Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Checking Back on Amazing Radio

July 14, 2009

songbirdA while back, I wrote about a new user-driven radio experiment going on in the UK called Amazing Radio. On their website, they describe themselves thusly: “You decide what gets on the air, not some geezer in a suit. Select new music from, give artists a fair deal – you are in control.” The three points displayed prominently on the website are Ethical for Artists, Controlled By Fans, and On-Air and On-Line.

Fans use the Internet to create playlists from the array of unsigned bands in the Amazing radio roster. The more fans pick a particular band, the better chance of hearing it on the air over the DAB station. It’s a very interesting approach. In social media terms, the actual radio station itself becomes the equivalent of Digg’s front page, all content promoted in rank by the ratings and rankings of the userbase. It is a truly democratic and brilliant application of social media strategies to the broadcast world.In addition, 70% of revenue generated by the downloading of their songs rather than the slim percentages of a standard record label deal.

The Guardian UK brings us a review of the current offerings and a bit about the way the format will evolve:

Gradually over the next couple of weeks, the station’s going to evolve into genre-specific evening shows, but hopefully the daytime schedule will remain much as it is now – a liberal mix of everything. It’s been good to spend a couple of days listening to nothing but music I’ve never heard before, even though a lot of it sounds vaguely familiar (like other unsigned music sites you search through Amazing Tunes by entering the names of major label acts like Radiohead or Coldplay and end up with a bunch of bands influenced by them; in some cases “influenced” actually means “sounds just like them except rubbish”). But among the Fratelli-alikes (could there be a lower musical life form?) and Johnny Borrell wannabes (yes, there could) there’s a surprising amount of genuinely promising new artists like Beccy Owen, Little Comets and Torpedo Pilots, alongside a few acts you might already know like X Factor’s Laura White and Dodgy – Birmingham’s answer to Blur, circa 1993.

I think this is a strategy that bears watching. While I do not in any way want to see the end of DJs and announcers, I do think that in the modern world there is room in the spectrum for this sort of innovation. It will be interesting to see how it does over time.

One final note, when Amazing took over the station, it had been broadcasting nothing but birdsongs for months while its fate was under discussion. In a nod to the small but vibrant group of fans, including personal favorite satirst Terry Pratchett, they have instituted a late night show in which the birdsongs return. (In the meantime Birdsong Radio has gone online.)

Unsigned bands+birdsong+democratic playlist development= ??

It will be a kick watching that equation get solved!

Photo courtesy of, used under its Creative Commons license


Afghanistan: Admiral Wants Poetry, Radio, and Social Media

July 2, 2009

afganThe tumultuous sands of Afghanistan are no strangers to conflict. The back and forth between the government and groups like the Taliban continues to be acrimonious and violent. NATO believes that creating better communication between the citizens and the government is key to a solution. As a matter of fact, the strategic communications director for NATO and the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Rear Admiral Greg Smith, believe he has the solution — a three pronged approach using radio, social media, and poetry. That’s right, poetry.

Bob Brewin over at NextGov fills us in on the logic behind it:

Smith said FM radio stations can deliver the programming that villagers want to hear, including poetry, a key component of the area’s Pashtu culture, which dates back 400 years.

Broadcasting poetry to an audience that appreciates verse meets the key requirement of any strategic communications campaign: “Audience-focused communications. You need to meet the audience where they are at,” said Bill Salvan, a reserve Navy public affairs officer and president of Signal Bridge Communications, a public relations firm in Phoenix.

Good content will attract a radio audience hungry for news and information, Smith said. The United States plans to work with businesses and international partners to build networks and stations that reach the entire country.

Additionally, since the insurgents generally use low power FM transmitters to broadcast threats and menacing messages this sort of content will almost certainly be a welcome alternative.

The stance of meeting the audience where they want to interact is an important one, a concept that is central to effective use of social media. The general’s efforts can be seen in that arena as well with the recent launch of the small but growing Twitter and Facebook accounts for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.

Radio, I feel, will have the greater impact right now. Connectivity is not the only issue; the base cost of computers and the education needed to make use of them and the Internet also provide barriers to social media. Of course, as time progresses, the barriers will diminish, especially as smartphones become more prevalent and mobile users more widespread.

Once again, the negligible cost of the receivers and egalitarian nature of radio prove their worth.

Photo courtesy of TKnoxB, used under its Creative Commons license

Radio Reaches Iran

June 29, 2009

iranUntil the tempestuous events of the recent Iranian election, Holland-based Radio Zamaneh was an alternative station that was more likely to have interviews with Iranian cultural icons, underground music and alternative literature.  In the wake of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contested victory, politics have become central to the content, as noted by  The Jakarta Post:

Now [Radio Zamaneh] is one of the few Persian-language sources of unfiltered information for Iranians whose access to news has been strictly controlled by the regime since mass protests erupted over the alleged rigging of June 12 presidential elections.

Since its launch in 2006, Radio Zamaneh has targeted young urban Iranians inhabiting the blogosphere; the postelection crackdown prompted its reporters to step up its use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and cell phones for information.

An Iranian diplomat, summoned to the Foreign Ministry in The Hague to receive a protest against the treatment of demonstrators, accused the Dutch government of meddling in Iran’s internal affairs and complained it was financing “propaganda” by Radio Zamaneh.

Everybody has seen the news about social media — Twitter in particular — being used to get info out of the country. Little has been said about providing information to those within the Iranian border. Using social media for this can have comparatively little effect with the countermeasures against digital connectivity that the government is enacting. Radio requires no Internet connection, only a tiny and inexpensive receiver.

So, here we see the classic strength of radio combined with the cutting edge social technologies of the modern digital landscape. The simple and ubiquitous broadcast signal is used to reach the broadest possible audience without hindrance while the station uses social media to gather real time life streams of events within the lockdown.

Freedom of information is democratizing. Today’s fusion of traditional broadcast radio and social technologies is a potent weapon in the fight for that freedom.

Photo courtesy of misterarasmus, used under its Creative Commons license

Interview2020: Ken George, New Media Production Manager at WBUR

March 11, 2009


(@ericguerin and Laura of listen to @kengeorge ramble. Photo Courtesy of WBUR.)

I’ve had the privilege of striking up an online friendship with Ken George, WBUR’s New Media Production Manager in Boston. You may recall that I posted about his efforts at the station as an example for stations everywhere. With that in mind, I managed to twist his arm into an online interview about social media in the context of his radio work.

The results? Some excellent perspective and some terrific advice.  Tune in to this:

Radio2020: So, as the New Media Production Manager for WBUR, what social platform have you been most excited about implementing? Which one seems to be the most vital part of your strategy?

Ken George, WBUR: A gentleman far more knowledgeable about radio than I could ever realistically aspire to be recently posted on his blog that radio is now in the “relationship business.” When put that way, then the value of social media is self-evident.

But simply slathering on social media varnish without an underlying attitudinal shift on the part of the organization will doom the effort (and justifiably so). What is vital? I think, an open mind, a willingness to engage listeners on their terms, to listen, and to stop thinking that the world revolves around those of us inside the studio.

This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I feel it is far too early for me to answer your questions regarding platform. I have observed a hefty response to our Twitter initiative. And our Facebook page has accrued a large number of “fans.”

But it is those conversations in almost real time that Twitter enabled, that has, for me, fostered a deeper connection with our listeners. Individuals have emerged from that mass of quantified data. Names and faces have supplanted anonymous listeners.

Radio2020: I see that WBUR is everywhere. Flickr, Twitter, Utterz, YouTube, Gather, MySpace and Facebook all have a WBUR presence. Tell our readers a bit about the strategy underlying the station’s use of these social media. How has it enhanced community participation, for instance?

Ken George, WBUR: We have only been seriously engaged in the social media space for under a year, so our strategy is still very much in its infancy. A lot of what we do I’d classify as listening. We solicit feedback from users, specifically through the use of blogs and Twitter, about how to leverage the digital space to more effectively serve their needs.

A powerful component of our community building strategy (are) our monthly “meet-ups.” These events inevitably evolve into intelligence-gathering bull sessions on everything from the public radio business model, to hyper-localism to user-generated content. Another issue that has arisen is the desire of some users for micro-pledging applications, something we are now actively considering for the next fund drive.

I am obsessed with this notion of radio as convener of community. Our most recent initiative, The Public Radio Kitchen, leverages the “Web 2.0” space to convene a community of pubic radio foodies. We have the brand, they have the knowledge, so why not bring the two together online and in the real world?

Radio2020: What sort of metrics do you use to measure success with social media? Do you use a “software as a service” (SaaS) like Radian6, Google Analytics, conversation monitoring, or some other approach?

Ken George, WBUR: We love geeking out over metrics. We obsessively keep track of the number of followers social media is attracting as well as (the) sites’ traffic. Google analytics is a must.

Sadly though, too many organizations get hung up on ROI (Return on Investment) at the expense of the bigger picture. I am well aware of the issue. I am also fully cognizant of the fact that the folks most responsive to 90.9’s social media forays do not represent our average listener.

That said, our average listener won’t be average forever. Yes, I have doubts about the efficacy of all of our social media initiatives. But the world is changing, and at a rapid clip at that, a fact most saliently brought to my attention each Tuesday night in an undergraduate course I attend, in which I am in the unenviable position of being the “old man” in the classroom. Talk about a wake-up call. If radio managers could only listen as these kids talk media. It’s a salutary antidote to any of my self-doubts regarding social media.

Radio2020: What advice would you give to other stations just starting on their social media journey? What tools or applications do you advise them to embrace?

Ken George, WBUR: The best way to get something done is (to) begin. Don’t obsess about tools. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude.

Most of the stuff if not free is very low cost. Station managers: Open up an account on Blogger and WordPress. Encourage your staff to do the same. Experiment with Facebook. Start Tweeting. Host a Tweet-Up! How about a listener photo project hosted on Flickr?

Radio2020: After eight years of doing this, what would you say are the most valuable lessons learned about the use of social media in the radio arena?

Ken George, WBUR: As I mentioned above, social media involves an attitudinal shift. Engaging listeners requires an authentic, consistent dialogue with them. Throw up a Flickr photo gallery and think you are doing social media, and you are only fooling yourself.

Listeners and users are smarter then generally given credit. Try to fake it with them and you lose.

Be prepared to spend a considerable chunk of your time doing this. That said, it is a helluva lot of fun.

Radio2020: And, as always, our traditional ending question: Ken, what is your favorite thing about radio and why is it important to you?

Ken George, WBUR: I spent much of my childhood in the shadow of the great WGY, then the “50,000 Watt Flagship Station of the General Electric Broadcasting Company.” That I still remember that tag line is indicative of my hours listening as a kid.

Then, the station was invested in the community. It covered the mayor’s race, and school board. On-air hosts appeared at grocery store openings and school events. Yet listening was a deeply personal experience. It was though those speakers where speaking to me. That childhood experience sums up what I like best about radio.

WBUR Kicks It, Social Media Style!

February 11, 2009


I spend a lot of time rooting around the Internet looking for various things. In the case of this blog, I continually seek out positive radio stories, particularly those centered on the evolution of radio in the age of social media. Since I make my living as a blogger and social media consultant, I also tend to keep tabs on what is happening in my industry as a matter of course.

Today I get to combine the two. You see, Chris Brogan, the man who personifies social media expertise to those in the know, recently blogged about his experiences attending Boston radio station WBUR’s  “Tweet-ups.”  Now the fact that WBUR is hosting Tweet-ups in the first place is great news, it means they are really taking the bull by the horns and embracing social media and the enhanced level of interactivity it gives them.[WBUR Post on the first 2009 Tweet Up]

Now, I have constantly made a point of emphasizing the use of digital tools and new media as integral to the evolution of radio as a medium.  Allow me to share some of Mr. Brogan’s thoughts and questions on the matter. Keep in mind this is coming from one of the sharpest and most well known voices in the field of social media as he talks a bit about WBUR and its ongoing program of leveraging web 2.0 tools.

Via Chris Brogan’s Blog:

Because once we know the face behind the voice, it’s a lot harder not to want to see the institution survive and thrive.

Will the walls of public radio become porous and let in more two-way experiences? I believe that’s where lots of media experiences will shift. We’ve seen the host-caller model for decades. What comes next (perhaps) is dozens of hosts and a few curators, plus the ability to interact at different levels. We see this last piece realized in the frequent use of, “For more information, visit and click on ‘news’” types of moments in broadcasts.

By the way, want a sign that WBUR gets it? Check out Inside WBUR. Front and center of the page? A Flickr photo slideshow of what? Mostly people visiting WBUR during these social outreach events.

This station is using Flickr (the source of all the Creative Commons images I use to illustrate my posts), Twitter, blogs, and is hosting face to face meetups with the community developed using these tools. This sort of wholesale adoption is something other stations should observe and consider emulating, WBUR has not missed  beat. If you want to take a look at what a solid stance in social media should look like for  radio station check out the WBUR- In Focus page. They present the ability for listeners to interact with the station on that listener’s preferred platform. Only use MySpace? No problem, WBUR is there. Facebook? Likewise. YouTube? You betcha!

It is such a simple thing, find a way for listeners to interact in whatever way and on whatever level they wish. It’s all about the conversation, social media is merely a variety of new ways to communicate and expand that conversation. As Chris Brogan points out, since public stations like WBUR rely on listener contributions, allowing more opportunities for those donations to be made is extremely important.

The lessons seen here easily translate to non public radio, after all it is radio’s engagement with its audience that is important. Ratings are one direct metric of the importance of this audience loyalty. It is vitally important to remember that the conversation, not the application, is the important part. An honest, human interaction is the one essential component of making social media work. Without that, it rapidly becomes perceived as SPAM.

Tweets: @WBUR, @chrisbrogan, @radio2020

Blogs: WBUR- The ConverStation , Chris Brogan- Community and Social Media

Photo courtesy of Chris Brogan, used by permission

Radio 2020 Is Going Social

January 27, 2009


Today I would like to announce something that I am very excited about: Radio 2020 is expanding into social media.

There are three new faces of Radio 2020 on the Internet (and yes, for those interested, I will be helming all of them) that I would like to share with you.

Number One: Twitter – The microblogging platform that most of our readers either use or have read about recently. The Radio 2020 Twitter will allow me to interact more directly with our readers, share links to stories about radio that do not make it to the blog, and develop community amongst radio fans and industry pros.

Number Two: LinkedIn – Undoubtedly the most popular social network for professional use, LinkedIn is an excellent resource for people in our or any industry. The shiny new Radio 2020 Group on LinkedIn is a place for us to network with each other, share resources and discussions, and enhance our potential to collaborate for the betterment of radio across the board. (As a matter of fact, even though it has not been launched until now, this group is already attracting a few members within the industry. An upcoming post will be appearing on this site on a topic suggested by one of these “ahead of the curve” members: David Craig (Account Manager at BT Americas).)

Number Three: Facebook – Probably the social network most recognized y the casual user, Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years. As a result, it was the obvious place to interact with many of you out there. As we head into the second month of 2009, it’s time to debut our Facebook Page. Come on by and be one of the first to become a fan. Write something on our wall, share the page with other friends and colleagues with an interest in radio’s evolution. Let’s take things to a new level!

If you know of radio stations or DJs that use any of these three platforms, send them over or let me know about them in the comments. It is my hope to not only use these social media tools to enhance interaction, but I will be periodically featuring posts that highlight radio people using social media as we embrace the interactive world of radio in the 21st Century. You may also use these platforms to suggest possible posts that you would like to see me cover in the future here on the Radio 2020 Blog.

Come on, folks, lets interact!

Photo courtesy of Robert Scoble, used under it’s Creative Commons license

Crowdsourcing for Radio

November 25, 2008


As a pro blogger, I end up doing a wide variety of contract writing jobs, some creative and some journalistic in nature. This has led me into a lot of direct contact with reporters, writers and producers in a vast array of media.

One thing that seems to be a constant in the modern day is that many journalists I’ve met find story ideas or interview subjects through online efforts, predominantly ones using social media. Here in New Orleans, I have repeatedly seen stories broken or examined by local bloggers only to be picked up subsequently by mainstream media later on.

National Public Radio (NPR), which seems to always be at the forefront of radio’s symbiotic evolution with the Internet, have been one of the first to really comment on this publicly. Frank Langfitt, NPR’s Labor/Workplace Correspondent, has discovered the collaborative power of social media and in true Web 2.0 fashion has blogged about it. You see, it all started with a Web Chat [archived here] about the possible bailout for the Detroit-based auto industry:

Not only was the chat interesting, but we got over 100 comments. Many of the comments were from people who either had connections to the auto business or actually worked in the industry. (Nothing like talking to people who actually know what you’re trying to report on.) :-) So after we did the Web chat, I began contacting some of the people who had commented.

Within a day, I was able to put together a radio story entirely based on sources from the Web chat. These were terrific sources with lots of knowledge whom I would have never been able to find by old reporting methods, like calling around. I also read some of the comments on All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation.

Crowdsourcing and social networking in action. The non linear approach certainly seems to produce a wider variety of results than the old fashioned way, i.e., calling around, etc.  Couple that with the ubiquity and reach of radio and a compelling picture emerges. Using the social media tools available online to research and produce content which is then shared across the digital divide using the power of broadcast is a fantastic example of the direction in which our medium is growing.

For those who take the time to learn, the tools available the Internet provide a content producer’s dream.

Photo courtesy of Mikey G. Ottowa, used under its Creative Commons license

Entercom Making a Splash With Micro Channels

November 17, 2008


Entercom is evolving. Soon, according to announcements, they will be launching a variety of new Internet-based options to their arsenal. I have always stressed the evolution aspect of radio growth in the modern day, so the fact that I love this idea should shock no one.

It seems the top five radio group has entered a deal with SplashCast to expand their offerings and take them viral.

Via PRInside.Com:

Starting this week, Entercom will roll out what are called SplashCast micro-channels – virtual, embeddable, interactive TVs – on the Web sites of its music stations. The first to launch is Z104 in Norfolk, VA ( Entercom’s music radio stations will use the micro-channels to serve up fresh, original, regularly updated local content, including video coverage of events and concerts, exclusive interviews, photos, music and news. Each station’s community of listeners can also contribute content and interact via SplashCast micro-channels, or embed them on their social networking profiles or other Web pages. Entercom’s online strategy also provides advertisers with effective new marketing opportunities in local markets.

More local content, more interactivity, and many more options all loom with the debut of this new partnership. SplashCast is a leader in Internet content syndication, creating a wide array of embeddable content that can go viral through online social networks. Just the type of strategic alliance that makes a perfect fit for radio.

I’ll be monitoring Facebook and other platforms over the next few weeks and see how long it takes before I start seeing these around. For this sort of spread, the community aspect is imperative I just hope that they manage to maintain the dialogue necessary to have social media work for them. On the Internet, interactivity and transparency are key. If whoever is shepherding their social media efforts understand this then we could be seeing a major step forward for Entercom. I hope so; I love seeing radio evolve!

Photo courtesy of pasotraspaso, used under its Creative Commons license

Zune: Tag, You’re It!

September 11, 2008

The wild and wonderful world of the Internet and traditional radio are once again seeing a convergence. Microsoft’s Zune, direct competitor of the Apple iPod, not only allows you to tune in your favorite FM band station, but is also now rolling out the ability to tag and purchase MP3s of the songs you hear. In addition, while I do not have the details as yet, there is a social media aspect being introduced as well.

Between broadcast and social media, the Zune is leveraging the two most powerful means of discovering new music and tying them directly into the marketplace. It also looks like they are going to start with a strong reach as far as stations are concerned.

According to BizJournals, “as of Tuesday, more than 450 FM radio stations are offering this Song Tagging service.” It only makes sense to assume that as time goes by we will see more station added to a growing list. Another nice thing that factors into this step forward is the fact that the FM tuner in the Zune is fully integrated, as opposed to the various models of the iPod which had to rectify this initial design flaw with an add-on tuner.

It is clear that the manufacturers of the Zune are aware of which side of the bread bears the butter. Also from BizJournals:

“Radio is one of the primary ways people discover new music, which is why we have built an FM tuner into every Zune portable media player,” says Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Zune.

So as the evolution of radio races towards apotheosis, all I can say is, “Tag! You’re it!”

Photo courtesy of yngrich, used under its Creative Commons license