One of the biggest challenges I face as an interviewer is arranging time around everyone's schedule to record an interview. Working globally often means navigating timezones. And when you have guests located in multiple timezones, coordinating schedules can be a nightmare.
I was recently having a voice chat with some folks via Facebook Messenger and wondered if there was a way to download the audio files and play them. Turns out there is, but it's hidden. Moreover, with a browser plug-ing and a few simple steps, you can download them labeled in order to easily compile in your audio editor.
The nice thing about this method is that voice messages do not have to be recorded in real-time, so “interviews” can take place at the availability and convenience of both the guest and host. This means you could feasibly conduct an interview with guests in Australia, US and the UK without the need to be on a call together at the same time.
Stuff you need (the basics):
- A cellphone for each speaker in the interview
- The Facebook Messenger app
- A computer with a web browser
Other Stuff you need (to download in order):
- Chrome, Firefox or Opera browser
- DownloadThemAll! Plugin
The overall process is simple. Like most interview processes, we are going to record, download, and edit. However, there are some steps involved in the download portion in order to download the recorded files
1. Select your Mic & Hit Record.
Recording is simple. From the messenger app, simply press and hold the voice record button while speaking.
Keep in mind that the audio quality will only be as good as the audio quality from the microphone your phone uses and the background noise the interview is recorded in. I use a USB microphone with an OTG cable on my Android and record from my studio to get best results.
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2. Download the audio from Facebook's mobile site in your browser
The tricky part about downloading the files you and your guests have recorded is that you can't download them directly from the Facebook desktop site. Instead you have to open the mobile Facebook site in your browser by typing in the URL:
From there, click the Messages icon at the top (the voice balloon with the squiggly line), and navigate to your recorded conversation.
Click the menu (the three dots) on the right side of each audio player and click download to save the audio files to your disk drive.
3. Use the DownThemAll! plugin to grab all your files at once
If you use Firefox, Chrome or Opera, you can use a download manager plug-in to download all of your audio files at once and index them for easy arranging in your editor later. There are several download managers that will get the job done. I use DownloadThemAll! for this tutorial.
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Once installed, navigate to your conversation tab. Click the DownloadThemAll! icon in the extension icons and select DownloadThemAll! (not OneClick!)
In the DownLoadThemAll! window, select the Media tab.
Messenger audio files are recorded using the phone's native audio compression (MP4 for Android, AAC for iPhone). By filtering for these extensions we can quickly select all of the audio files in our conversation. In the Fast Filtering box type:
All of your audio files should be checked. If not, you may need to check them manually.
To use a subfolder to hold your audio files, simply type the name of the folder in the Subfolder textbox. If the directory does not exist in your designated downloads folder, the plug-in will create one for you.
To index your files, the magic comes in creating a naming mask. In the Mask textbox type:
Click Download to begin downloading your files, indexed in the order they are recorded
4. Import them into your editing software to begin production
Recording in Facebook Messenger: How Did It Go?
Here is a sample of the result of a test interview I did with voice actor Owen McCuen. Owen simply recorded using his phone. I used my Samson Go Mic with an OTG cable. Both of us recorded in our studio. Your results will vary with different microphones, phones and locations.
Overall, I was impressed with the results. The audio quality was excellent and the audio edited together fairly effortlessly. I do highly recommend that all speakers use a good microphone setup, but even when they do not, the results are better than I expected. There is some loss in audio due to compression, but it doesn't seem detrimental to overall voice quality for an interview
- Allows the interviewer to think through questions in response to the interview for a more thoughtful, directed conversation.
- Overcomes barriers of timezones and work schedules by allowing conversations in spare time.
- Audio quality is only as good as the phone microphone and location background noise allows. Check out the Samson Go Mic, RODE Smartlav +, and the Shure MV5 for some good gear options.
- Responses from different locations may have different ambiences and noise levels.
- Audio is compressed to reduce storage and file size, which also reduces overall quality.
Need More Help?
Recording via Facebook Messenger is just one of many options out there for creating audio content.
If you're able to get together with your guest/co-host in real-time, have a look at the various tools for recording a podcast online. There's a lot of quality options on that front nowadays.
And, if you'd like some more tailored advice on recording your show, or on any other aspect of podcasting, check out The Podcast Host Academy. There, you'll get access to all our courses, resources, checklists, community forums, and regular live Q&A sessions!