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Audio, Docs, and In-Depth Journalism

This is my last article as the General Director of Storytel in Brazil, and in the week of my departure, we launched a project that I'm incredibly proud of – one of the final projects I've been involved in – called "Amazônia Invisível" (Invisible Amazon). The content is an original podcast by Storytel, where Beka Saw Munduruku, a 19-year-old indigenous activist belonging to the Munduruku ethnic group, guides us through a threatened forest, the Amazon Rainforest, home to 28 million Brazilians. For those who want to know more about the project, you can visit the website www.amazoniainvisivel.com.


This project inspires the theme of this article, firstly due to the pride I feel in this project – a work of over 2 years that involved teams in Brazil and various other countries, and a team of professionals who traveled and experienced firsthand many of the issues faced by the Brazilian Amazon and its indigenous people; challenges and threats that have come to the forefront even more with the recent tragic deaths of indigenist Bruno Pereira and journalist Dom Philips.


However, it's also because this type of storytelling and narrative has become increasingly present in the world of audio content. It's worth remembering that audio documentaries and in-depth journalism didn't originate from this project. On the contrary, there have been remarkable content pieces created abroad in this format for a long time... even traditional radio has produced content in this line.


By the way, for those who don't know or don't remember, the content that many attribute to the podcast boom is exactly like this. "Serial" is an in-depth journalism piece about a crime that happened in the US, and it went so deep that it led the American justice system to reopen the case many years after the official investigation had concluded. But I'm here to say that Brazil already has many incredible content pieces produced.


One area where audio has an advantage in producing in-depth journalism and documentaries is in terms of production cost and logistics. Even though the pre-production process, scripting, strategy, and content capture require many professionals and equipment, the operation is easier and less costly than audiovisual production. I've heard from producers that an audio project can cost up to 5 or even 6 times less than the same documentary intended for viewing rather than listening. You might say, "Oh, but if I were watching, I'd get to see the place, the people, the scenes, not just imagine or hear the voices." Yes, that's why there are resources like the ones we used in "Amazônia Invisível": in this case, a website with images and a series of extras that can't exist in audio but serve as supplementary material or almost like a second screen (borrowing the concept from audiovisual) for consumers of that content. If you want to know more, just visit: www.amazoniainvisivel.com.


Audio allows for a great wealth of detail. While a video documentary might last around 1 hour and 30 minutes, or 2 hours if it's very long, in audio, you can have content on the same topic for 10 hours. You can deliver much more detail, information, discoveries, witnesses, and characters in a fragmented format that, according to listeners themselves, brings much more empathy and closeness between the one telling the story and the one listening.


Another interesting thing is the term we're using to define this type of content. Since audio is still a growing industry, there are distinct names for content that are mostly similar in category, genre, and format. Some call it an "audio series," others "audio documentary," "in-depth journalism," and even "audiobook." But the truth is, these various names are attempts to make it familiar to the listener (especially those new to it) what kind of content or story to expect when they hit play.


As a final point before recommending some content pieces that, in my humble opinion, are the best examples in Brazil, it's worth noting something: many of these content pieces that have been produced in audio have followed a trend that is multiformat, true crime. Content that tells, investigates, or brings to light real crimes of various types, committed in various ways. It's interesting to see audio taking the lead in consumption trends, not just being an additional format of something that had already been created in books, series, movies, or audiovisual documentaries.


So, to showcase this prominence, I want to recommend here some Brazilian original audio content that are exactly great stories to listen to:

See you next month! I hope that by then you're already addicted to some audio documentaries, just like I am at the moment with the incredible podcast "A Mulher da Casa Abandonada" by Chico Felitti.

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