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NAB Sneak Peek: StreamGuys Turns Back Time

Radio World - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 14:39

Streaming technology developer StreamGuys has a new trick up their sleeve for the company’s SGrecast suite of streaming service tools — SGrewind.

SGrewind automatically builds a rolling window of replayable content, giving radio broadcast stream listeners DVR-like abilities to rewind, pause, or restart a live stream from the beginning of a program.

For broadcasters and other developers SGrewind’s live audio DVR capabilities are processed at the server rather than client-side, enabling them to integrate multiple players and apps with the same rewindable stream while avoiding the need to use precious storage on listeners’ devices.

For listeners, SGrewind is controlled through the SGplayer app, giving them greater control of their live-streamed audio, letting them pause and resume streams without missing any content; rewind to hear something they missed; or start the stream at a specific earlier segment, similar to a television electronic program guide (EPG).

SGrewind integrates with the company’s SGreports logging and analytics service to provide data on rewound content within in-depth listener metrics. It can also use SGrecast’s blackout capabilities to prohibit rewinding during rights-restricted content.

StreamGuys Executive Vice President Jason Osburn explained, “Enabling listeners to rewind live streams means they can hear more of the station’s content that they might have otherwise missed, benefiting the broadcaster and its advertisers, while giving consumers the convenience of not having to wait until the end of the current program for an archived recording to be published.”

NAB Booth: N2524 (ENCO)

Info: www.streamguys.com

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NAB Sneak Peek: Monroe Electronics Redesigns HALO

Radio World - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 14:37

Monroe Electronics will give NAB Show audiences their first look at a redesigned HALO EAS management tool.

The company says the Version 2.0 “user experience while simplifying both maintenance and troubleshooting.”

HALO Project Manager E. Scott Nix said, “In the past, cable operators and station groups spent a great deal of time and effort training personnel to perform labor-intensive information gathering. HALO addressed this problem by streamlining critical tasks and, in turn, enabling better management of EAS/CAP equipment. Significant enhancements to HALO V2.0 further simplify management and reporting, allowing users to reduce the overall cost and complexity of EAS-related operations.”

Improvements include a new web-based interface and a shift to a unified web-server platform. According to the company, the new web-based interface for HALO allows users to work with their preferred web browser (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari). The central HALO server now runs on a Linux OS (Ubuntu and CentOS 7) using a PostgreSQL database.

Nix added, “We shifted HALO to a Linux-based operating system and open-source database because they reduce overall cost of ownership, and also because many datacenter professionals have greater knowledge and familiarity with these systems and find them easier to manage.” Furthermore, “We also have implemented a web-based user interface that makes HALO access easier than ever — and gives users the benefit of a modern look and feel.”

HALO oversees all encoders/decoders and managing all connected EAS devices within an organizational environment. Authorized users can view the status of all EAS devices connected to HALO, back up configuration files, perform software upgrades, collect EAS alert data, run regular reports on EAS devices and EAS alert data, and alert users to changes throughout the EAS enterprise ecosystem.

NAB Booth: N4813

Info: www.monroe-electronics.com

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NAB Sneak Peek: New Broadcast Console From Axia Audio

Radio World - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 14:33

For NAB Show attendees, Axia Audio has a new broadcast mixer available, the iQx.

The iQx is designed with AoIP in mind, all wrapped in a single package.

Telos Alliance VP of Sales, Support, and Marketing Marty Sacks said, “Axia iQx suddenly opens up the world of AoIP and Axia capabilities to more people by utilizing existing network resources and eliminating the cost of an outboard mix engine.”

It will be available with 8–24 100 mm sealed plastic-conductive faders. It also offers three-band EQ and multifunction soft key per channel. According to the company, the talkback and mix-minus system offers flexible routing for sources. The iQx can be operated remotely via a web interface.

As a Telos Alliance product there are telco/hybrid options available. In addition, native Livewire+ support makes the iQx compatible with other Telos Alliance equipment on a network. It is also AES67 and SMPTE 2110-30-compatible.

NAB Booth: N5806

Info: www.telosalliance.com

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Inside the Feb. 13 Issue of RW

Radio World - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 12:41

Read what Wiley Rein attorney Ari Meltzer has to say about broadcasting’s place in the 5G future. Learn about a new voice-controlled smart speaker quiz that NPR is using to engage listeners. Also check out our Sports Reporting, Remote Gear & Satphones Buyer’s Guide. These are all found inside the new issue, along with the stories below.

COMMENTARY
The Future of In-Car Radio: Losing All Restrictions

“Thanks to intelligent audio-processing technologies, the customer experience of in-car radio can be taken to a new level that meets the higher expectations regarding quality and variety,” says Fraunhofer’s Sebastian Scharrer. The organization developed a technology to synchronize radio signals with online content.

INFOTAINMENT
Putting the Connect 4C Through Its Paces

The Uconnect infotainment system has evolved significantly since its introduction as an integral part of Fiat Chrysler vehicles sold in the United States. When Paul Kaminksi drove the 2019 North American Truck of the Year RAM 1500 Longhorn Crew Cab four-wheel drive pickup, he also explored the Uconnect 4C.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

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Server “Drawer Glides” Support Unused Equipment

Radio World - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 08:37
Fig. 1: Repurposed server brackets mounted under a counter support unused equipment.

Okay, so you have all this analog gear that you removed from service because you installed AoIP equipment. Now, what to do with all this stuff until you can (A) get rid of it or (B) repurpose it somewhere else?

Omaha’s Spirit Catholic Radio Director of Engineering Mark Voris built an under-counter pull-out rack where the equipment can just sit in storage, or actually be used. Mark writes that his rack sure beats piling the equipment in a corner, on a shelf or in an equipment rack where it takes up space.

Fig. 2: The equipment “drawer” is pushed under the counter and out of the way.

Mark has used L brackets to hang an individual piece of equipment when a rack wasn’t an option. If you are handy with a welder, you can manufacture one of your own. The drawer glides are from an old server rack Mark salvaged. These are made to handle a lot of weight. Mark used a couple of pieces of square stock for the rails.

This could also be an idea for rack-mounted studio equipment. Gear racked up in the studio — especially under the tabletop consoles — is prone to being bumped. Mount a drawer-type rack system like this to keep vulnerable controls up and out of the way as well.

Fig. 3: L brackets are ideal for mounting single pieces of equipment under furniture.

Fig. 1 shows the under counter rack assembly that Mark constructed. Fig. 2 shows the rack drawer pushed back under the counter. Fig. 3 shows Mark’s L-bracket mount for single pieces of equipment.

***

Mike McClain writes that in a past assignment he used a snowmobile to service remote sites. Every year, he was required to train in snow machine safety and operation training.

They told the story of a tech who left the keys in the ignition of the snowmobile while he was inside the transmitter shack. Well, ravens are amazingly smart birds and they are attracted to shiny objects like keys. A raven stole the keys from the ignition, and when the tech came back to the machine, the keys were gone.

The moral, which applies to building and fence locks, too: Always take the keys with you; and for the snowmobile, carry a spare. Keep a spare set in the transmitter building as well.

Another story relates to maintenance crews working a land-use agency of the federal government. They would put a spare ignition key behind the lens of a parking light on the truck. If they lost the keys while working, they could use a rock or a stick to break the lens and get the key. Maybe parking light lens assemblies are too expensive these days, but a saving spare key in a good hiding place on the truck is still common at that agency.

Mike wraps up with another survival kit tip: A candle and an empty tin can provide a surprising amount of light and heat if you happen to get stuck in your vehicle. A magnesium fire starter and some waterproof matches are also in his “blizzard bag” for the winter months.

***

Fig. 4: A heavy-duty support rack shelf from Navepoint. Fig. 5: The support has adjustable rear support rails.

Gary Wachter is director of engineering for the Service Broadcasting Group in Dallas. Gary shares an additional heavy-duty rack shelf mounting solution.

Navepoint makes a large selection of four-point rack shelves. They have the usual rack rail mount in front, and adjustable slide rails on back to attach to various rack depths. This makes a solid mount for heavy and sensitive equipment. Slots allow for air circulation. The best part? They are $32 each. Gary used these throughout his new facility in Arlington, Texas.

You can find more information at www.navepoint.com. Front and rear pictures are seen in Figs. 4 and 5.

Contribute to Workbench. You’ll help fellow engineers and qualify for SBE recertification credit. Send Workbench tips and high-resolution photos to johnpbisset@gmail.com. Fax to (603) 472-4944.

Author John Bisset has spent 49 years in the broadcasting industry and is still learning. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance. He is SBE certified and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award. 

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France’s towerCast Selects All In Media for DAB+ Visual Services

Radio World - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 08:02

French broadcasting services operator towerCast is using All In Media’s Rapid software solution to power DAB+ visual services in France.

AIM is a supplier of smartphone apps and broadcast systems for the radio industry and is part of the Xperi family of companies. The firm says towerCast chose its Rapid solution to manage DAB’s Dynamic Label Segment (scrolling text), slideshow, and Electric Program Guide (EPG) services on multiplexes in Lyon, France. This partnership represents Rapid’s first entry into the country.

Xperi adds that the AIM Rapid software enables radio stations to broadcast visual services across DAB+ and other platforms.

AIM’s services and products across iOS and Android platforms include custom app development, premium template apps and industry aggregator apps.

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Broadcast Actions

FCC Media Bureau News Items - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 20:00
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Legacy Broadcasting, LLC

FCC Media Bureau News Items - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 20:00
Granted satellite exception to the local television ownership rule to permit common ownership of KNHL(DT) and KSNB-TV as well as associated assignment of licensee from Legacy Broadcasting, LLC to Gray Television Licensee, LLC

It’s Official: Long-Standing Rule to Post Broadcast Licenses Is Nixed

Radio World - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 19:12

Broadcasters can now remove one more item from their FCC to do list.

A posting in the Federal Register on February 8 made it official: Broadcasters no longer have to physically post and maintain copies of their licenses and other related information. It was back in late 2018 that the Federal Communications Commission formally adopted a Report and Order that eliminated the requirement that broadcasters post broadcast licenses at a physical location.

At the time, the commission said that the goal was to advance the commission’s efforts in modernizing media rules and removing unnecessary regulatory burdens.

[Read: FCC Votes to Eliminate Physical Broadcast License Posting]

The original decision to require the posting of broadcast licenses, which predated the establishment of the FCC, was most likely to ensure that information regarding station authorizations, ownership and contact information was available and accessible to the commission and public, the commission said.

Earlier rules also required all LPTV, translator and booster stations to post certain information — such as the station’s call sign, licensee contact info and location of station record — at the transmitter site. Although LPTV, translator and booster stations were not required to maintain public inspection files, they had to post contact information of key personnel. In its December 2018 ruling, the commission said it found “no continued need for broadcasters to separately identify a local representative or a custodian of station records and display such information.”

Myriad broadcasters were vocal in their assertion that such record keeping was no longer necessary. In written comments on the issue published in the ECFS database, commenters said information about broadcast licenses is now widely available online on numerous FCC databases. The commission also said that no commenter provided any justification for continuing to require broadcasters to post or maintain at specific locations a physical copy of their licenses, authorizations, or general or local contact information.

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Nautel at 50

Radio World - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 14:08

This week, transmitter maker Nautel is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

To celebrate their golden anniversary, Nautel promises a beefed-up Nautel Users’ Group gathering at the NAB Show on April 7, along with deals to reward customers.

The company started in 1969 as a specialist if nautical navigation beacons and began working on transmitters, solid-state AM, in 1974.

Nautel Regional Sales Manager, Asia/Pacific, Chuck Kelly said, “With this being our 50th anniversary, we are planning an extra-special slate of speakers. … We think it will be the best NUG meeting yet and encourage our regular attendees as well as anyone interested in Nautel to join us there.”

For buyers of Nautel equipment, there’s also a deal to consider. A release explains, “running through the close of the spring NAB show: any customer who places an order for a GV Series FM transmitter during the next 50 days will receive an extra 50 months of warranty on the product free.”

Wendell Lonergan, Nautel head of broadcast sales, explains, “This adds up to over eight years of transmission peace of mind with worldwide available parts …”

The company is also asking customers to share stories about their Nautel transmitters.

And it is the customers that are the heart of any successful company. Nautel President and CEO Kevin Rodgers said, “They have been the source of some of our best product ideas, and we wouldn’t be here today without their continued support of the Nautel line. Many Nautel customers have been with us for decades, while others have recently joined the family. We extend our heartfelt thanks to all of them.”

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The Future of In-Car Radio: Losing All Restrictions

Radio World - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 09:15
Sebastian Scharrer

The author is product manager automotive for Fraunhofer IIS Audio and Media Technologies.

Radio, in its wide variety of formats, has long been a vital component of in-car entertainment. And it will continue to be so: Thanks to intelligent audio-processing technologies, the customer experience of in-car radio can be taken to a new level that meets the higher expectations regarding quality and variety.

SEAMLESS SWITCHING

Hybrid radio enables passengers to listen continuously to a radio station during a car ride even if they leave its coverage area. The technology combines a radio transmission — regardless of whether it is digital or traditional FM radio — with the accompanying web stream, allowing passengers to listen to their favorite radio station wherever they are. This also offers an opportunity to strengthen the connection between station and listener by removing distance as a factor — even for listeners on the road.

The tricky part is switching from the radio broadcast to the web stream: Compared to receiving a radio signal, a web stream can have a delay of 20 seconds or more, resulting in portions of the feed either being lost or played twice — like a scratch on a vinyl record that causes the needle to jump back. Both issues are highly irritating to the listener.

This is why Fraunhofer IIS developed Sonamic TimeScaling. This technology synchronizes both signals with each other to produce a precise, seamless transition.

When the system realizes that the radio signal will soon be lost, it begins connecting to the station’s web server via the vehicle’s embedded cellular modem or a smartphone connected to the car stereo. It calculates the existing offset to the web stream in order to delay the audio signal in an inaudible way. As soon as the two streams are synchronized, the system seamlessly switches to the web stream and volume levels are adjusted automatically.

This also works in reverse: When the system recognizes that the radio signal is strong enough for good reception, it can make a seamless transition from the web stream to the radio signal, keeping the amount of mobile data used for Internet access low.

GOOD AUDIO, LOW BIT RATES

With regard to transmission costs for streaming a radio station over the Internet, broadcasters understandably prefer low or very low bit rates. To meet this demand, Fraunhofer developed the xHE-AAC audio codec.

This latest addition to the AAC codec family provides consistently high-quality audio for all signal types, such as speech, music or mixed content, and at bit rates starting as low as 12 kilobits per second for stereo services — up to 500 kbps and above. It is designed for adaptive streaming, allowing seamless bitrate switching over DASH and HLS. xHE-AAC is included in Google’s Android 9 Pie mobile operating system, with MPEG-D DRC providing mandatory loudness and dynamic range control.

[The Potential of DRM Datacasting]

If a station has not upgraded its web stream to xHE-AAC yet, low bit rates can lead to audible artifacts. Those artifacts can be minimized with Fraunhofer Sonamic Enhancement — a toolbox that carries out the required repairs and optimization in real time following an analysis. The semantic algorithms restore high-frequency signal components and others, remove scratching and roughness, and reconstruct lost auditory source width. Fraunhofer Sonamic Enhancement can work with other sources, too, such as a user’s own mp3 collection.

The solution does not require any additional information about codecs or bit rates, and high-quality audio material remains unchanged. It can process all relevant audio codecs such as mp3, AAC, AC3 or codecs used in satellite radio, so it does not matter if the playback is music, speech or mixed content. There is also no impact on the channel (streaming, satellite radio, etc.) that is receiving the audio content.

CONSISTENT VOLUME

Switching between different audio sources, or even between different radio stations, often confronts the listener with different levels of volume. This has to be adjusted manually, most often by the driver — which is not only inconvenient but presents a safety risk by briefly distracting the driver from the road.

The Sonamic Loudness technology developed by Fraunhofer can provide a remedy here, ensuring consistent volume when switching among radio stations, media sources or individual audio data sources, and thus increasing comfort and safety.

The loudness normalization works with any source, no matter if it is line-in or Bluetooth, CD, FM, digital radio or internet streaming. Depending on the source, additional information available is used for Sonamic Loudness, e.g. “next title,” “same/new CD” or “known radio station.” At the same time, the technology maintains the original dynamic range of what is played back.

If radio is chosen as the source, a previously specified loudness value is used as the starting point for normalization. This value can be determined in various ways without disturbing the user: In the case of radio, the solution can use a second tuner in the background or online updates. If there is no starting value, continuous volume measurement and adjustment are active.

Sonamic Time Scaling

IMMERSIVE SOUND

To bring immersive in-car entertainment to small, compact and midsize vehicles, Fraunhofer IIS has developed the Sonamic Panorama solution (while for large and luxury cars, it offers the Symphoria technology).

Sonamic Panorama does not require any additional hardware and separates the individual sound sources of stereo content, evenly distributing them in a U-shaped soundstage that surrounds the passengers. Side components in the stereo signal emerge behind the listener, while the mid components remain acoustically unaltered directly in front. That way, everyone in the car can appreciate details that otherwise would be imperceptible in the pure stereo signal. The playback is kept free of artifacts and is robust to FM noise and poor digital reception. So if, for example, a radio station is broadcasting a live concert by a passenger’s favorite band, they might feel as if they were right there on stage with the musicians.

With the new possibilities presented by intelligent automotive audio-processing technologies, radio listeners in cars can enjoy their favorite stations to the full — not only without any disturbances or artifacts, but even with added value.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, based in Germany, is an application-oriented research institution. Its Audio and Media Technologies division offers solutions for AV streaming, TV broadcast, digital radio, mobile telephony, virtual reality and automotive.

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Podcast #180 – Net Neutrality Back in Court Again

Radio Survivor - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 05:02

The Federal Communications Commission was back in court on Feb. 1, called on to defend its decision to overturn the 2015 Open Internet Order in December 2017. It seems like the FCC lawyers didn’t have the best day in front of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and Prof. Christopher Terry from the University of […]

The post Podcast #180 – Net Neutrality Back in Court Again appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Celebrated Talk Show Host Passes Away

Radio World - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 20:54
Bruce H. Williams

Talk radio pioneer Bruce H. Williams has died at age 86, only five years after he signed off the air for the final time. Williams passed away in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 9, nine days shy of his 87th birthday.

Williams got his first radio gig in his forties at New Brunswick, N.J., talk station WCTC(AM). Beginning in 1975, he hosted a program called “At Your Service.” Next up, Williams moved to WMCA(AM) in New York. In 1981, Williams was scouted by NBC to serve as the host for a new syndicated advice radio program. Less than a year later, Williams crashed his airplane and was very seriously injured — but he was back on the air in a month, broadcasting from his room at the Medical Center of Princeton!

[Bruce Williams Embraces ‘Made in America’]

To honor his three-decade career, the National Radio Hall of Fame inducted Williams in 1999. He also appeared as number six on Talkers Magazine’s 2002 list of greatest radio talk show hosts.

Although Williams is primarily remembered as a radio host, he was a master of career reinvention. He served in the Korean War as an Air Force officer, then returned home to New Jersey to attend Newark State College (now Kean University) and after graduation, founded a preschool. He had stints driving ice cream and beer trucks and taxis. Williams’ career also detoured into sales (Christmas trees and insurance), business ownership (floral shop, car rentals, barber shop, night clubs). Additionally, Williams was very politically active and served as deputy mayor, township councilman and then mayor of Franklin, N.J.

[Milestones for Bruce Williams …]

Williams’ gift of gab also transferred to the page. He wrote six financial and real estate advice books and penned a syndicated advice column called Smart Money.

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The post Celebrated Talk Show Host Passes Away appeared first on Radio World.

Revamped WEA Alerts On Track to Roll Out in May

Radio World - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 20:39

Industry stakeholders are continuing to weigh in on the importance of updating the messages that come over the nation’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system — including the National Weather Service (NWS) and the chairman of the FCC.

Three months ago the NWS asked for public comment on the changes that the Federal Communications Commission was proposing to WEA, including expanding the maximum character count to a total of 360 characters (up from only 90 today). NWS solicited feedback on both the proposed expansion of weather warnings and the proposed content of the NWS messages carried by WEA, which is to take place in May 2019.

[Read: Nationwide EAS Test Results Reveal Strong Participation]

The WEA issue is also garnering new attention after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a call to wireless carriers and standards bodies to continue the progress they have made toward implementing rules to improve the geographic targeting of these WEA alerts.  He pressed parties to maintain focus on meeting the required implementation date later this year, citing by name the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) as well as the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS).

Last week, a 3GPP working group achieved what Pai called “a significant milestone” with the adoption of new technical specs that are expected to be voted on in March. ATIS is expected to finalize standards for improved WEA geotargeting by the end of next month.

These are important steps in implementing rules the FCC adopted last year to improve the geographic accuracy of Wireless Emergency Alerts, Pai said in a media release. Carriers must be able to deliver alerts to certain geotargeted — with no more than a one-tenth of a mile overshoot — by Nov. 30, 2019.

“Recognizing that there is still more work to be done, I urge all principals … to remain vigilant in their work to ensure that the benefits of enhanced wireless emergency alerts are made available by November, he said. “The American people want, expect and deserve the best possible public safety services, including the most precise targeting available for wireless alerts.”

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Community Broadcaster: Go Big With Small

Radio World - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:22

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.

As stations seek to crack the code of an effective podcast, one of the most perplexing questions may finally get more clarity.

Many community radio stations are engaged in podcasting. A few take it a step further and offer training to aspiring podcasters. Radio Boise, for example, kicks off its Voices Project in February. The upcoming Community Media Conference will bring together stations such as KPOV that are navigating the podcast space. However, the matter of content remains largely open. That may be for better or worse.

For those of us in radio, who often think of content clocks in relation to our grids and that 168 hours each week we need to be mindful about, the length of a podcast may correspond to the units of measure with which we are most accustomed. Even though that number may not reflect emerging listening habits — more on that shortly — you radio folks have a far better handle on the public’s patience and attention span than many other people producing audio and/or podcasting.

[Read: Community Broadcaster — Going Beyond]

The length of time for content is one such issue with which everyone must contend. If you dip your toe into the content conversation online, you are certain to get a lot of very abstract answers to concrete queries. No question gets more general a response than, “How long should my podcast be?”

A common, though opaquely self-indulgent, refrain is, “as long as you need” or worse, “as long as it is interesting.” Interesting, to whom? Few things in radio are more insufferable than a segment that audibly has gone on too long and feels like someone is stretching to fill time. The cringeworthy interview that illuminates little but occupies a lot of time is the last memory so many of us have of particular programs, podcasts and radio stations. Of course, there certainly are those willing to overlook listening to this kind of radio during a commute.

But when someone has purposefully chosen to listen by seeking out and streaming or downloading a podcast and then is punished with overlong talk during said podcast. That’s simply not as forgivable. Regardless of whether you are a seasoned radio veteran or a freshly minted podcaster coming straight out of the dining room studio, content in whatever its format is still all about the audience and their time.

Should your community radio station be considering a podcast, new reports may inform your adventure moreso than ever before.

In early January, the Wall Street Journal noted podcast audiences say they are more besieged than ever by content choices. Ultimately this is not a shock. Many of us are distracted by email on our phones, text notifications, blinking lights for Instagram and Facebook, buzzes for Twitter alerts, various newsletters and the endless cascade of YouTube, podcast app and other streams. Should we be surprised our listeners’ lives are not much different?  Instead or lengthy podcasts, more listeners are saying small is beautiful. They are making shorter audio selections to get more information in a smaller window of time.

What could be waved off as anecdotal examinations by the Wall Street Journal is in truth seeing more support. Civic Science just presented findings of its survey of nearly 3,000 podcast listeners. In that research, the organization’s study suggests audiences want shorter podcasts. Again, this choice boils down to efficiency. If you are a busy parent, professional, student, etc., you may not have three hours to spend with a podcast. Such trends may be encouraging to thinly sourced community radio to go big with small.

Community radio can make a tremendous impact with shortform, local podcasting, not unlike the aforementioned Radio Boise’s tidy regional podcast. Other stations, like WTIP, give a local twist to familiar subjects. Colorado’s KSJD uses its farming radio program “Big Fat Farm Show” to do microcasting of content. There’s endless potential in a form of podcasting that has yet to hit its peak.

Moreover few bets are sure in the world, but you can almost certainly win in Las Vegas with the assurance that the world will stop if we do not get another two-hour podcast on business savvy, pop culture and gaming, or interviews with people on any number of topics with massive content verticals already in existence. That’s not a criticism of anyone, but rather than encouragement to everyone to think creatively and not settle for what everyone is doing. Though longform podcasts will always have their loyalists, it is the bite-sized programming that is most likely to win new converts, and surely a means to welcome new audiences to the beauty that community media offers.

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Community Broadcaster: Learning Together

Radio World - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:21

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.

Just a little over a week ago, the community radio organization I work for, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, unveiled the agenda for its 2019 Community Media Conference. As community radio events, rare as they are, go, this one is notable, since the last NFCB national conference was in 2017.

Scheduled for June 18–20 of this year in San Diego, the Community Media Conference is significant for a few different reasons.

NFCB’s event is virtually the founding parent of noncommercial media gatherings. The Community Media Conference traces its lineage back to the early to mid-1970s, when NFCB was founded out of alternative media conventions that occurred in Madison, Wis. and Boulder, Colo. These first gatherings predated many of the designations we in radio and noncommercial educational radio in particular know today. In fact, the initial conferences were held because there was a sense that the currents of locally focused, public-oriented broadcasting needed a voice, and a chance to structure themselves around matters of need as well as importance.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Go Big With Small]

Out of the early NFCB conferences came things like a programming exchange, a producers of color convention (held in 1982) and nascent advocacy work before Congress and the Federal Communications Commission. As such, the Community Media Conference holds a valuable place in history as the oldest and best-known gathering for community radio.

However, in this media-saturated world, memories are short. The vast majority of people seem to tend toward finding the backstory interesting. But they want to know what is happening now. It is not an unfair demand. In truth, it is one all community media should abide by, rather than assume your history will always carry the day.

In this instance, the 2019 Community Media Conference seems to have checked a number of boxes, but squarely leans in the growth of stations. Fundraising sessions on building underwriting programs, pledge drives and raising one’s annual budget figure prominently on the schedule. In addition, several panels with attorneys are likely to assist station general managers wading through the difficult revenue, regulatory and other questions they experience on a daily basis.

Speaking of sticky questions, two intensives being held may end up top of the priority list for some leaders. One workshop covers the ins and outs of human resources, one of the most perplexing areas for community radio stations, oftentimes because finding a good human resources professional to guide a station can be elusive. Whether it is the issue of workplace civility or hiring and termination, there is no shortage of potent human resources topics NFCB’s conference may help you unravel.

In addition, another intensive on major giving could prove helpful to any station, no matter their size. Learning the means by which one can and should make the pitch for a bequest or larger contribution, and even how to lay the groundwork to do it, is game-changing information. Whether you are at a low-power station or a full-power outlet, it is a safe bet a few of your listeners are capable of a sizable legacy gift or one that can lift up your organization in the years to come. Led by a seasoned fundraiser, this focused three-hour session is going to prime a lot of attendees with the courage and skills to seek bigger donations.

The conference offers plenty of programming red meat too. With sessions on music reports and licensing, featuring one of SoundExchange’s key names; to remaking your morning drive programming; to ethics in community media; to an intensive on audio production, there are many conversations sure to be of interest to program directors, news directors and community media journalists.

However, there are many more attractive panels in store. Radio Research Consortium’s Dave Sullivan is set to examine listening trends for noncommercial radio in what is sure to be a blockbuster session. There are technical sessions in store. Your station can even get some grounding in consensus decision-making while you are in San Diego. Another full track takes on community engagement. And there are yet to be announced keynotes in store too. You can see the schedule here.

Training and mentorship remain, even today, one of the glaring problem areas in community media. Such is a big reason why gatherings like the 2019 Community Media Conference are so crucial for stations. My hope is that many community radio stations can come and, in the process, get the rhetorical jet fuel they need to ramp up their endeavors as well as their aspirations. Time may tell.

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The post Community Broadcaster: Learning Together appeared first on Radio World.

Henry Believes in Radio “From the Bottom Up”

Radio World - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 08:05
Mike Henry. “Radio to me is a bottom-up game,” he says. “That’s a very foreign concept to the large consolidated broadcasters.”

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Mike Henry, founder and CEO of media research and consulting firm Paragon, has referred affectionately to radio as “the cockroach of all media.” As in: You can’t kill it.

Henry’s musings about radio are grounded in his belief in the medium’s ability to innovate and evolve. The longtime radio consultant says radio’s further development depends in part on its ability to monetize live events and new digital revenue streams.

Henry, who began his career in college radio at WUOG(FM) in Athens, Ga., in 1979, has spent 33 years analyzing client media research at Paragon. Henry’s bio is heavy with startup projects and format launches. He has played roles in the development of the NPR News brand and several music formats, including alternative and adult hits, and is closely associated with a number of Triple A radio stations. He also has been involved with numerous new media projects and companies including Live365, Sirius Satellite Radio, Sony eMarker tagging, Clip Interactive, WeedStream and public media’s VuHaus music discovery platform.

His long-held theory, first floated a decade ago, is that radio’s success depends on “hyperlocal content” and “multiplatform” distribution. These are themes that resonate in the age of podcasting, streaming and smartphone apps.

Radio World asked Henry, 57, about his work and the state of radio.

Radio World: You co-founded Paragon Media Strategies in 1988. Describe what it is you do.
Mike Henry: Paragon originally only did purely audience research for radio stations. Now we work pretty much with anyone who produces content for the consumer, so everything in the entertainment and media world, digital media, mobile and even satellite radio. We provide clients with audience research and do straight consulting on content, marketing and programming. We focus on all of the audience engagement aspects for clients. And we can help a company or radio station build out their website social media platforms. We have an incredible and long-term staff of researchers and consultants at Paragon.

RW: What is it about radio that makes it so “resilient,” as you put it?
Henry: I think first and foremost it’s because it is still free. It’s convenient and accessible. Almost like a utility in that people know it will always be there. Secondarily, radio listening is a habit learned at a very early age and habits are hard to break.

I’d like to think that radio can respond to consumer demand, even though right now I wonder if it could do better in that regard. A large part of my career has been working with radio stations and networks specifically that remain focused on the consumer and not shareholders. We focus on operators that focus on the local community and have stayed away from the major consolidated broadcast companies.

RW: You pitch your theory of delivering hyperlocal content along multiplatforms as a winning strategy. How is the radio industry doing as a whole on that front? 
Henry: I think it is doing well. It’s probably doing better on the multiplatform distribution part of it than hyperlocal. I think some of the larger commercial groups struggle with reality versus their smoke and mirrors of being local. But certainly local operators and regional groups and all of public radio are very focused on local content, and I think that is why some of them have thrived during an era of consolidation when many observers figured they would be smothered by the consolidated groups.

It bears out that if you stay focused on the consumer and the local market, it works. Radio is a community asset that can organize and engage a local audience. I have seen that for 40 years in my career. That’s been the case since I started my radio career at a college radio station in Athens, Ga., in the late 1970s.

Young Mike Henry was student general manager of WUOG in Athens, Ga., in the early 1980s, what he describes as “the go-go days of influential college radio.”

RW: Are your radio clients finding ways to monetize their digital platforms?
Henry: Oh yes. Just name a platform and there are sponsorships happening and money to be made, whether it is on websites or social media platforms. At every level a radio station touches a listener we are able to monetize that. Podcasts being the latest example. You can add in events and festivals.

Sometimes it’s not immediate and not a direct turnaround of creating a new touch point and monetizing it, but over time radio has shown the ability to do that.

One space that I’m still not sure about is smart speakers. It’s not clear how radio can monetize that. That’s tricky, because right now all smart speakers are doing is raising the amount of royalties owed by a radio broadcaster but not increasing ratings because it is not measured and therefore not having a direct return on investment for that audience. That’s been elusive so far.

RW: Are you at all worried about the connected-car listening space for radio going forward?
Henry: Yes, that’s an issue, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out. The technology is still evolving. As long as a smartphone is the device controlling the content in the car, then I think radio will be in good shape. If the driver’s or rider’s personal smartphones are not accessible and are blocked by the car’s dashboard technology, then it is another story.

Mike Henry received a Peabody Award in 2012 for the public radio series “Inside the National Recording Registry” as a partner in production firm Media Mechanics.

RW: Through the years, Paragon has played a role in the launch of many music formats. How do you do that? 
Henry: I find the most pleasure in identifying new formats and concepts to bring people into radio. It’s a combination of research and gut feeling, I guess. When I see popular trends that are not being reflected on the radio, that’s an obvious one. You can see those trends in streaming and records sales and touring revenues for different acts. Radio needs to react to what the consumer is doing.

However, research can only get you so far. We try to read the research and respond to it but not follow the data and cross-tabs right over the cliff. Data can lie to you. There are radio format dead ends all over the place. You have to be able to read between the lines and understand the concept of external validity. Sometimes when you know the data isn’t consistent with external validity you have to go with your gut.

RW: Is there a hot new music format that excites you?
Henry: I’m working on one now that really excites me. It’s called urban alternative. It’s a public radio music format for young ethnic listeners. Think of the same music discovery concept as Triple A but in a form that concentrates on young ethnic listeners and plays hip-hop, R&B and urban, house and dance and everything else.

We are working through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and launching the format on public stations in Denver, Houston and Norfolk, Va., this year.

CPB has their passion and funding behind this because it is critical that public radio find ways to bring in young ethnic listeners. It’s critical to their continued success. We believe it will have a major impact on the radio landscape. To take the time to build and watch these new formats and audiences grow is very rewarding.

RW: If you were to place a new FM radio station on the air today in a medium market somewhere in this country, what would it sound like?
Henry: The hole in about every market in America is to play a lot of new music. The stations I work with play 50 percent to 70 percent currents and re-currents. And that stands out as being very different from the safe and predictable library-based music formats that seem to dominate most markets.

Every market is a bit different, of course, but these days the opportunities seem to point to going younger with new music and become a music discovery source.

However, it’s not just the music. It takes being local, with local hosts who live the format and live in the community to serve as guides. Radio to me is a bottom-up game. You let the community help shape the product. That’s a very foreign concept to the large consolidated broadcasters.

Mike Henry and family with performer Paul Janeway of St. Paul & The Broken Bones at the Boulder Theater last fall. Bottom, from left: son-in-law Luke Askelson, Paul Janeway, daughter Rachel Askelson. Middle: son Boone Henry, wife Susan Henry, daughter Michelle Conrad, Boone’s fiancée Emily Troxler. Top: Mike Henry, son-in-law Mike Conrad.

RW: Are your clients making money off hosting live events? 
Henry: Absolutely. I have clients making six figures off of single events, but you have to have a creative business model. In some cases, you own the event. In other cases you have partners in order to monetize the event. In the case of public radio, the model is member events where you sell high dollar tickets for exclusive events and access.

Really, in commercial and noncommercial radio, my clients are making money off events every year.

RW: What do the next five to 10 years hold for radio?
Henry: Additional distribution platforms and more ways to get the content out. I believe opportunities will continue to grow. And radio’s not going anywhere. Here we are in 2019 and when I was graduating from the University of Georgia’s Journalism School in 1983 they were talking about the demise of radio by 2000. Then it became 2005 and then 2010. And yet here we are.

The reality is that producing local radio is not easy. It takes hard work. What is easy is building cookie-cutter brands with national personalities. What is not easy is building local brands with local content, local talent and developing local connections with the audience and business community to grow sponsorship opportunities.

With technology it’s easy to get distracted by the concept of a shiny silver bullet in the distance. However, while everyone else chases the silver bullet, smart radio operators will keep their head down and focus on the local community.

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