Human meets algorithm: the future of radio

We live in interesting times for radio. Unlike other forms of content, say video, images or text, the radio landscape remains in a state of turbulent flux. On the one hand Pandora and Spotify, followed by a blooming cohort of streaming services, have redefined “radio” to mean streaming music by means of smart algorithms. A mixture of human curation and algorithms is also used, experimentally, to provide a discovery experience. You see the strength of algorithms is also their weakness: it is called “optimization”. The algorithm learns things about the listener and provides content to suit her tastes and lifestyle. This is great. In fact, this is what most of us expect nowadays from a digital content service. Unlike past times when we had to be present at a specific time and place in order to experience something - e.g. our favorite radio program - now we expect that content to be delivered to us in our own time and place, and to also suit our mood.

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In other words, the world has turned upside down, which is a great thing indeed.  Algorithms are a solution for a digital streaming service because, through optimization and learning, they can respond to each listener individually. But there is a caveat, and it is called the “bubble”. The listener gets trapped into a bubble around her expressed interests. Like a digital prison she is doomed to be fed with the same stuff all the time. Algorithms are exciting at first, but become boring after a while.

That’s why human curation of content is such an important aspect of the right mix.  Research has shown that for 80% of our listening time we listen to music and content played for us by others, and only 20% is when we play music for ourselves. In the medium to long run we all prefer if those “others” were humans, rather than software programs.

 Real radio in the changing landscape

For traditional radio stations that stream on the web the changing landscape is a huge challenge. Unlike music streaming services “real radio” is by nature programmatic.  Trying to fit an old way of doing things into this new, anarchic, on-demand, minimum attention-span, low-loyalty world is a tough deal! Real radio needs to change and adapt. In fact, we have to rethink real radio from scratch.

I believe that the most important question we need to ask is “what are the essential elements of real radio that create unique experiences for the listener?”

This should be our starting point. Real radio is not only about music, or talk, or news, or whatever; it is mostly about personalities. The emotional connection between the listener with her favorite DJ is what creates the magic. Real radio is also about social, collective, tribal listening. There is something different, and uniquely human, about experiencing a show when you know that there are also others that experience it with you at the same time. A third essential element of real radio is real-time interaction, that you can call in and talk to real human being, that you can become part of a communal experience that is happening now.

How can we keep all that essential magic that is unique to real radio, and yet deliver it to the end listener in new formats and ways, at her own time and place? How can we integrate the real radio experience to her way of life - that includes using multiple mobile devices, interacting on social media, multitasking, and generally breaking down her time in very small, and very precious pieces? How can we sustain loyalty in a world where our lifestyle is mostly fragmented?

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Technology for real radio

Imagine a real radio that can discover the listener, in as much as the listener can discover the real radio. Imagine content that is scalable; a podcast for example that can be made as long or as short as the listener wants. Imagine real radio that is geofenced, so that a listener can enjoy a unique listening experience directly relating to a specific location, say a historical site - or a time, say a festival, or a celebration. Imagine a real radio that is predictive; that can tell what kind of content would be appropriate for the particular listener before she knows it - and surprises her and engages her even more. And then imagine a new social radio, which is not a copy of Facebook - but is event-based and participatory in real time.

These are some of the ideas we are working on….so stay tuned to Radiojar!

George Zarkadakis

zarkadakis
George Zarkadakis
Posted: 1 week ago

Finding your niche, and becoming successful

Finding your niche or marketing to a certain demographic audience has always been successful in the radio business. Before online radio, terrestrial radio stations were limited to their frequency range in their market and they would cater to certain demographics using music genre and etc. Now a days, terrestrial stations now stream along with their historical presence of their frequency on the radio dial. But they still cater to their niche in their local market even though any one can tune in to their stream from anywhere in the world. Purely online radio station owners are not restricted to carving a niche from their local listeners only. But finding their niche in the world of listeners has more better possibilities and opportunities. I would like to give an example.
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American Hearts Radio

The creator and owner of American Hearts Radio Mike Aloia is a very generous and big hearted man. He is a native of Florida and grew up with the famous Van Zant brothers (Lynard Skynard), hence his love for music. Mr. Aloia had served his country in the armed forces and returned to Florida to be a successful business and family man. But he always felt the need combine his passion of music and honoring American vets. So American Hearts Radio was born. Mike also had a mission for his station when he launched. He wanted fellow vets and the American public to be aware that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was still a prisoner of war and not to forget him. For years Mile’s station streamed hope and awareness for Sgt. Bergdahl until his release on May 31st, 2014. Mike never cared that some argued that the soldier was a deserter. He was just outraged that an American soldier was left behind and almost forgotten for about five years. Now that Sgt Bowe is back, American Hearts Radio has broaden it’s niche farther than the American vets. He is after the American heart by including more variety of music and comedy to the station’s content.

Let your passion lead

So what are your passions? What message do you want to share with the world? Passions and messages are good ingredients for content of your station. With the right ingredients, you may also realize your niche. There are literally billions of listeners in the world, and the odds are in your favor to carve a niche out of them. You want the content of your station to appeal to you. You want to create a station that even you will enjoy listening too from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep. You will find that there is a multitude of people that share your taste as well. And they will tune in.

Jim Haines

zarkadakis
George Zarkadakis
Posted: 1 week ago

Improve listener loyalty with imaging

When I first fell in love with radio as a child, I fell in love with the imaging in each of my favorite station’s broadcast. Every station had their own unique style and sound which was easily recognized when heard. To me, a broadcast with little imaging or none is like a dry sandwich. You know, like the mayonnaise or mustard is missing. Just boring and no excitement.

The reason I am writing about imaging, is because lately station owners I have consulted with in the past have recently asked me to evaluate their broadcast. They have all asked me similar questions like “is there something missing?” “What can I do to make my broadcast more interesting?” And when I tuned in from their requests, I found that there was minimal or no imaging at all. After communicating my findings to them, they all agreed. Adding jingles, sweepers, and etc. really did make a difference. I also told them how to create breaks and pilots for their imaging in Radiojar’s system for the best and professional sounding results. Naturally some asked me how to get or create great imaging.

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Creating Imaging

In the past and present, imaging is created by a professional voice over artists and by a station’s trained staff member(s). You can easily find thousands of professional voice over artists on the internet. They all have a library of sound effects and can specialize in different languages. You will also notice after shopping around that their fees and prices are very large to very small. So I recommend finding one that suits your budget and is easy to communicate what you expect the final products from them to sound like. It is so frustrating working with someone that can not produce exactly what you describe.

Creating your own imaging is fun, free, and self gratifying. All you need is recording/editing software, and your imagination. There is a lot of great pay software available. But me personally, I prefer using Audacity. It is easy to learn, has a very supportive community, and it’s free. The last ingredient needed is the music and sound effects. You will find a lot of websites offering royalty free music for imaging. But be careful and read the fine print to these sites. They can be deceiving. It is safe to use your station’s “for promotional purposes only” music. Or just ask an artist to record some tracks. You will also find a lot of websites with sound effects. I recommend Free Sound.  This website is free to join and also contribute sound effects that you have created to it’s community.

Again, I can not stress enough to you how important imaging is to enhance the quality of your broadcast. This is the branding sound of your station. Remember to keep your imaging fresh and new at least every couple of months while keeping branding sound effects. You don’t want to be a boring dry sandwich.

Jim Haines

zarkadakis
George Zarkadakis
Posted: 1 week ago

Royalty Free Music

I consider the past decade and future decades of online radio as the “Golden Years of Online Radio”. Why? Because for the time being there are no government regulations dictating rules for online radio. It’s almost like the old American Wild West. You have total freedom to create any content for your station without having to answer to anyone. The freedom to produce content more entertaining, shocking, and controversial.

BUT! There are countries that do have regulations for music royalties via streaming. Just like in the past there are station owners who believe they shouldn’t have to pay royalties. Why? Because they feel that they are helping the artist’s careers by promoting their music, thus helping the artist financially in music sales, ticket sales, and merchandising of the artist’s brand. And of course on the other side of the fence, you will find station owners who believe in the opposite.

The pains of paying

Some of these station owners will even pay high monthly fees to stream host providers that cover royalties in their streaming plans. I am talking hundreds of dollars a month! And some of these stream host providers only allow the station owner to play music in the stream host’s library and dictate how often the tracks can be played. There are also stream host providers that offer royalty coverage stream plans for free. The majority of the station owners that use these free services are new to online radio.

They are blinded by the word “free” and don’t realize what freedoms of content they will give up and the stress of supplying a growing quota of listeners on a monthly basis in order to keep their free streaming. The reason these stream host services are free is because they control the content and advertising. They only require your “free” hard work to manage your station and provide them with enough listeners to hear their sponsor’s adverts. What a deal!!

In the past and present, station owners from both sides of the fence have always enjoyed royalty free music for airplay. Why? The biggest reason is because they are helping new artists to be discovered. They want their stations to be trend setters with a reputation of knowing what the future holds. Having this kind of reputation creates a loyal audience and attracts more listeners. At the same time, attracting budding new artists seeking this kind of reputable station. Having total freedom of your station’s content is the only way to achieve the status of a “mover and shaker” in the radio industry.

How To Get Royalty Free Music

Most of us know the history of how new music was marketed during the “Golden Years of Terrestrial Radio”. There was the “pay to play” scandals which made the news and exposed the way some popular stations conducted business. And new laws and regulations were passed to correct these practices. But the practice of marketing new music and artists hasn’t changed much. Now a days with the internet, there aren’t as many labels and agents (if any) that contact each station and giving free music for the station’s consideration. In the past, the records, CD’s, and other materials was stamped “For Promotional Purposes Only”.

This really meant royalty free music! This meant the station didn’t have to pay royalties on these specific tracks. Terrestrial, online radio stations, and artists still benefit from “promotional music”. Some stations have a music submission form on their websites for artists to submit their promos. These station owners are smart to include legal notices basically saying the music submitted to the station is for promotional purposes only and the artists agrees not to expect royalties.

Other sources of royalty free music are websites created for artists to have an outlet. Just put “royalty free music websites” in a search engine and you will find them very plentiful. Me personally, I don’t have the time to search all of these sites. It is overwhelming and too time consuming to listen to a fraction of what these websites offer. And most of the tracks too old to be considered new and fresh for my listener’s taste.

That’s why I prefer to only listen to the tracks submitted to my station first and use a service like iPluggers.There are other services similar to iPluggers, but to me they are more professional in the way they do business with the station owners and the artists. iPluggers does charge a fee for artists while offering their service to station owners for free. To me, artists willing to pay a small monthly fee are more serious and professional. That’s just my personal opinion, but I do recommend using them or find a similar service that appeals to you.

There are more sources of royalty free music. But I wanted to be short and sweet with this post and give advice for the best results without spending a lot of time. If you know of any sources that you recommend because you have had successful results, please share them with us in Radiojar’s forum.

Jim Heines

zarkadakis
George Zarkadakis
Posted: 2 weeks ago

Using apps to boost your internet station

Having an app for your station is just as important as a website. In recent surveys, most people in North America use apps to listen to their favorite broadcasts. It certainly makes sense in this day and age of smartphones and tablets. Another sign of the times is that it is hard to find a new car with only AM/FM radios built in from the factory in North American countries . Most new cars come with media centers that make connecting your devices easy with Bluetooth technology. So meeting your audience’s needs and expectations is a must. Just think that most of your listeners are not around a computer or web radio for most of the time. But most of them do have their devices on them or in reach every waking hour.

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The Best Apps

Most station owners are aware of the importance of apps. But some are depending on their listeners using apps provided by Tune In and similar services only. This method is “OK” but not the best. The reason I say this is because these type of apps put your listeners in the position to channel surf. Also you are helping the service make money too. It is in your best interest to keep any revenue generated by your audience and their listening habits.

So the best app for your station is one that only promotes your station and provides a revenue. I know you all agree with me and some of you have done the research and found that an app is out of your financial reach. But I implore you to always keep shopping around. Almost every month a new company pops up, or existing companies lower their prices to compete. In the past app developers would ask for a set up or design fee to get the process going. I remember fees that were in the thousands of dollars to the low hundreds. And then depending on the company you were dealing with, there were monthly fees or yearly. To this day you will find app developers that still practice this business plan, but they have lowered their fees and plans to compete.

How to Choose

It can be very confusing choosing an app company for your station. Obviously you want to compare prices and features, but it is very important to have your station’s app available in as many app stores as possible. You will find the majority of these companies will submit your app into Google Play and iTunes. Yes, these are the two most popular. But I feel it is also important to be in the Windows and Blackberry app stores as well. It is true that these app stores are not as popular. But there are millions of people using these devices. And who knows what the future might bring? Blackberry and Microsoft may have a new innovation up their sleeves to attract more people to their platforms and devices in the future.

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My Suggestions

My suggestions of app developers to choose would be Look Something and Nobex Partners. Look Something gives you the best value for the money. This company will customize your app to your taste and design requests without charging more. The cons? Your station’s apps will only be published in iTunes and Google Play.

Nobex Partners provide most of the features Look Something offers, but publishes your station’s app in all the app stores for you. This service is totally free and pays you 50% of the revenue your apps generate. The only con, the ability to customize and design your app is limited. But they do provide a very easy step by step process to set up your app.

 While considering paying Look Something or using Nobex Partner’s free service for your station’s app, you will need to consider the end result. With Look Something, you keep all revenue generated by your apps and need to compare the profits to yearly fees. With Nobex Partners, you receive 50% of the revenue while not paying yearly fees.

Jim Haines

 

zarkadakis
George Zarkadakis
Posted: 3 weeks ago

Internet radio needs to leverage technology in order to survive

Internet radio needs to find a viable business model in order to continue its growth and secure its place in a competitive and fast-changing media landscape.  Although many business models and potential revenue streams exist, such as subscription services, brokered programming, and merchandising, it seems that in the short to medium term, advertising will be the primary source of revenues for the majority of internet radio stations.

In regards to advertising, station owners are naturally torn between the desire to limit the amount of interruption to their content (and therefore risk losing audience) and the need to earn money in order to have a viable business.  However, for stations to be able to provide the top-quality content needed to attract and keep listeners in the current market requires increasing amounts of money for the best hosts, DJs and of course music rights - making the need for a station to generate income a matter of survival.

The key to maximizing revenues and becoming sustainable is to use the full potential of digital streaming technologies – to understand and monitor listener interactions, monetize each listening hour, and to grow and extend the reach of the station.

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Advanced statistics and analytics

Internet radio has the potential to give station managers a much deeper understanding of their listeners and how they are interacting with the station.  Nowadays, a station audience can be tracked down to the level of each stream to provide a clear picture on the listener and their needs.  This allows stations to segment their audience into listener types.  Types can be based on geography, demographic, listening platform, session duration or any other categorization that may be applicable.  This means that stations can immediately understand the impact of content or formats on the listener base, but perhaps more importantly it allows stations to experiment in order to quickly find what works best in order

Monetization options

Stations have a wide range of potential sources of revenues, but similarly with terrestrial radio, at the moment advertising is the main source of income for most internet stations.  This means that maximizing station revenues broadly means making the most for each ad break and increasing the number of ad breaks. Increasing the number of ad breaks without impacting the listener experience should be focused on increasing the listener base and is touched upon below. 

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There are a few straightforward options for increasing revenue per break including:

 a) providing detailed information on the number of listeners and ad impressions to advertizers (and accurate information, possibly through a credible third party) to help advertizers plan and justify their campaigns; 

b) segmenting audience by geography and location to monetize audience outside of the stations primary market or based on current presence;

c) segmenting audience by demographic characteristics to maximize value to advertizers.

Beyond these basic measures, internet radio also enables more innovative advertising such as coordinated display and audio ads or contextual advertising based on the mood or genre of audio content.  Once the effectiveness of new and innovative internet radio ad campaigns is confirmed and quantified, it will have a corresponding knock-on effect on ad break value.

Growth options

Finally, growing the audience is always an important objective for all stations that again can be greatly improved by maximizing the use of current technology.  At a high level, the main options for growing audience are to integrate with other sites and platforms such as station directories and social media, and to ensure your station is available through different devices including mobile smart phones and eventually wi-fi enabled cars.  It is also important to ensure the quality of your offering (in regards to audio quality and interruptions) is maintained across devices and platforms.  Close monitoring of your listener data is required to ensure listeners remain happy as the number one requirement to growth your audience is to keep as many loyal listeners as possible.

Internet radio is an exciting offering that is just in its infancy and has a tremendous opportunity to change how media is consumed.  To reach its maximum potential will require stations to quickly embrace the potential of online technologies, and Radiojar will be there to support stations and station managers.

 Arnaud Henin

Business development advisor

zarkadakis
George Zarkadakis
Posted: 1 month ago

Why Radiojar is unique and different - part 2

In my previous post I gave a history and present analogy on how much tedious work is involved in producing a quality and professional sounding broadcast. People that don’t know about Radiojar, or that have not tried our remarkable platform, are still everyday programming their next day’s schedule. Or spending even more time to fill the next week with scheduled content so they will have some programming free days to concentrate on other important matters in their daily lives. Some of them only use broadcast software to automate their station’s stream, which means their computer is running 24/7.

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Worried about bad weather

This is the oldest method of streaming and comes with little peace of mind. I remember, years ago, when I worried during bad weather if the electricity would go out. Bad weather affected my internet provider’s service. I didn’t feel at ease being away from home during these times because I knew from experience that it took at least 15 minutes to get my stream going again after electricity and internet services were restored. Not to mention the feeling of helplessness during down times. In terrestrial radio stations, we always had backup plans in place for almost any situation. But not in the early days of streaming. I used to hate being at the mercy of the weather, utility company, internet provider, and my stream host provider as well. Especially my stream host provider!

Streaming: how it used to be

At first I used my computer as a stream server. That was fine in the beginning when I only had a handful of listeners. But as my audience grew, this began to take a toll on my computer. I had to choose a hosting company that would meet my needs. I needed to be able to afford monthly rates for the average amount of listeners with as little downtime as possible. Back then there weren’t as many choices as there are today. Hosting companies’ downtime happened more often than bad weather.

At the time I had to accept their excuses because I didn’t know any better and was ignorant on how the stream hosting business worked. Well now  I know better. Most of these stream providers were people just like me. These companies were not located in buildings with massive servers and a staff of engineers. They were just fellow broadcasters that rented server space from real companies that did have servers. They figured out that they could rent a server and rent out space to people like me. They had a business plan where their streams would become cheaper to the point of making a profit from people like me. Also in their business plan was to keep renting more servers as their clientele grew. This meant I was at the mercy of someone who may not be qualified to program a server, and who fooled me into believing that they are a professional streaming company with a staff on payroll.

To this day most stream host companies (I would calculate 98%) are little more than just as I described. Most of them have day jobs and stream hosting is just an added revenue to their monthly income.  I was at their mercy to trust they were renting a powerful server so my stream wouldn’t buffer. I was at their mercy of the choice they had made where their rented servers are located. I was at the mercy of when their rented servers needed to go down for maintanence. There are even more circumstances and reasons for downtime I experienced from these types of host providers to write about, but I am posting in a blog and not writing a book.So be aware of any company with the word “Shoutcast”, or likeness, in their names.

No more of that

Radiojar is a real stream host provider. We are a real company with a highly qualified staff and management. We have created and built a platform for streaming with no downtime, ever. You are not at the mercy of any circumstances out of your control affecting your broadcast. And we are on the job 24/7. That is why in this industry we are different and unique compared to the other 98%. We will never email you excuses why your stream will go down in the near future. Nor have to answer to a complaint of someone that has experienced downtime. We will never try to fool our clients with up sale business plans and gimmicks to dig deeper in your budget. We will never cut or throttle your stream because you went over your plan’s allowance. Very few stream host providers can promise you that.

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Using Radiojar, I am now completely at ease without worries. When there is a thunderstorm, I can appreciate the beauty of the lightning show. I know it will never again affect my streaming broadcast. I no longer have to plan my life around being close to my home or studio in case something goes wrong. I can enjoy listening to my broadcast instead of just monitoring it for problems. I can now go on vacation for as long as I want or at least what I can afford and just relax. I no longer use broadcast software for my station’s automation, so my computer is not running every hour of the day. I will post about worry free automation of my station later. But I used to preach to my fellow broadcasters that all this stress and worrying builds character and blah, blah, blah. It’s worth it because this is the future of radio, and we are the pioneers. We are making radio history, blah, blah, blah. Now I am older and wiser. Stress isn’t a good thing to live with and is unhealthy. I recently quit smoking and I know my physical condition has improved. Using Radiojar has taken away most of my stress. So between the two changes in my life, I may live longer and happier. I may consider the fact that Radiojar is different and unique for me because it is healthier? Oh well, I may post about that later if I there is any evidence of it. Only time will tell.

Jim Haines

Chief Inspiration Officer

 

zarkadakis
George Zarkadakis
Posted: 1 month ago

About

Radiojar is creating a new breed of internet radio broadcasting and monetization platform. We believe in real radio by real people. Our vision is to empower DJs and Radio Owners around the world to increase their listener base, become financially successful, and reach their full potential as inspirers and providers of remarkable content.

On this blog we share insights to our product, company and customers, as well as our thoughts about the future of internet radio and how to be successful in the business.

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