The Sound And The Photos: A Look At SoundCloud’s Story Wheel

SoundCloud and Instagram team up for Story Wheel, a website that allows you to create your own narrated slide show.

Ah, the slide show presentation: memories of reliving that Grand Canyon family vacation or suffering through a hygiene lesson in junior high come to mind no doubt. But the good people at SoundCloud have come up with something a little more interesting while maintaining that welcomed feeling of nostalgia. To commemorate their milestone of hitting 10 million registered users, SoundCloud teamed up with Instagram to release Story Wheel, a website that combines your Instagram photos with your own narration to produce an old-school slide show presentation.


Story Wheel is the brainchild of SoundCloud’s Vice President of Platform Henrik Lenberg, who, along with Developer Johannes Wagener, mulled around the idea of creating an online slide show with sound and voice recordings incorporated. “My first thought was this Mad Men video [clip] on YouTube of Don Draper pitching with a slideshow projector,” says Wagener. “It really expressed the feeling of nostalgia from watching old pictures and listening to stories.”

From there, Wagener began the first implementations of Story Wheel at this past year’s Music Hack Day in Boston, a weekend for hackers to conceptualize and create music-based projects. “The most important thing for me was to recreate the feeling of shooting somewhere in the dark and watching an old slideshow projector,” says Wagener. While Story Wheel was in development as a separate project, SoundCloud was rapidly approaching 10 million users. Mark Dewings, who leads Brand and Marketing Communications at SoundCloud, got the idea of creating a short story mash-up of photos and dialogue with company founders Alex Ljung and Eric Wahlforss retelling their journey to SoundCloud’s milestone. Dewings soon decided to use Story Wheel as the ideal vehicle for their 10-million announcement.

Choosing the right platform for users to upload their photos was a clear decision for the SoundCloud team. “Instagram is like a sister company to what we do: They do for photos what we do for sound,” says Wahlforss, cofounder and CTO. “The filter from the Instagram pictures really adds to [Story Wheel] as well. If it were normal digital pictures, it wouldn’t give the same impression–but the sort of retro pictures from Instagram fits in nicely.” Story Wheel’s template image with its cozy ambiance even has a touch of nostalgia attached to it: It’s a snapshot of Wagener’s dad’s home office.

Users have immediately taken to the site, uploading daily diaries, odes to booze, beatnik poetry, and plenty more. Wagener mentions that additional services for Story Wheel are being considered, including Facebook album integration. He goes on to say, however, that preserving the retro sentiment of Story Wheel is of the utmost importance. “Adding pictures without a filter could ruin the scenario, so we have to be careful with that,” he says.

And it’s that nostalgic scenario that Wahlforss says is at the heart of Story Wheel. “I spoke to someone recently about it and she was reminded of her childhood when her grandparents were showing pictures in a dark room, talking about it with the whole family–there isn’t too much of that going on these days,” he says. “So if we can bring back a little bit of [what’s been] lost, I think we’ve done something really nice.”

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.