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Category: SoundCloud

SoundCloud hits 10 million users, launches Story Wheel web app

Story Wheel

SoundCloud announced Monday that it has reached a milestone: more than 10 million users and 5 million downloads of the SoundCloud mobile app.

But what's probably more interesting to SoundCloud users is a new Instagram-compatible Web app called Story Wheel that the Berlin company launched Monday.

"It's a really big thing for us to have the community get to that point," Alex Ljung, SoundCloud's co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview. "It's just been a great last year for us. Everything has sort of ramped up faster and faster and recently we're signing up about a million users a month."

The audio-hosting and -streaming service, which we've said aspires to be the YouTube of audio, has grown largely by word of mouth, Ljung said.

"The SoundCloud community is really pushing it forward," he said. "We see now super clearly that sound is mobile with the number of sign-ups and usage growth on the mobile app side. We've also seen over the last year just how wide sound can be beyond music."

One example of that diversity is that there are more than 3.3 million tags that SoundCloud users identify their recordings with, Ljung said.

Another example of SoundCloud's "sound is more than music" ethos is the Story Wheel app, which is essentially an online version of a slide show with a projector sound effects, to re-create the feeling of sharing photos the old-school way with friends and family.

The app enables users to import in photos from the popular iPhone photo-sharing app Instagram and add recorded narration -- hosted by SoundCloud -- to go with the pictures.

On Monday, Ljung and SoundCloud co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Eric Wahlforss posted a Story Wheel of their own that offered up a bit of company history: Their first SoundCloud "office" was a Berlin coffee shop.

The app started last November in Boston as a project at Music Hack Day, which SoundCloud helps organize, then continued in the company's Berlin and San Francisco offices. The inspiration for Story Wheel came when SoundCloud engineers found themselves telling each other the stories behind the photos they posted to Instagram.

"We chose Instagram is because it's the service we use the most for our own photos," Ljung said. "We built Story Wheel because it's something we wanted to see and we thought it was something our users would like to see and use too. And we built the whole thing on the same API that we offer to our developers, who have made more than 10,000 apps on our platform."

About a year ago SoundCloud had about 2 million users, Ljung said, adding that he thinks third-party developers and the popularity of the company's mobile apps deserve as much credit for the growth to 10 million users as the word of mouth spread by users.

So where does SoundCloud go from here? Ljung said the 80-employee company is focused on continuing its growth and creating more things like Story Wheel that show users what they can do with the audio files they record and share on SoundCloud's website.

Aiding that effort is a recent round of venture funding and the addition of Mary Meeker, a renowned tech analyst and partner at the investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, to SoundCloud's board as an observer.

Ljung, however, wasn't too interested in talking about Meeker or just how much money SoundCloud has raised.

"I think for us it's not such a big deal," he said. "It's just kind of like a background thing that helps the company grow. It's great to have good partners and have great apps built on our platform. But for us, the 10-million-user figure is really more interesting. Everything we do, we think about how it will affect our users because without the users, none of the other stuff is there."


SoundCloud reportedly raises $50 million

SoundCloud wants to be the YouTube of audio

Instagram hits milestone: 150 million photos uploaded

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Image: A screen shot of SoundCloud's Story Wheel Web app. Credit: SoundCloud

CES 2012: What's in our bags for the year's biggest gadget show

Michelle Maltais' tools of the trade for CES

This post has been updated. See note below for details.

The annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show has begun. Team LAT is getting into place, and our coverage has started.

I'm still en route.This year, instead of flying as I usually do, I'm road tripping it. In fact, I'm cruising along Interstate 15 as I type -- riding, not driving.  And I'm traveling a little lighter than in years past. My bag is smaller, so are my computer and camera. But they're all more powerful.

The bag is as much a part of the story as what's in it. I'll be checking whether it's more than just a pretty purple package. I got this raspberry-colored Powerbag for Christmas. (My family knows I have power issues -- I mean with all of my devices.) So I plan to put it through its paces, charging its contents during CES.  Although I believe in redundancy, since technology can and does fail on you when you most need it, I'm carrying only one laptop this CES. That's mostly because I can file text, photos and video from my phone more easily than in years past if I need to. (I'm writing this on my iPhone on the ride into Las Vegas from Los Angeles.)

In the main compartment, I have my 13-inch MacBook Pro, its power cable and my magic folder with analog materials -- important printouts and my CES pass. I am using a removable pouch for USB cables, a hub, an SD card reader, earphones, my glasses, pens and quick-grab snacks.I can also store the many flash drives we collect throughout CES with product details and photos.

In the middle compartment, a 1TB external hard drive fits next to a tiny tripod for the small HD video camera I have in there, since I'll be one-man-banding it. The small video camera will also double as a still camera. Inside the camera is an 8 GB Eye-Fi SD card to quickly transfer photos to either my iPhone or laptop so I can blog or Tweet from either device.

I have an iRig mic to connect with my iPhone if I need to shoot video with it. (Unfortunately, it doesn't work with the camcorder.) Having a more powerful directional mic should help cut the din of the convention center.

The front pocket of the bag is for my iPhone and BlackBerry, which will need charging sooner than later. I carry both because AT&T works in places T-Mobile doesn't and vice versa.

I've also got my brace for weak and weary wrists, hand wipes and the power cable for the bag. There's also a power strip hanging around, but I'm still on the fence about carrying it. We'll see how well the Powerbag holds up. Stay tuned for a review of the bag later in the week.

[Updated 4:20 p.m.: Times videographer Armand Emamdjomeh and tech reporter writer Nathan Olivarez-Giles share below what gear they're using this year to cover CES.]

Armand Emamdjomeh's bag and all that's inside it

Armand Emamdjomeh:

As a disclaimer, I'm a big fan of Canon and Apple, so this equipment list might not hold any surprises. That being said...

Since I'm focusing on video, the centerpiece of my setup is a Canon 5D MkII. I've called this "a photographer's camera that shoots beautiful video," and even though the model is a few years old by now, it certainly never disappoints with either. The 24-105m f/4 lens isn't quite as good as the 24-70mm f/2.8, which boasts a wider aperture and is a better all around lens, but the extra focal length is good for closeups and interviews, and the image stabilization makes up for the slower aperture. In terms of glass, I also packed a 50mm f/1.4 lens, just in case we get into some really poor lighting. With the 5D's maximum ISO of 25,600, and shooting fairly clean up to 3200 ISO, putting the 50mm lens on on the camera really lets you shoot just about anywhere.

For audio, I have a RODE shotgun mic that mounts on the camera hotshoe, and for more precise sound we have a set of wireless lavalieres and a handheld microphone for interviews. To get all that sound into the camera there's the Beachtek XLR adapter, which mounts on the bottom of the camera.

To hold that rig I have a Manfrotto 680B monopod - it's small, light and maneuverable enough to keep shots steady even in a crowded space.

The hub is my 15" MacBook Pro. Enough battery life and processing power to make video processing in the field not a complete nightmare. And obviously, there's a pen and notepad.

Other things in my bag, AA batteries and Clif bars, for refueling.

And of course, the lynch pin of all this, that which could serve as a backup for every single one of the above devices should any of them fail, is my iPhone 4s. Plus, what would a tech conference be without Instagram?

Nathan Olivarez-Giles' bag and all that's inside it

Nathan Olivarez-Giles:

This year, my bag for CES is a lot different than the set-up I took with me to Vegas last year.

The biggest change might be my lack of a camera. Last year I had with me a Sony HDR-SR7 video camera, spare batteries and a shot-gun microphone for shooting video. This year, I'll be spending more time in front of the camera instead of behind the camera, so the video that will go along with what I write will be shot by my colleague Armand Emamdjomeh, who shoots the gadget review videos we do every Saturday on the Technology blog.

My laptop this year is also lighter. Gone is my 2007, 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro. Instead, this year I'm using a thin and light Apple MacBook Air that's only a few months old. Along with that of course comes its charger. I also have a thumb-drive for transferring files from one computer to another quickly when an Internet connection is slow our not available.

I've also got a paper notepad and three pens for note taking I'll be doing and my iPhone 4S will be used for recording audio of interviews, which I'm planning on uploading to my SoundCloud account, and for a few photos of some of the new gadgets making their debut at CES this year. Along with the iPhone 4S comes its charger and a set of Apple headphones as well.

Other apps on my iPhone I'll be using this year will be TweetBot, currently my preferred Twitter app, and maybe a little bit of Instagram, Facebook and Path too.

A Nintendo 3DS, its charger, and copies of the games Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Mario Kart 7 are also packed inside in preparation for an interview later this week I have scheduled with Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America Inc.

The bag I'm throwing all of this stuff in is a Powerbag that was sent to me as a review unit. So far, I haven't gotten the bag working but Michelle Maltais is writing up a review of her Powerbag for the Technology blog, so maybe she'll help me figure out what I'm doing wrong or if it's broken.


CES: Yet another rollout for mobile digital TV

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Apple iOS 5.1 beta code hints at quad-core for iPad, iPhone

-- Michelle Maltais

SoundCloud reportedly raises $50 million; Mary Meeker to observe board

SoundCloud page for Nathan Olivarez-Giles

As we've reported, SoundCloud is a company that wants to become the YouTube of audio, and on Tuesday it announced two moves that may help make that happen.

First off, SoundCloud has closed a major funding round. How much? The Berlin company, with an office in San Francisco, isn't saying, but TechCrunch Europe has reported that it may be as much as $50 million.

The new funding round, led by the investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers with GGV Capital also contributing, will go toward allowing the site to "expand more rapidly," SoundCloud said in a statement. In June, SoundCloud said that it had more than 5 million users.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is well-known in the tech industry for investing in Google, Amazon, Zynga and other high-profile companies.

Secondly, Mary Meeker, a renowned tech analyst and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is taking an "observer seat" with SoundCloud's board of directors.

Meeker currently sits on the board of directors at mobile payment startup Square and is "actively involved" in the firm's investments in Groupon, Legalzoom, Waze,, Spotify, Jawbone, One King's Lane and Trendyol, SoundCloud said.

[Updated Jan. 16, 9:19 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly started that Meeker was taking a board seat with SoundCloud's board of directors. Meeker is joing SoundCloud's board as a non-voting observer, not as a fully fledged board member, according to the company.]


SoundCloud wants to be the YouTube of audio

Square Card Case on iOS 5 starts a tab in your pocket

Mary Meeker, renowned tech analyst, leaves Morgan Stanley for venture capitalist firm

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Image: A screen shot of Nathan Olivarez-Giles' SoundCloud page. Credit: SoundCloud

SoundCloud wants to be the YouTube of audio

ABC News Radio on SoundCloud

SoundCloud is one of the handful of popular destinations for musicians on the Web looking to upload their songs, so listeners can download or stream their work.

But while musicians have largely powered SoundCloud's growth to a user base of more than 7 million since it's start in 2008, the site is now looking to reach not just bands and fans, but also everyone else who currently captures a moment in a photo or a video, versus audio, with their smartphone.

"We had a realization last year where we started seeing people using SoundCloud for other things than just music," said Alex Ljung, SoundCloud's co-founder and chief executive. "And it became obvious for us, that when we look at the Web we think of photos, we think of text, we think of videos, so why don't we think about sound in a broader sense? So, music is obviously a key part for us, but there's a lot of other things happening on the platform as well."

The Berlin-based start-up recently opened a San Francisco office to aid its efforts to reach more and more users, musician and non-musician alike. And while SoundCloud has more than a few competitors out there -- such as BandCamp and SoundClick -- as a preferred platform for musicians to host their tunes, the company might be aided in its goal by the fact that its sound-streaming rivals are focused on music.

The company also has its own free audio recording apps available for Apple's iPhone, Google's Android mobile OS, as well as more than 200 other apps from third parties that can record and sync with a user's SoundCloud account by way of developer tools it has made available.

"Ultimately we want people to be able to connect through sounds, and we think that, you know, we are providing a certain kind of experience around that, but we want that experience to be like the Web is," Ljung said. "We want it to be distributed. So it doesn't matter if you're on your phone, or your desktop, or you know, on a different website -- we want people to be able to have a SoundCloud experience there. So that's why we built it as a platform and allow other apps to basically integrate SoundCloud into what they're doing. So you don't have to to get the experience. You should be able to get that wherever you are."

By opening up its own platform, as well as being integrated with the likes of other social sharing networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, SoundCloud aims to be what YouTube has been for video, what Twitter has become for quick comments written out in 140 characters or less and what Facebook has grown into for photos.

"I think for us it's important, just this idea of you know sound can be a lot of different things," Ljung said. "It can be the Foo Fighters putting something up. It can be 50 Cent using it. But it can also be Russell Brand reading stuff from his new book, it could be ABC News putting up memories from -- or people's memories from 9/11."

What do you think? Do you want to record and share audio -- or are photos, video and text good enough? Is there anything you'd like to hear on the Web, on SoundCloud or anywhere else?

To listen to my interview with Ljung, recorded in downtown Los Angeles earlier this week, check out the recording I posted to SoundCloud below.


How to get the new Facebook 'Timeline' now

Facebook F8: Is Facebook a 'social operating system'?

Digg's Newsrooms an attempt to separate good content from bad

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screenshot of ABC News Radio on SoundCloud.

Facebook F8: Is Facebook a 'social operating system'?

Facebook Timeline

Facebook made a lot of big news Thursday at its annual F8 developer conference. But what does the Timeline profile redesign, the Open Graph apps allowing people to connect to things in new ways (like, read, listen, watch) actually all mean for both users and developers?

I posed that question to Joe Green, co-founder of Causes and Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard roommate; Dave Morin, co-founder and CEO of Path and a former executive at Facebook and Apple; and Alex Ljung, co-founder and CEO of SoundCloud -- three of Facebook's launch partners for its new Open Graph apps who were at F8 in San Francisco.

Green and Morin described the changes as pushing Facebook from being simply a social network toward being a social operating system.

Photos: The many faces of Facebook

"I think a lot of us start our day with Facebook today," Morin said. "The reason that this is called Facebook Platform is for this reason, right? It's a platform for building social applications."

Morin should know. While at Facebook, he was one of the creators of the Facebook Platform that allowed developers to build Facebook apps.

"I think the social operating system is here," he said. "And the Timeline is the future consumer interface for everything. And so the old metaphors of operating systems, I think, are over and now I think this is the future."

Green agreed, noting that Facebook's influence as the most widely used social network has, so far, helped define what a social network is.

"Facebook really is innovative on the interface," he said. "When they introduced Newsfeed, everyone else started talking about feeds, everything was chronological feeds. They're not the first person to organize things chronologically, I mean blogs were chronological, but this idea of a feed."

"And now Timeline is a fundamentally new interface and I think you'll see that -- I don't know if you'll see a lot of copycats -- you'll see that interface, I think, really, really fundamentally changing things."

Ljung said the social operating system concept is a sound one and accurate for Facebook.

"I think if you're building an app today for the Web, you have to take Facebook into consideration, and it can be a tremendous help in getting reach and getting users engaged," he said. "But there's also --  that means that it's on their terms in some ways as well. Thankfully so far they keep reinventing what they're doing and adding new and interesting things in a good way. But it is, they are -- they have a lot of the fundamentals of the social OS somehow.

"I think a good thing about that, in the way that they're doing it, is that it's easy for other people to tap into it … it's become quite easy for people to build inherently social products with the help of Faceook and I think that's a really good thing."

To hear my interviews in full, check out these recordings posted to SoundCloud...

Dave Morin, CEO of Path, and Joe Green, CEO of Causes

Alex Ljung, CEO of SoundCloud


Facebook F8: Redesigning and hitting 800 million users

Facebook F8: Mark Zuckerberg unveils Timeline profile redesign

Facebook F8: Spotify, Hulu, Netflix get deeper Facebook integration

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screen shot of Facebook's new Timeline profile redesign. 


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