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A radio futurologist writing about what happens when radio and new platforms collide
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What can 'hybrid radio' do?

Posted on Monday, July 12th, 2010 at 7:30 pm. #

RadioDNS brainstorm 2

August 9th 2009 was the date of the last ‘Departmentals’ that I went to, while working at the BBC. These events are rather well-run things where the department (in this case, BBC Audio & Music Interactive and a number of other interested parties, like my old team and the BBC’s Rapid Application Development team) gets together to hear from the bosses and also attend smaller breakout sessions. Tristan Ferne and I did one about hybrid radio: Tristan showing the Olinda prototype he’d worked on with the good folks of BERG, while I talked a little about RadioDNS and then asked… “What can hybrid radio technology do?”

We broke up into groups to answer – there’s one, above, with Chris Needham holding the giant post-it notes we wrote on. The brief was: “forget about the BBC, and let’s concentrate on all of radio – and we’ll blog the answers”. We got together to present the ideas, and I grabbed the scribbles, thinking that I’d spend the next day writing the ideas up, to put them onto a public blog. And, the next day, I was able to announce that I was leaving the BBC, and therefore folded the postit notes up into a bag, and forgot to write them up. Until now.

RadioDNS connects broadcast radio (FM, or HD, or DAB) with the internet. So when your radio tunes into a radio station on FM, it can grab more, low-bandwidth, information over the internet. It works well on a mobile phone, for example, where bandwidth costs money and can be a little unreliable.

The ideas are in full below, but a few shine:

1. Add a Facebook “LIKE” button on my radio. If I could tell others right now that what I was listening to was brilliant, would others listen as well? Could that power more recommendations for even better bits of radio?

2. Very local content. Most of us enjoy national radio in the UK; but a hybrid radio (with GPS inside, like a mobile phone) offers the opportunity of very local content, opting out of the national service to give traffic and travel for your town; or adding to a national spot for Tesco with directions to how to get to your nearest one.

3. Subject-based browsing. A programme about genetics is fascinating: but imagine being able to leave the linear stream at the end of the programme and dial up more content about genetics to go deeper into the subject: all from your radio, and all without having to go near a keyboard.

and 4. “Mute until the next bit of the programme comes on”. Sometimes, the simplest ideas are best: avoid Thought for the Day, or the tedious sports news, by simply hitting the “not interested” button. And, since it could signal back to the radio station when people are hitting the button, perhaps this might make radio better for all of us.

- I’m speaking at the EBU’s Digital Radio Conference in Belfast in October about hybrid radio. You’d be welcome, I’m sure.
- While this was the output of a BBC session, the brief was for public consumption and to ‘forget the BBC’; so please don’t think any of the below ideas represent the thinking of the team either then or now.

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So, here’s what a hybrid, connected, radio could do, according to the four teams:

- share this bit of radio with a friend instantly (‘like’ button on Facebook)
- buy the album and instantly import it into iTunes
- create a playlist with “I love this” button
- contextual advertising (more local than the broadcast)
- single button that marks what you like with links back to the BBC Music website etc, building a profile linking to other recommendations
- multibranch radio – multiple broadcast streams on the fly (hit ‘red’ to hear more of this interview?)
- electrocute Chris Moyles democratically (I suspect they were joking – J)
- subject-based browsing during “Today” for example
- biographies of the people speaking
- very local content using GPS/IP location
- autotuning according to personal music signature

- rate the content
- email/text your opinion on a news story you’re interested to (direct from your radio)
- location-specific information (mobile)
- tag content so you can come back to this programme later on-demand
- purchase the track playing now
- download a programme/series as a file for offline listening later (like Spotify)
- link to multiple synchronous services around a programme (BBC and others)

- iPhone app
- Buy via MP3 or iTunes
- last.fm scrobbling
- “I like” button
- Chapterisation and listen-again
- Automatic opinion poll on your radio
- AudioBoo type voicemail
- Preferences to allow automated station switching
- Clapometer-type button
- Democracy Feedback

- Display upcoming programmes like this
- Show playlists
- Link to related information
- Location-based information, like travel
- Ambience detection
- Link the volume control to a rating (louder = enjoying it more)
- Send voice + text to radio station
- Tag + add to profile: allowing recommendations
- Mute until next part of programme comes on
- Direct feedback and statistics

One comment

Peter
commenting at July 16th, 2010 at 8:05 am

“Mute until the next bit of the programme comes on”.
I think this will radio worse. It will lead to stations only programming bits that many people want. This will, after some time, mean that most stations will broadcast the same popular stuff all the time.
This does not sound like an improvement to me.

The location based services (the common term used for devices that give content based on the location of the device) looks more promising to me.

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