Things keep shrinking and becoming more user friendly; such is the way of modern technology. Even so, we still think in terms of rooms full of equipment when we think about radio stations. While this is true to an extent, the production tools have been becoming more and more akin to what is available to most people on their home computers.
I recently ran across and article in The Santa Barbara Independent by Colin Marshall that addresses this nicely. While the column in question is about a collegiate radio station, and the article has a distinct anti-commercial bias, there is still great food-for-thought for anyone in the radio industry.
Mr. Marshall writes about KCSB radio, a station that is mobilizing modern technology to enhance their operation significantly. Chief engineer Bryan Brown states that it is not what technology the station has that is important, but rather how that tech is used. This is certainly a truism in the social media world, so I am inclined to agree with him.
Here are a few examples from the article:
The station’s live transmissions of the Dalai Lama’s April 2009 UCSB lectures, for instance, were pulled off with little more than a laptop, an inexpensive mixer, and an Internet connection. Smart use of the Internet has enabled KCSB to perform beyond its ostensible means in other ways as well, taking full advantage of the infrastructure offered by its university location. The free voice over internet protocol (VOIP) application Skype, for instance, allows No Alibis producer Elizabeth Robinson to near-seamlessly co-host with her associate in Paris. And with the aid of a lowly $800 desktop computer, KCSB streams live around the clock to the entire world.
Personally I love seeing Skype used this way. I’ve used it for years as a communication and teaching tool, and seeing it leveraged this way is fantastic. Any other attempt to do this would incur a huge cost in long distance fees while also being a much clunkier process. As to the rest, it is simply amazing what one can do with a laptop these days.
That is really the other point shown here. With the widespread use of computers, we have achieved a much more tech-savvy and tech-friendly populace, and personal software is rapidly closing on the professional stuff when it comes to quality.
“Radio, in general, is not an expensive medium,” said Brown. “What you need to transmit radio nowadays, you probably have in your house! Whereas radio station technology, KCSB’s included, used to be quite complicated and unintuitive to the outsider, it’s now almost the same audio and computer equipment to which new programmers will have already grown accustomed. “It used to be so in-your-face,” Brown remembered, “with all that tape-splicing, carts, and vinyl. Now the goal is to make the technology practically invisible.”
And that is really the trick. As the technology fades from visibility, people will begin to focus more on what can be done rather than worrying about a steep learning curve on new tools. As we enter 2010, I think it would behoove stations out there to give this piece a read and share their thoughts. There are both cost efficiency and productivity angles to embracing the tech this way, and the cost of adoption usually ranges from free to minimal.
What kind of tech does your station use to enhance its capabilities?