muth
  • Web site:


  • Free for educators with limited storage up to $60/year, depending on the type of use – educational institution or business


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