WorldCast Systems has enriched its Audemat DAB Probe for monitoring DAB, DAB+ and DMB radio applications.
Designed to monitor DAB signal quality and service continuity at the transmitter site or in a coverage area, the Audemat DAB Probe enables remote monitoring of a set list of channels. It allows users to verify the conformity of their DAB network with both legislation and their broadcasting needs.
Installed in SFN or MFN networks, the solution features a web interface, alarm notification by email or SNMP traps, and is equipped with telemetry board via ScriptEasy and audio output connectors.
According to the company, the software tools provide a deep signal and content analysis with impulse response representation, TII, audio or ETI recording. What’s more, adds WorldCast, the unit is designed for optimal monitoring of the user experience (QoE) and includes visual slideshows, dynamic label and services (DLS) display to enable users to hear and see in real-time the same content as their audience of listeners.
Improvements to the Audemat DAB Probe include the decoding of FIG tables for a more detailed analysis of the streaming content received; and the display of real audio and PAD bit rates, so broadcasters can visualize the real audio quality and have the possibility to listen to radio remotely using native codecs (MP2 or AAC+) or with an MP3 compression of 8kbps to 320 kbps.
In addition, an optional card for ETI output is now available for a connection to analysis equipment or recordings. And the management of telemetry I/Os to monitor and control the on-site measurement equipment or probes is possible.
It’s not too late for radio broadcasters to get a piece of the subscription audio pie. So says streaming audio technology company Clip Interactive, which wants to build a business by helping radio do just that.
“The current combined U.S. subscription revenues of Apple Music, Pandora, SiriusXM and Spotify are worth $11.5 billion annually,” said Bill Freund of Clip Interactive this spring. Had U.S. radio developed its own on-demand subscription streaming audio service a decade or more ago, Freund added, they could have grabbed a big slice of that.
“Such a service could include commercial-free content, plus all of the personalities, local information, sports and all the other entertainment that broadcast radio provides,” he said. “They could have really leveraged this space and made money from it.”
The opportunity to make money from ad-free/on-demand subscription audio is not lost, as far as Clip Interactive is concerned. The Colorado-based company has developed a paid radio streaming app called Magic. What Freund calls a “technology demonstration app” was released to some broadcasters the final week of June.
The company believes at least 10 to 15% of radio listeners are willing to pay $12 each month to hear ad-free local radio. According to Freund, even that is a conservative estimate.
“Actually 32% of 2,000 listeners surveyed in a Harris Poll said they’d be willing to pay $12 a month for commercial-free on-demand broadcast radio streaming,” he said. This breaks down as 45% of SiriusXM, 43% of internet radio listeners and 29% of AM/FM listeners.$12 PER MONTH
It would be expensive for individual broadcasters and even radio groups to develop their own subscription radio services. But using a Magic-style app, Clip says, listeners could replace on-air commercials with favorite songs/talk segments, request local traffic and weather on demand, and yet stay synchronized to a station’s on-air transmission, whether listening directly through their smartphones or smart speakers or in the car.
This is why Clip wants to aggregate all U.S. radio streams onto the Magic platform, a significant difference from iHeartRadio’s offering that only aggregates iHeartMedia streams and podcasts.Bill Freund
Freund explains, “It is really like the radio dial for all existing stations, only without commercials.” Freund also highlighted the simplicity of the Magic user interface, which will utilize voice controls to skip and request content. Finally, Freund says that the commercials will not just be skipped but will be “covered by new content,” such as other radio segments, music discovery created by program directors, podcast clips or perhaps even user-generated audio.[From 2015 — Clip Interactive Launches Independent Broadcaster Program]
The company will handle the heavy lifting involved with ad/song substitution and skipping, on-demand content requests and stream synchronization. The mixing would be handled by Magic’s artificial intelligence, which would act as a curator/DJ to ensure smooth transitions. The Magic AI would also keep tabs on each user’s content choices, to suggest song/genre choices to them.
“Say the user was listening to their local Cumulus CHR station, and that station went into a commercial set,” said Freund. “Our AI could be programmed to switch the user to another Cumulus station in the same genre, seamlessly switching them back to the local station once the commercial set was over.”
The bottom line for Magic subscribers would be ad-free broadcast radio that they could let run uninterrupted or control at will using voice commands. Either way, the commercial sets that many listeners find irritating would be a thing of the past, at a cost of $12/month.BUSINESS CASE
The fact that some of radio’s listeners would now be tuned into Magic rather than over-the-air broadcasts would not substantially affect radio’s OTA advertising revenues, Freund contends, but would give these stations access to subscription revenues that didn’t exist before.
How much money each station could make would depend on how many subscribers on the Magic platform select their audio streams, and for how long. This is due to the business structure of the Magic platform: All of the subscriber revenues are combined into a pool, whose net is split between Clip Interactive and its member stations.
For its portion of the take, the company will handle all aspects of the Magic playout platform, including paying royalties and all other fees on the broadcasters’ behalf. The Magic platform makes it possible for broadcasters to earn revenues from subscription radio without doing anything beyond providing a stream to the company.
Clip Interactive is promoting its Magic platform to U.S. broadcasters and sponsored a session at the recent NAB Show to spread the word. The message Freund wants to get across to broadcasters: “Magic would allow them to get a share of the subscription audio market, without having to do anything on their part.” With $11.5 billion in play annually, is it a business case worth considering? Freund says it’s currently working on a Nasdaq initial public offering slated for September, concurrent with the release of an alpha pilot of Magic, during which the company plans to work with its first partner broadcaster. Later in 2019, Magic’s beta version will be released, and Freund says the company “hope[s] to expand to any broadcaster who is interested.”ABOUT CLIP INTERACTIVE
According to its website, Clip Interactive develops “technologies that identify, unitize and deliver audio content to consumers so they can listen to what they want, when they want.” Among its offerings, Clip coordinates placement of digital ads with on-air ads using machine learning algorithms; and it aims to offer “a comprehensive marketing technology platform that can target and measure like digital.”
The firm was founded by Jeff Thramann. Michael Lawless is CEO. In early 2018, Clip Interactive announced it hoped eventually to become a public company.
Bill Freund is EVP and chief business development officer as well as an equity partner. He is perhaps most familiar to the industry as co-founder of Triton Digital. He has also worked at Podcast One, Westwood One, Katz Media Group and AM/FM-Chancellor, and he founded a capital advisory company.
Radio Survivor celebrates 10 years on the internet and four years podcasting with our 200th episode. Matthew Lasar joins Jennifer Waits, Eric Klein and Paul Riismandel for this review of the last decade in radio that matters.
Matthew tells the Radio Survivor origin story that sprang forth from his I.F. Stone inspired research deep into the digital catacombs of the FCC database, unearthing comments that broadcast execs never imagined would be public – such as one who accused prominent media reformists of being “communists.”
Jennifer recalls how a literature review for a journal article on college radio revealed how little scholarly work existed on the topic, compelling her to document this important media form that Matthew says he has learned is, “the first public radio.” “The present is future history,” Jennifer observes. This prompts Paul to comment how we’ve begun to fulfill that promise, given that Radio Survivor now has dozens of citations in scholarly works.
On the way through these stories, everyone notes the changes in the broadcast and online media landscape since 2009, how some publications have come and gone, and offering reasons why Radio Survivor has managed to survive. It’s a discussion of interest to anyone who has tried to, or wants to, sustain a passion project fueled primarily by volunteer labor.We’re making a ‘zine!
As we announce on this episode, in August we’ll be publishing our first ever print project, hand made in the spirit of great independent radio.
We’ll send issue #1 to every Patreon supporter who gives at the $5/month level or more. But you have to be signed up by August 1, 2019.
Plus, every new sign-up gets us closer to our goal of 100 Patreon supporters so that we have a foundation to do the work of documenting the upcoming 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and low-power FM.
See our ‘zine page to learn more, or go ahead and sign up now.Show Notes:
- A Decade of Radio Surviving
- College Radio Watch: Ten Years of College Radio Coverage and More News
- Lasar’s Letter on the FCC: VNR executive files e-mail with FCC against “radically left wing” group
- The Official Website of I.F. Stone
- Spinning Indie
- Matthew’s books:
- Help Us Tell the History of Indymedia & LPFM
- RadioSurvivor’s Top Radio Shows – Paul’s #1: Free Speech Radio News
- A Sad Goodbye to Free Speech Radio News
- Garrett Wollman’s Radio Tower Quest
- History of the Grassroots Radio Conference
- Podcast #190: Radio Spectrum and Transmission Art
The post Podcast #200 – How We Survived a Decade of Independent Publishing appeared first on Radio Survivor.
We wanted to find a special way to thank the readers and listeners who support us every month via our Patreon campaign. Something unique, hand-made and in the spirit of great college and community radio.
Why not make a ‘zine?
If you’ve never heard of a ‘zine, it’s an independently produced publication, often photocopied and hand-assembled. The history goes back to mimeographed science fiction fanzines published as far back as the 1930s. Adopted by punk and underground music fans in the 70s and 80s, the name was shortened to ‘zine to reflect a broadening in subject matter beyond just fandom. For more history, see this brief timeline.
For Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1 we’re writing and assembling pieces that we feel are fit for a more tactile format, breaking free of the strict layouts forced upon us by blog software. You won’t find these pieces on our website or anywhere else online. Here are more details:
- Radio Survivor Zine #1 will go to everyone who contributes $5 a month or more to our Patreon campaign.
- You need to have completed at least one payment in order to get the ‘zine, but if you’ve signed up by Aug. 1 we’ll send the zine as soon as that first payment is made.
- The deadline to sign up is August 1, 2019
- We’ll send out the ‘zines in August 2019
Here is a sampling of the features in Radio Survivor Zine #1:
- “Wild Flowers and Radio Towers”
- “Radios I Have Known and Loved”
- Hand-drawn illustrations and cartoons
- more more more!
If you sign on as a Patron of Radio Survivor you’ll also be helping us reach our goal of the 100 supporters we need to do the work of documenting the 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and low-power FM.
The Sony Walkman celebrated its 40th birthday on Monday, July 1. While portable audiocassette recorder/players that you could connect to headphones had been around pretty much since the invention of the medium, the Walkman was the first one designed specifically for stereo playback on the go, for personal listening, without even a tiny speaker.
Although the Walkman is principally a cassette device, I’ve always associated it with radio. Sure, in some ways it’s almost anti-radio, giving the person on-the-go a completely individualized listening experience. The first model lacked a tuner, but it wouldn’t be long until a receiver became almost standard.
A child of the 80s, I remember lusting after a Walkman, though the first generations were priced well beyond the reach of a pre-teen. Around 1983 or 1984 nearly every electronics manufacturer made its own version, and by then I managed to save up about 25 bucks, enough to buy the bottom-of-the-line Sanyo knock-off.
As I recall, the Sanyo was on the bulky side, with just three buttons: play, stop and fast-forward. Rewind was too sophisticated for such an inexpensive device (worth about $60 in today’s dollars). If you needed to rewind you flipped the cassette over and fast-forwarded the opposite side. But it did come with those iconic cheap 80s headphones with the orange ear cushions (as seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy”).
I might have wanted one with a radio, but the extra five or ten bucks would have been too much of a stretch for this middle-schooler.
Thanks to the Pocket Calculator Show’s extensive archive directories of portable stereos I’ve concluded I had likely had the Sanyo M-G7, without radio. The lack of receiver would be supplemented by a Magnavox D1600 tiny portable AM/FM radio I received as a birthday gift. Back then I think we’d have called it a “Walkman radio,” since it didn’t have a speaker, intended only for headphone listening.
Radios like this were directly influenced by the Walkman. Tiny transistor radios had been around a couple of decades by the early 80s, and most included an earphone jack for discreet listening. But they almost always had a tinny speaker intended for most of the listening, offering overall a mono, low-fidelity experience.
New breed Walkman-style radios were headphone-only, and much tinier. That Magnavox was the size of a deck of cards, only about one-third as thick. Plus, it offered FM stereo. Though, in reality, because the headphone cable doubled as the antenna, you had to find a really strong signal to get that stereo light to go on. Even so, sometimes even the slightest movement could kill it.
It wasn’t long after getting that first Sanyo player that I desired an upgrade that was smaller, sounded better and might even rewind tapes. Thereafter every Walkman-style player I’d get would have a radio – never would I have considered one without it. That’s not just because I’m a life-long radio nerd.
Sometimes you’d get tired of the one or two tapes you have with you, and want to hear something different. Or I’d want to catch a specific show while on the school bus or out walking. Also, in the days before good rechargeable batteries, often the radio still worked decently even when worn-down batteries made Metallica sound like Leonard Cohen.
Though Walkman is a Sony trademark, the only actual Sony model I ever owned was one a heavy-duty, water-proof, bright yellow Sports Walkman from the early 90s. As it turned out, that would be my last one, for all intents and purposes. Though I’ve owned a couple more in the intervening years, they were all recording models that primarily saw duty as cheap field recorders.
By 1991 I got my first Sony Discman portable CD player, which competed for listening time with the cassette Walkman. I didn’t give up on cassettes, since these were the days before CD-Rs, and I was still a prolific mix-tape maker and trader. But since I bought most of my music on CD the Discman was more likely to be my travel companion.
One con of pretty much every portable CD player I’ve owned is that none had a radio. I seem to remember such existing, but they were far less common than cassette players with radios. I wonder if maybe the far more sophisticated CD electronics posed more interference than the comparatively primitive cassette mechanicals.
The lack of integrated radio persisted as I graduated to minidisc as my primary portable music device in 1997. Though sometimes derided as a failure, the format lasted more than 20 years, and at that time it gave me all the recording convenience of a cassette, with near-CD quality, in a much smaller package.
I remember one minidisc recorder I owned that had a radio integrated into its wired remote – a wired remote with a headphone jack was a common feature – rather than on the unit itself. Again, I think the minidisc electronics created too much interference to have it housed in the same case a radio. Though it was a clever workaround, performance was disappointing. So, it went mostly unused.
That’s why I always had a little Walkman-style radio in my arsenal. Often used for daily public transport commutes, they were always in my travel bag to scan the dial when visiting different cities.
For a while, in the awkward time between the slow decline of the minidisc format and the rise of the smartphone I had a tiny Sansa branded MP3 player that featured a surprisingly good FM tuner. That actually got a lot of use even after I got my first iPhone, since it was the size of a couple of chapsticks, taking up almost no space in any bag.
I’m a little chagrined to admit that I don’t currently have a Walkman-style radio now. It’s true that the smartphone dominates my portable listening, and for most trips, short or long, I’m more inclined to choose podcasts or my own music. I do still travel with a radio, but these days I use one with a speaker, shortwave reception and a built-in digital recorder. True, it’s bigger than the tiny Walkman radios I’ve owned, but it does a lot more, too.
Thinking about it is making me want to get one. Turns out, there are still plenty out there, though most are from obscure Chinese brands. Looks like too small a niche for Sony anymore. That said, you can get a cute little red Sony MP3 player that has a radio for about $60, or an FM-enabled Sansa Clip Jam for less than $30. It’s just that with the MP3 players you give up AM reception.
Given that new portable cassette players are even more rare, it may well be the case that the Walkman-style radio has, or will, outlive the cassette player that inspired it.
At least until Sony decides there’s enough nostalgia dollars out there to cash in.
Feature image credit: Grant Hutchinson / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The post Reflections on the Walkman and Radio on the Occasion of the Former’s 40th Birthday appeared first on Radio Survivor.
Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau Update Price Ranges In Catalog of Reimbursement Expenses for Full Power and Class A TV Stations and Multichannel Video Programming Distributors
The frequency and breadth of EAS alert testing on SiriusXM radio will change following an FCC order. The commission decided that Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (SDARS) and Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) services are sufficiently similar in function and technology that their testing requirements should match.
Specifically, the new testing requirements require SiriusXM to log receipt of weekly test of EAS alerts and to transmit a monthly test on 10% of all of its channels, varying which channels are tested month to month so all channels are tested throughout the year.
This change has its roots in an EAS First Report and Order filed in 2005 that extended EAS alert testing requirements for satellite radio. SiriusXM filed a petition that same year, arguing that proposed requirements for weekly and monthly EAS tests on all of its channels would “mislead subscribers to believe that satellite radio operators transmit state and local EAS alerts on all channels,” rather than just on previously identified XM Instant Traffic, Weather & Alert channels. Sirius instead asked that those monthly and weekly tests only occur on the traffic, weather and alert channels.
Sirius later made an ex parte filing in 2014 arguing that circumstances had changed since its petition, and that the EAS testing rules for SDARS providers should be similar to that of DBS. It said the weekly and monthly tests had “imposed an excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary burden on SiriusXM and its subscribers.” It also cited that its breaks are not uniform across all of its channels, making it difficult to naturally insert a time for a wide-ranging test.
Following additional filings and public notices in 2017 and 2018, the FCC has concluded that it is appropriate to make SDARS rules for EAS testing comparable to those for DBS and in the public interest.
Read the full FCC order here.
Group owner Sheridan Broadcasting Corp. has announced a content deal with Radio Disney.
Radio Disney will provide video content to Sheridan’s Atlanta-based WIGO(AM). The audio for that content will be “telestreamed,” as SBC says, on WIGO(AM), while there will be a video feed on the station’s website, www.wigoam.com.
The programming will be a one-hour weekday show called “The Radio Disney Hour.”
Ron Davenport Jr., chief operating officer of SBC, said, “We are honored and extremely flattered to be the first radio broadcaster licensed by Disney to use Radio Disney video content. The Radio Disney team has been incredible to work with, and we are very excited about the possibilities going forward.”
HAMILTON, New Zealand — Free FM, a community access radio station, is part of the Community Access Media Alliance, a network of 12 stations around New Zealand. We have been operating for 28 years, for many as AM-only, but on FM for seven years and are making strong inroads in transmedia delivery.
Free FM is a not-for-profit entity, governed by a charitable trust and we operate as a non-commercial broadcaster. We have a small staff and content is created by approximately 80 volunteers, representing a very diverse range of communities, individuals and interest groups in our broadcast area (the greater Waikato region of the North Island — population almost 470,000).
Free FM is partly funded by New Zealand On Air (a government agency) to provide access to broadcasting facilities for individuals or groups with ideas, opinions or cultural needs which may not have the opportunity for expression through the mainstream commercial broadcast industry. The purpose of stations like ours is specifically described in the New Zealand Broadcasting Act.
Access radio is, in essence, radio “by the people, for the people,” where the freedom of expression of ideas, values and beliefs is valued and protected. Many of those who come to make content with us have English as their second (or even third or fourth) language and we frequently have people involved who have physical or intellectual challenges. Much of the content created at our studios nowadays is in the form of prerecorded 30-minute or one-hour programs.[AoIP Applies to Small Stations, Too]
Our philosophy at Free FM is also to stay ahead of the game, by adopting emerging technology where it is clear there are new opportunities to enhance what we do. While radio broadcasting is still our major activity, we have over the last 10 years become our sector’s leader when it comes to digital content delivery and embracing new developments (such as smart speakers). We are always keen to see and evaluate what is coming over the horizon in terms of how listeners are accessing content and what they want to do with it.
It had become painfully obvious that our analog studios were barely fit-for-purpose. There’s a limit to how far you can push things and much of what we had was well used before it came to us back in the 1990s. It became obvious that a complete refit was necessary, replacing decades of add-ons, patches and mis-matched equipment.
Naturally, we wanted to find a technically advanced solution, but budget was also a major consideration. In doing our homework, we looked at all the available digital consoles and audio delivery systems available and considered how they might work for us. One of the big factors to consider was robustness and ease of use for nonprofessional people. And because of language considerations, we were also keen to find products that were intuitive and easy to understand.
In our search, Wheatstone kept coming up as a front runner. Marcus Bekker from Southern Broadcast was already known to us as someone who completely understands our sector. He became an invaluable advisor when talking about our specific needs and wants.[From 2018 — Digital Radio Developments in New Zealand and Australia]
We did comparisons at every level, and everything we saw reinforced the view that adopting Wheatstone’s WheatNet-IP Blade technology would provide us with not only what we need right now, but also form the foundation to support whatever future direction we may take.
We locked onto Wheatstone’s IP-12 console as an affordable way to get us into the IP audio world. It had the ideal number of channels (12), and it was easy to navigate. We liked that each input module has an LED source display that we could name and that the meter bridge has easy-to-read bargraph meters and a prominent onboard timer. Because the IP-12 is a WheatNet-IP audio networked console, it gives us an in to an entire ecosystem for controlling, automating, processing and routing audio. It’s a very powerful system, and we now we have the capacity to develop other options if we wish, such as video, real-time social media content, or other input sources, with relative ease.
What is important to the future of Free FM, and stations like ours, is that we remain relevant and responsive to our changing environment. Digital delivery options are perfect for what we do, and it makes great sense to be at the sharp end of that platform as it grows and changes.
We are very pleased with the bang-for-buck we get from our new infrastructure as it is, and we look forward to the coming years with confidence that we have made the right choice.
For information, contact Jay Tyler at Wheatstone in North Carolina at 1-252-638-7000 or visit www.wheatstone.com.
“Best of Show Up Close” is a series about nominees and winners in the annual Future Best of Show at NAB Award program.
Digigram nominated its Iqoya Talk. It is a portable IP codec designed for field work with built-in 4G/LTE, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It is battery-operable and features an onboard recorder, touchscreen and is 5G-ready.
We asked CMO Raphael Triomphe about it.
Radio World: What is the product and what are its targeted uses?
Raphael Triomphe: Iqoya Talk is Digigram’s all-new portable codec. The codec is so easy to use, secure and reliable than its baseline is “Simply powerful.” It is built for live remote broadcasting operations that require high-reliability transmissions with superior audio quality. It allows up to four journalists and guests to perform a studio-quality on-field reportage, without the help of any technician. Configuration can be done upstream, by predefined scenarios in the studio.
RW: What sets it apart from similar offerings in this product class?
Triomphe: One of the main features of a portable codec relies on its ability to stream the audio to the radio station. With the Digigram’s Iqoya Talk, you will have a great deal of built-in connectivity options included without extra cost. Iqoya Talk is well equipped with two Ethernet ports, two cellular modules, one dual band Wi-Fi module and two USB ports. That’s a lot.
The other important point is how many journalists and guests can participate in the remote broadcast event. Thanks to its three mic-line inputs and four headphones outputs, Iqoya Talk is one of the portable codecs allowing the most guests at once.
Before starting the design of the product we asked many journalists and technicians for their thoughts about what would fit their everyday needs in a remote codec. We understood that ease of use is the key point. So with its smartphone-like intuitive ergonomics, all the needed operations for a remote broadcast with Iqoya Talk can be operated by nontechnical users, whenever and wherever they are, with just two clicks.
Our Iqoya Talk is ready to tackle any event and make everyday life easier, whatever the outside conditions. To simplify and to secure the connection, we also utilize a SIP infrastructure. To manage, monitor and get instant remote access to the portable codec, a suite of web applications called Iqoya Connect comes along with our portable codec. Management of your codecs fleet has never been so powerful and simple.
The housing of our Iqoya Talk has been designed to be strong and long-lasting. As we know that sometimes, it can be hard to find a mains plug on the field, Iqoya Talk can accept up to two hot-swappable batteries and can be used for up to 12 hours without interruption.
Iqoya Talk is ready to go. It comes with either an optional hard case or convenient backpack to carry all the material you need comfortably and in complete discretion.
RW: What does it cost? Is it available now?
Triomphe: $4,490, available now on preorder, with delivery end of July.
RW: More generally, what do you see as the most important trends or changes happening these days in how broadcasters do remote live audio operations?
Triomphe: Closer than ever to the action and often alone in front of a multitude of uncertainties, journalists today have to be hyperefficient. Information is being shared and consumed faster than ever, everyone needs to be everywhere at the same time. Despite a constrained environment, contributors are still expected to provide quality content, on the move and in the blink of an eye, from wherever they may be and technicians are expected to set up their systems in advance from a remote location.
For all those reasons, our solutions for remote broadcasting has been developed to make the day-to-day operations of journalist and radio engineers simpler.
RW: What else should we know?
Triomphe: Digigram is focused in audio transport in remote broadcast but also in distribution applications. Last year we released a new range of IP audio codecs called X/Link, and next month we will strengthen the range by launching a new product for transporting an FM/MPX composite signal over IP networks. The focus of Digigram in terms of audio transport is to constantly develop qualitative solutions that will answer our customer needs.
The Future Best of Show Awards program honors and helps promote outstanding new products exhibited at industry conventions like the spring NAB Show. Exhibitors pay a fee to enter; not all entries win. Watch for more coverage of participating products soon. To learn about all of the nominees and winners, read the 2019 Best of Show Program Guide.
A few heads probably turned when a Miley Cyrus single popped up this spring, for reasons beyond the song. “DREAM” features that ethereal, low-key electronica in vogue at the moment, with the pop star weaving stories of parties and debauchery over a snaky beat. And just as the song closes, the light keys of one of hip-hop’s most iconic breakdowns plays; this is no surprise, since pop is, if nothing else, self-referential.
Then, out of nowhere emerges one of rap’s undisputed legends and one probably on the short list for least likely to be on a Miley Cyrus song. Avid music fans know Ghostface Killah from his tenure with the group Wu Tang Clan. But the rapper has since forged a rare career as a unique character and storyteller, with scores of concept songs and even albums to his credit. Ghostface is one of the few hip-hop artists left committed to songwriting in a way that creates an aesthetic reminiscent of an action film or dense drama. He’s been a crime boss, a falsely accused man, a prizefighter, a rebel against authority and countless other characters in songs penned over his long career. Along the way, he’s concocted a lexicon of verbiage, alter egos and mythology that are unmistakably his. The Cyrus song verse is a short one, but it’s impactful. You cannot help but be enthralled by the guy who refers to himself as Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, and his charisma.
How does all this relate to community radio? It is the New York artist’s email forays that may get you thinking about how our time with our closest friends, donors and fans can be equally resonant.
Like so many music performers, Ghostface Killah has been pushed to connect with fans in new ways. For virtually everyone, that’s on social media and their own websites. You can find the Wu Tang Clan member in all those places. He even has a newsletter, promoted as a place to get new music, giveaways and a glimpse of the artist.
Team Ghostface sends out a lot of newsletters. They are short and filled with the non-sequiturs the artist is known for. Each newsletter has a voice and manner a fan would associate with the musician. They are, in fact, so good you might think he wrote them himself. Stories from his glory days, new music or just witticisms, each newsletter is never more than a few hundred words. Yet it is just enough to have you looking forward to what comes next.
Contrast the Ghostface Killah newsletter sometime against your station’s newsletter. What could you learn in this style of communication? A lot, it seems.
Radio folks can be a verbose bunch. We can be talkers and, as a result, have so many words for what we think and feel. Station newsletters can be strikingly similar to the personalities of radio staffers and volunteers. In other words, there is a ton being said. There are paragraphs upon paragraphs about pledge drive, compound sentences about events, and dozens of words about programming. There is enough here to make you wonder how many people really read all this. Moreover, I am reminded of the short, punchy style of newsletter the aforementioned artist employs to promote himself. Is community radio promoting itself in its newsletters as assertively? Are we offering incentives to subscribe and stay subscribed? Or are we perhaps being a little complacent and assuming people will sign up because community radio is what it is and they will just subscribe because of what we say we are.Photo: Enrico Fuente
Try an experiment sometime and send your newsletter to a casual acquaintance. How much of it does she or he read? Perhaps the friend can tell you what she or he did not read, and why. You may discover, in this busy world, people only have so much time and attention. How long your newsletter is, how you write and the personality that comes across, as any marketer will tell you, are crucial issues.
With so many distractions, your voice and how it sticks with people counts. Witness the Detroit Free Press, which speaks online in a way that has created waves of followers. Note the observations about Ghostface’s newsletter; it sounds authentically like him, and fans flock to it for this reason. Does your station have that personality? How can you find it, if not?
Newsletters are more and more a go-to from organizations and artists. Community radio is no exception. Your station should be meticulous with its newsletter and look at every edition as a chance to create lasting impressions.