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University of Westminster, London
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of M.A. Media Management Degree
With lots of love, For Mom, Dad & Tina Special thanks to Dr. Dwyer & Indubala Gulliani
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the various people who have contributed immensely to my academic growth in the past one‐year. My sincerest thanks to my Course leader and tutor Charles Brown for all his help and support; Dr. Dwyer for being such a lovely mentor and managing to chip in some humor to lift my spirit each time when times were hard; and the staff at the university who ever always happy to help. I appreciate it all. I would also like to express my gratitude to Tim Davie, Director, Audio & Music, BBC; Andrew Harrison, CEO, RadioCentre; David Mansfield, Chairman, RAJAR; Will Harding, Head of Strategy, Global Radio; Miles Lewis, Senior Vice President, Last.fm; for lending their invaluable thoughts, time and expertise for my research. I couldn’t have imagined putting this academic piece together without their expert industry inputs. I credit all you wonderful people for changing and enlightening my life. Thank you.
Contents Chapter 1: Why Reimagine Radio? Chapter 2: Literature Review & Design Methodology Chapter 3: Understanding radio Chapter 4: Survey of Technologies & Forms Chapter 5: Case Study | Last.fm Chapter 6: Last.fm Vs. Traditional Broadcast Model Chapter 7: Radiotrack & Conclusion Bibliography
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A Note on Terminology I refer to both ‘Radio’ and ‘radio’. Where capitalized: a reference to the Industry/ Organization. Otherwise: a reference to the medium of radio more generally.
‘Nobody studies radio, kid. They don’t teach it in school because it’s too much fun. People go to school to be a teacher or a dentist. Radio is just a bunch of guys having a ball.’
(Garrison Keillor, Radio Romance)
Consumption of audio material online has become a significant force in the media landscape. The delivery form of Radio is mutating. The current proliferation of audio media on different platforms and the multiplicity of available options for Radio delivery are, from the perspective of traditional Radio, confusing and disruptive. The arrival of digital audio has occasioned a moment of particularly vigorous reflection within the industry and among scholars writing about Radio. Overviews of Radio underscore the fact that content and uses of the medium are not fixed and have been subject to changes as a result of economic, technology and other imperatives. Andrew Harrison, CEO RadioCentre, explains the reason why digital radio is not delivering the punch, ‘A lot of the confusion and problem comes from the word ‘radio’. We have one word, which describes the distribution platform and also the content. Other mediums have established different terminologies to describe different contexts. For example, we know the difference between Film and Cinema.’ Adding to his argument, rightly so, when a talent presents a great show, it is claimed as great ‘Radio’ and then, the receiving set is also called ‘Radio’. This ambiguity and confusion arises and lies in the heart of the ‘terminology’, which weakens strategic profiling, positioning, and assertion of the medium. A meteoric rise in the number of audio platforms has exponentially increased listening hours. On the other hand, the average radio listening hours, revenue and market share has been on a decline.
Radio Year‐on‐year Total display Wear‐on‐ Revenue (M's) growth revenue (M's) year growth 480 497 454 396 400 ‐7.9% 3.40% ‐8.7% ‐12.8% ‐1.0%
YEAR 2006 2007 2008 2009 Projected 2010
% Ad Radio share 5.0 5 4.8 4.8 4.8
9,611 9,928 9,450 8,319 8,409
‐1.0% 3.30% ‐4.8% ‐11.9% 1.1%
Growth of new media has also dented the prospects of Radio to a significant extent. Younger age groups are spending increasing amount of time in front of their computer screens engaging with online content. Media planning agencies are happy with the performance of online media advertising because it gives them an accurate feedback on their investment. Andrew Harrison adds here, ‘It is a double jeopardy, one, it is not easy for traditional linear media to demonstrate a direct link to purchase ROI, second, the online people have been very poor in acknowledging campaign success to offline media.’ Though Radio has caught up with the Internet phenomenon, clearly the industry and networks are paying a price for lack of clarity in the scope of the medium. While some new platforms have similarities with analog radio broadcasting systems; others challenge the idea of Radio as solely an aural medium or even the concept of broadcasting with its tradition of linear production and reception, all of which are embedded into the traditional definition of radio. ‘Podcasting’ is a classic example of radio being presented as ‘non‐linear’ and ‘time‐shifted’ in nature. Digital technologies
have bought mechanized substitutions in the traditional value chain. It may not be good news, but sounds promising for sure. There seems to be a logical extension & widening of the concept radio which reveals newer perspectives on the nature and potentialities of our original broadcast medium. It would be interesting to examine the concept of radio pitched against the emergent forms of adoption, moreover investigate the strategic uses of the claim ‘Radio’. So we can testify that rather than understanding Radio to mean an existing industry. Radio can be viewed as a concept that is constructed in any media form. This is a kind of remediation of one media into another, which can be traced in media academics. What needs to be examined is whether a new medium draws upon and then reinforces, a ‘working idea’ of the older medium, in addition to the medium itself. The use of the term ‘radio’ to describe streaming of Audio on the Web has significance beyond mere semantics. Eryl Price‐Davies, in an email to the UK radio studies list challenged, ‘For the most part Internet radio is NOT radio ‐ it's more like an audio‐on‐demand service.’ The remark that 'Internet radio is NOT radio' sparked off a lively email debate on the UK academics' radio‐studies list about radio's future and the radio curriculum. ‘Is the Internet both a form of radio and a rival to radio?’ Internet streaming radio was just part of the topic.
Question such as these can even be traced in Film studies. Scholars have talked of the 'death' of film. The 'field of film studies is in a state of flux, or even crisis or impasse' and 'in the opinion of many, will ultimately be swallowed by the emergent and broader fields of media and cultural studies' (Allen and Smith, 1997, 1). Freeland and Wartenberg summarise the topic, ‘Is film a language, and if so, how is it constructed, and how does it communicate? If film is an art form, what constitutes its uniqueness, and what makes works in this medium excellent? How do people construct, study, interpret, and criticize works of art generally, and films in particular? What is the nature of filmic representation?’ However diverting the wordplay maybe, there is more to these questions than wordplay. Radio can be carried equally on such communication pipelines as wireless, fibre‐optic cables and satellite. There is empirical evidence that radio prompts behaviour, but it is very difficult to match, trace or capture that contribution. Andrew Harrison states, ‘There is a very strange problem; people discount their radio listening habits. We have to remind them that what they are listening to is radio.’ Traditional radio possessed utility, now it is empowered by mobility – there is an urgent need for the industry to take ownership of its polymorphic forms. Understanding of medium is key for seeing radio through these tough times, if not, it may spell doom. It is not only important to investigate ‘what is radio’ but also ‘what radio stands for?’ in the present media ecology.
This endeavour for understanding the medium at a conceptual level will help in developing more informed strategic choices in the future. A clear distinction of the medium is necessary to maximise the revenue and value creating potential of the medium. My aims are more direct ‐ some clearing ground, some developing an understanding and I hope this will be achieved. The questions that intrigue me may not be taken as ‘problematic’ and ‘interesting’ by others and it may seem counter‐intuitive to ask such a basic question as 'What is radio?' but with the advent of the digital age, declining fundamental figures and growing unpopularity among Media planners, we are propelled into the radio search because radio is now in need of theoretical articulation and soul searching. Radio needs re‐imagination. Key Research Questions: What is radio? What is the current methodological and disciplinary understanding of the term radio? (Chapter 2 & 3) What has digital technology bought to radio? To what extent has digital technology mutated radio? What are the learning’s? (Chapter 4) Can we establish a periphery around Radio to safeguard and protect the strategic profile of the medium? Can we define radio? (Chapter 5, 6 & 7)
An insightful article authored by Jo Tacchi augments this research, she writes, ‘Radio can be said to have certain characteristics, but the evidence suggests that radio is what history says it is: it has no essence since it has already taken, and continues to take, different forms’ (Tacchi, 2000). Today the Internet mode of transmission appears to make this description of radio more real, more actual than rhetorical, though from a business lens this description may come across as vague. Marko Ala‐Fossi et. al., describe in their article that on the one hand, it seems that Radio as a distinct medium in its own right is in danger of fragmenting into additional services for other digital media forms and in this way will face gradual extinction; on the other hand, the infiltration of Radio‐like services into practically every new delivery platform can be seen as an evidence of a ‘‘virus‐like’’ capability of transformation and proof of the vitality of polymorphic Radio media. In the age of convergence and ‘simulcasting’, their thoughts sound coherent, but only fuel further confusion. Another influential author contributing to my work is A. Black who, in his article, describes ‘Internet Radio’ as a potential new medium distinct from its predecessor. Black argues that despite apparent common sense of the term Internet Radio, the ‘Radioness’ of audio streaming is a not a given. He questions, “Why should an audio signal delivered through the Internet be called Radio in the first place? Is it self evident that making money from the delivery of such signals has anything to do with Radio? Do listeners to Internet Radio stream count as Radio listeners? Or is Internet Radio a
different medium from Radio and if so why has it borrowed the name? In short, who gets to decide when a new medium has arrived, where it begins and the old media end and what it will be called?” Black warns, the association of a potential new medium with an older one can close off possibilities with respect to the nascent form, because of the semantics and that the new form might lack key attributes of the medium with which it is being aligned and yet be strategically positioned such that this loss is explained away or its importance minimized. His arguments raise some rather interesting points and valid questions. Christ Priestman explains that newer technologies are wrenching out a recognizable, neatly definable shaped concept from time‐honored medium of ‘Radio’. His book ‘Web Audio’ is an excellent text detailing the ‘Internet Radio’ phenomenon. He states, ‘Inconveniently for radio studies they make answers to the obvious baseline question, ‘What is Radio?’ increasingly multi‐factorial and elusive’. Providing a part solution to our research question, he writes, ‘The business of constructing meaning for a particular set of listeners, without drawing attention to the artifice employed in doing so, is virtually the sole focus of the programme maker: his or her training is to speak on mic or select content with a particular individual listener in mind. At the other end of the chain the individual listener is most likely to become conscious of the meaningfulness of radio only at the points where meaning is lost for them, when what they hear does not make sense to them or does not ring true.’ He draws our attention to a presence of a certain ‘value Chain’ in the communication of the medium.
Alan Beck is the author of a brilliant online monograph, ‘Death of Radio?’ It is yet another interesting literature that I draw my knowledge and interest from. He categorically states, ‘Radio is being transformed in this digital age and it may lose its very name. Pre‐digital understanding of radio is challenged, as is the very field of radio studies. A 'reinvention' and 're‐configuration' of radio‐audio studies is needed, and a new radio studies.’ 'Death of Radio?' has been chosen as a title for the monograph because Alan Beck believed, in this digital age, radio may lose itself, (in certain areas of broadcasting) and become digital audio or similar. This monograph of his provides a portmanteau term, 'Radioworld' at its conclusion. 'Radioworld' seeks, in homage to Arthur Danto's 'Artworld' in visual arts theory, to identify the 'radio‐like' as 'enfranchised by theory' (Danto, Arthur, 1987). The creation of this term provides a robust platform to my theory. I will return to similar concept called ‘RADIOTRACK’ at a later stage in the research.
Alan Beck further elucidates on the word ‘meaning’ in context to Radio by referring to David Hendy’s work, ‘He (David Hendy) talks of a 'general meaningfulness' in the radio 'text', and his exploration is of 'these meanings and their collective meaningfulness', and 'our sense of what radio is for'. Here I am collecting more thoughts in for understanding the ‘meaningfulness’ of radio. This can be regarded as an important object to the study, but not a stand alone one. I am introducing this concept of ‘meaningfulness’ in an academic environment and I wish to derive more insights by using it as a tool. At this juncture, I am attracted to borrow the core research method from Michael Porter’s ‘Value chain’. In academic and business practices, value chains have been
restricted to usage in production process, profit maximization, cutting cost, and creating revenues. A value chain is a banal concept. At one end of the process of shifting goods are origination and the producer; in the middle is found the commodity and its distribution; at the other end is the consumer or end user. The value chain disaggregates a firm into strategically relevant activities, which allows us to understand existing and potential sources of differentiation (Michael Porter, 2004). I am aiming to analyze the value chain of the traditional radio broadcast model & of new radio‐like services. This analysis will help us bifurcate, visualize and understand how each process performs the individual activities. Processes of a value chain are a reflection of its history, its strategy, its approach to implementing its strategy, and the underlying economics of the activities themselves (ib.). Strategically distinct business units are isolated by weighing the benefits of integration and de‐integration and by comparing the strength of interrelationships in serving related segments (ib.). Going beyond the ‘Value chain’ theory, I park my interest in yet another academic piece of work, the ‘Value chain of Meaning’. John Hartley has authored an article in his study of cultural practices (though the core idea is borrowed from Michael Porters work). He explains, ‘the source of value is no longer to be found only in the scale and organization of manufacturing industry alone; it is also to be found among the uses and creativity of consumers themselves. Garnering value is no longer merely a matter of the bottom line, which itself has tripled in order to accommodate contextual values’ (John Hartley, 2004).
The ‘Value Chain of Meaning’ is a simple yet a dynamic thought. I will be drafting two value chains for our study now, one the basic value process chain (Michael Porters) and the other, its mirror image, the value chain of meaning (John Hartley’s thought). This added exercise will allow us to look into the meaning of each process that creates Radio. We can bifurcate and understand the trajectory of the medium, which is rather elusive and confusing. Comparing the value chains of competitors or likewise services will expose differences that determine competitive advantage for each firm. The competitive advantage can then be reviewed as ‘disruptive’ or ‘an added potential’ to the medium.
Above is a skeleton model of our methodology, I would be able to sketch out the he meaning of each process in Radio production, from the source of audio, to the producer, to the listener, encapsulating ‘value creating’ process like Selection, Music Editorization, Scheduling, Regulations, Talent, & Delivery platforms. We can closely examine the value creation process in the disputing forms of Radio, their significance to the original value
chain, i.e. the classic vintage model and perhaps by this the mutated model can be traced or captured. The ‘working idea’, the periphery and the configurations of the medium can be clearly investigated by this methodology. I firmly believe in the given time frame and resources, this bespoke mechanical methodology will provide an excellent academic umbrella for an error free, pragmatic and coherent finding.
The ‘low proﬁle’ description of radio has become a characteristic of radio. It is seen as a secondary medium, not just by the academic world but also by many producers of radio and by consumers. Media planners call it ‘the complimentary medium’. Yet at the same time radio is absolutely entwined in everyday living. A person can be considered monstrous if he does not know radio, not the same for movies or Internet. Radio is ubiquitous, but quietly so; it is invisible (Lewis and Booth, 1989). Radio is cheap to produce and has been around for a long time – it is the oldest of the time‐based media in the home. Radio has become naturalized – so much so that it is difficult to establish its signiﬁcance. In each location the medium is used differently, demonstrating not only that a global deﬁnition of the meanings and uses of radio cannot be assigned, but also that new evolutions of ‘radiogenic’ technologies should not be dismissed as being different from radio and therefore not a part of the remit of radio studies. (Jo Tacchi, 2001). As part of her posting, Jay Hamilton simplistically asked, ‘I wonder how far an investigation of the etymology of the word 'radio' would begin to suggest the variety of its uses’ (Jay Hamilton, 2001). Medium specificities resist essentialism as such. Jay Hamilton takes up Jo Tacchi constructionist point, ‘… this non‐essentialist direction is (it seems to me, anyway) the only really defensible direction in which to work. Otherwise, endless debates about what is 'true' radio or not evades the really important questions about the definitions,
practices, and contexts that together define radio in any particular time and place’ (Jay Hamilton, 2001). Radio & Retro Echoes of the debates about the threat (or promise) of a feminized public sphere resonate through the early period of radio’s deﬁnition as a public medium (Lacey, 1996). For conservatives, women and children needed ‘protection’ from the intrusion of politics from the ‘masculine’ public sphere into the ‘feminine’ private sphere of the home. Carefully monitored, depoliticized radio with diverting and entertaining programming could make the home a more pleasant and less isolated place for the housewife, and therefore make her less likely to want to abandon her domestic duties. For progressives, the radio was to enable political education for the newly enfranchised female population, especially those not reached by conventional political channels. It would also enhance a sense of shared experience among women listening alone in the home. Underlying both perspectives was an understanding of radio as a secondary medium, a medium that does not demand absorbed contemplation, but can be consumed distractedly while engaged in some other occupation. The radio offered access to a public world, compressing the distance in space between the listener and the event, and at the same time making the perception of that event accessible to a numberless audience of listeners, and celebrating the distance overcome in transmitting those events into the home. The microphone, like the camera, had traversed the aural landscape, giving the broadcast a sense of ‘second nature’. The loudspeaker, often designed to blend with the fabric and furnishings of the home,
offered the illusion of an equipment‐free reproduction of reality. (Indeed, although the distance between spectator and object is always apparent in visual media, sounds, especially music, seem to enter the body and prompt a visceral response.) Moreover, the radio wrenched the sounds of concerts, speeches, plays and public events from the ‘domain of tradition’ and reproduced them in the listener’s ‘own particular situation’ (Benjamin, 1992). Reality was adjusted to the masses, and the masses to reality. Radio & Interactivity In 1924 a young John Reith, later to be the first Director‐General of the BBC, wrote and published ‘Broadcasting Over Britain’, an invigorating eulogy to the new radio technology as a force of good, ‘One day, ... a means may be found to ally thought with ether direct and to broadcast and communicate thought without the intervention of any mechanical device, in the same manner as a receiving set is today tuned to the wave‐ length of a transmitter so that there may be free passage in between’. (Reith, 1924). That same concept is articulated more definitively by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht in his famous talk on ‘The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication’ in 1932: the most wonderful public communication system imaginable, a gigantic system of channels ‐ could be, that is, if it were capable not only of transmitting but of receiving, of making listeners hear but also speak, not of isolating them but connecting them’. Susan Douglas encapsulates this unique connection in her powerful discussion of the era when radio still seemed magical: ‘Listening to the radio ... forged powerful connections between people’s inner, thinking selves and other selves, other voices, from quite far away places’ (Douglas, 1999).
The democratic credentials of digital radio are also implicit in the claim it presents ‐ namely its potential for expanded interactivity. Analogue radio can of course claim to have already created something close to Brecht's concept of a two‐way form of communication through its widespread adoption of the phone‐in. The radio phone‐in has faced rigorous critiques of its democratic claims (see Higgins & Moss, 1982,1984; Hutchby, 1991). Whatever its precise communicative qualities are to be seen today, digital technology marks a quantum leap in the two‐way potential of the medium. Here I believe, that digital techniques do add to radio, but this understanding needs to be substantiated & documented. Radio & Boundaries Carin Aberg perceptively summarised the 'ancient question on what a medium is' as, a) programming and content b) regulation and legislation c) perceptions (by listeners and/or producers) and use at a certain point in time d) the same content delivered by other (technical) means e) programmes/content which can only be achieved by means of sound without images (Carin Aberg, 2001). Aberg also added on the latter issue, ‘however, radio is NOT equal to sound, in that case the wind and rain and traffic noise and telefax signals on AM would be radio’ (ib)
A striking prose that signifies the importance of radio in early era is written by Kracauer, ‘who could resist the invitation of those dainty headphones? They gleam in living rooms and entwine themselves around heads all by themselves; and instead of fostering cultivated conversation, one becomes a playground for Eiffel noises that, regardless of their potentially active boredom, do not even grant ones modest right to personal boredom. Silent and lifeless, people sit side by side as if their souls were wandering about far away. But these souls are not wandering according to their own preferences; they are badgered by the news hounds, and soon no one can tell who is the hunter and who is the hunted.’ (Kracauer, 1995) Following Aberg's contribution, Ken Garner suggested defining radio firstly by: ‘… the broadcast from one sender to many receivers of audio content via electromagnetic radiation using amplitude modulation or frequency modulation … a text, one‐way one to many …’(Ken Garner, 2001). This is straight‐down‐the‐line communications theory ‐ though Garner quips 'dull for our purposes, ain't it?' ‐ and continues, ‐ audio‐only texts ‐ involving any or more than one of music, narrative, dialogue ‐ which are produced for broadcast purposes (ib) So here is a mix of semiotics text, formats, genres and intentionality (by broadcasters). Garner then intriguingly says that his definition 'includes 99% of what passes for webcasting’. He stresses that his second point is key and that it is tricky to find words to 'embrace all kinds of radio content'. It is challenging on Garner's part to describe most
Internet radio as similar to radio in other analogue‐digital formats. So the debate widens interestingly. Andrew Crisell argued in his book ‘Understanding Radio’, again before the digitalization of the industry had really gathered pace, that radio’s primary code is verbal because, whatever else is entailed ‐ music presentation or pure talk ‐ spoken words always provide the context in which we listen (Crisell 1994). Radio & The digital 2000’s Writing on the transfer of content from print to the Internet in the 1990s, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said: ‘Whenever a new medium comes on the scene its early content comes over from other media. But to take best advantage of the new electronic medium, content needs to be specially authored with the new medium in mind.’ (Gates, 1996). Ofcom had an interesting report published in 2005, it said, radio as a medium is increasing everywhere, ubiquitous in its reach and its power to inform and entertain locally, nationally and immediately. Listeners love their local station; they participate in their community station; and they regularly tune into their favorite stations. They move seamlessly from commercial to BBC radio, and through the ease with which radio has been distributed on multiple platforms, listeners have taken radio into the digital world in many ways ahead of its sister‐broadcasting medium, television. (Ofcom, 2005). Radio had met ‘the digital’ itself.
Richard Berry writes, providing a theoretical backing to the Ofcom statements, ‘this demonstrates the virus‐like nature of radio as a medium. Radio has found its way into all parts of homes and outdoors, into transport systems, into the Internet and now into our MP3 players, an environment which is entirely suitable for radiogenic content. Like a virus, radio is also very resilient, ﬁghting off attacks from television, compact disc and the increasingly visual world we live in. So for radiogenic content to ﬁnd its way through the web to portable audio devices should not come as much of a surprise. After all, many people have taped radio programmes at home to listen to at a later point even if it was just the weekly Top 40 countdown.’ Chris Priestman penned a basic and banal description to the definition of radio, ‘Radio needed no more definition than the transmission system by which we picked it up. All sound programming carried from a transmitter to our tuner using the properties of electromagnetic waves we called radio. What's more the precise nature of the radio medium is determined by the available technology we use to hear it and that has changed over time’ (Priestman, 2001). Eryl Price‐Davies followed with this measured view, ‘One recurring theme is that whatever radio was...it is no longer possible for us to conceive of it in these ways anymore. That, however, is not the same as saying that there is no such thing as radio anymore. So ‐ I'm quite happy with the notion that radio is changeable, fluid, defined by its users, and so on...but I still think it is important to inquire into its ontological status.
Otherwise … there is an absent centre to our endeavours’. Tim Davie, Direcor of BBC, Audio & Music, says, ‘the working idea of radio will not change for a long time. Fundamentals of radio have not changed. Yes, the vast development in delivery mechanisms has lead to an evolution. But it has only got radio closer to the audience. The worry about the word radio disappearing is a secondary and long term consideration.’
Relationship Passive Localized Mobile
Source: 4 pillars of radio as illustrated by Tim Davie
He further explains, ‘Radio is delivery of editorialized Audio. Editorialised means someone has crafted it, someone has shaped it, someone is delivering it in a way which is there to entertain, increase learning, hence the primary strategy at the BBC is to create memorable and distinctive content. Creative vision of the editorial team is key to our growth at the BBC.’ Max Easterman pointed to intentionality on the part of broadcasters, ‘It seems to me that 'what is radio' really depends on how the product is intended to be distributed. If a programme, or programme stream, is intended initially or mainly for distribution
directly via wireless means, or is originated by an organisation that so intended, then it's radio ‐ however you may finally receive the product. But if it's produced only for distribution by a wired means, then it has to be something else. But, in the end, it's the quality of the programmes that matters ‐ which is an entirely different discussion’ (Easterman, 2001) Andrew Harrison explains, ‘Yes, the way people interact with radio, how and when is changing. People instinctively want to include Radio into the schedule and we need to give them compelling reason to continue doing that. Radio remains as the fabric of people’s daily life. People love Radio. They have a relationship with their Radio. You are never going to have a relation with your MP3 player, of course, you can have your favourite songs, but the connect will be missing. The engagement with the audience is just as powerful, and that’s what makes it radio.’ Radio & The digital 2000’s cont… Black (2001) contributes to this discussion of radio streaming on the Internet and the debate over what it should be called, asserting that, ‘Listeners have a lot to do with it. A medium’s identity stems in part from how it is received and treated by its users. Listeners may of course be nudged in this or that direction by the industry. But if, for whatever reason, Internet audio is treated as if it were radio, then to some irreducible extent it is radio.’ (Black, 2001: 398)
Richard Berry summarised the 'What is radio?' debate in the following style, ‘... radio is something that is live by its nature with I'd suppose an element of human intervention as a producer or a live presenter and is recognisable as such. I suppose what I am trying to do is to separate ‘radio’ from jukebox music streams like ‘Yahoo! Radio’ and the likes... As we all know it's a thorny issue but I was wondering if anyone has read anything where someone has tried to define what ‘Radio’? Is it a technical distinction or an artistic one? I think Eryl is right to separate ‘radio’ from ‘sound’ after all when visuals are placed it's called ‘Video on demand’ rather than ‘TV on demand’ so should we not be thinking of radio like that? Is it ‘sound’ ‘web‐audio’? ‘webio’? We could, of course take the fact that the radio term is used no matter what the method of delivery as a positive message about the versatility and durability of the medium.’ (Richard Berry, 2001). Richard Berry has put some leading questions here. He has bridged 'live' radio with automated in an interesting way, and he also pointed to ‘radio’ terminology and its limits, or the lack of it. Alan Beck attempts to chalk out a summary definition of radio in his monograph, ‘Death of Radio’, ‘Radio is a representational, single‐modality, broadcast medium and the one thing distinguishing its representations is that they are aural. They range across a wide spectrum or soundscape, sound events from music to speech and to silences. Radio is a one‐to‐many, one‐way communication path, while radio on the Internet allows users to send and receive messages, and so is interactive in that sense. A definition of radio must also depend on the strategy of profiling’. (Alan Beck 2002)
Summary Above we’ve witnessed the successful and pioneering theory and thoughts about radio. We are travelling from a closed‐concept or ‘all in one’ definition of radio to an open ‘working idea’ future. Today in the thick of digital proliferation we need to examine radio as a ‘hybrid’ concept (term borrowed from Alan Becks monograph). Being ‘hybrid’, describes radio by its ability to be flexible, change and adapt. Some services are duplicates or clones, some are drawn from the basic broadcasting idea, and some are sharing some common threads, may be sharing audiences. The ‘hybrid’ radio model can now be seen as ‘Radiogenic’, it is radiating the core idea of ‘radio’ to nearby & parallel media types. The space or area of radiation needs to be investigated. Radio broadcasting is overstepping its boundaries more and more, and challenging the known identities of radio. I return now to Jo Tacchi's useful coinage 'radiobility'. ‘By radiobility I mean the technical ability to be radio, or to be radio‐like or 'radiogenic' (Tacchi, 2000). What does radio stand for? Radio is no longer only about broadcasting; radio is meant to be heard. Radio is cheap, perceived free, taken for granted, consumed in vast quantities. Current digital proliferation allows radio to challenge the traditional barriers of space and time. Radio is passive, undemanding, not necessarily regulated, and convenient, it is best for disconnected use. Radio is intended broadcast, it’s a point‐to‐point communication (not necessarily one‐to‐many), it consist of a flow, a kind of a ‘radio flow’. Radio flow could constitute sound, music and speech. What can be noted here is that radio signifies
distinct universal properties of the organised patterns of sounds that constitute radio. Our further research journey will be underpinned by the lessons, ideas and insights drawn from the works of the various scholars mentioned in this chapter.
What is digital? Pre‐digitalization, radio raw ingredients had to be recorded, edited, mixed, stored, and played back on analogue equipment. It used magnetic tape, which needed to be physically cut in the process of editing and laboriously copied onto further tapes to be assembled and mixed in studios into finished items for broadcast. Those were the ‘vinyl’ days. Radio has always been transmitted over great distances and separated audiences from producers. This was the primitive use of Radio. In this respect, today it resembles the electronic text. But the detail and quality of digital sound in some ways brings the listener closer (Alan Beck, 2002). This is an obvious discovery for first‐time listeners to the digital. Fast‐forward to the MP3 age, digital technology replaces this process with computer files, to be manipulated via a series of commands followed on‐screen. Significantly, sound files can also be copied and manipulated into a number of different versions within very short time spans. And because all systems share the same underlying digital binary code, with sound, pictures, and text all ultimately composed of 'bits' of
information encoded into files. Digitalization produces a vastly increased inherent potential for the technical convergence of media production platforms. Digitalization in radio There are two main aspects to the process: first, digitalization of production, and second, digitalization of distribution ‐ the latter involving both the broadcasting of radio programs in the more traditional sense (DAB) and the newer domain of so‐called ‘web casting’ ‐ audio over the Internet or ‘podcasting’ ‐ audio on‐demand. (David Hendy, 2000) Digital radio technology brings the following and more: much more control, speed and efficiency in production and post‐production, accurate storage and retrieval up to the limit of the hard disk(s), choice, unblemished dubbing, ability through sampling and treatment to create sounds unheard and unblended before, multi‐layering of sound, accuracy in 'placing' a sound event in the overall plan, a new 'vision' of the sound plan in onscreen editing, speed in inserting segments, 'scoring' music, and the ability to extend or to shorten (through sampling and treatment) to fit the required space without distortion. (Alan Beck) Binary data can of course be delivered across computer networks as well as through the ether, and that is the technical basis for radio on the Internet. At its heart the Internet
offers a new distribution network for sound. On its own the technology establishes a very different set of relationships between broadcasters and listeners, but even more dramatic are the transformations of sound broadcasting which are enabled by its institutionalization on the World Wide Web. We need to understand the implications of radio distributed on a global computer network and the particular technologies which have been developed to enable access to sound. This involves the technology of "streaming," which, in simple technical terms, allows station output to be distributed over the Internet for people to listen to in real time on their desktop computers. The relatively low entry cost for such ‘webcasting’ in practice a single computer acting as a server and some relatively cheap software is all that is needed‐means that there are already many Internet‐only radio stations that simply do not bother with any form of traditional broadcasting at all. (David Hendy, 2000) On the face of it, satellite, cable, and Internet radio each compete in about a third of today's broadcast market: satellite radio for affluent motorists (not in UK), cable radio for home listeners, and Internet radio for office listeners, students, and teenagers at home. At present, radio reaches more than 80% of European households and matches TV in the average listening time it commands, and radio is still more effective for advertising than the Internet, though, in the view of this report, too over‐regulated (Bughin, Djelic, Bozidar and Schröder, 2000, 49).
Impact of Digitalization The impact of digitalization is an important factor in the decision making process of Radio strategists. Digitalization has affected radio internally and externally. Internally, as an industry, it has affected its traditional production and distribution practices. Externally, audience expectations have changed. People increasingly expect more choice and more control. There is now a tremendous demand for niche radio programming but the numbers do not make business sense for traditional broadcasters to offer that kind of programming. This restrictive nature of broadcast radio has given birth to 1000’s of Internet only radio station. MP3 devices have occasioned a moment where audience have got habitual to absolute control over their devices. They want to skip, pause and rewind their audio. Tim Davie explains, ‘There is radical change in the expectation of choice and control. I can say that these changes have occurred closer than two years ago. More so, audience expect choice and control in ‘anytime, anywhere’ environment. Though the expectations exist we can provide only cost effective solutions’. Let us go further to understand the different forms of Radio. The survey will guide you through the current prevalent technologies, their attributes and downsides.
AM/ FM What is Analogue Radio? Analogue radio is on the dial. It means you can receive two frequencies FM and AM on the Radio receiver: • FM (frequency modulation), also known as VHF (very high frequency) • AM (amplitude modulation), broadcast on short wave (SW), medium wave (MW) and long wave (LW) Frequencies used Coverage FM very high only near the transmitter SW high worldwide MW medium up to approx 150 km LW low up to approx 400 km Analogue radio is a cheap, widely used, mobile and time‐tested technology. In the Source: Computer Desktop Encyclopedia UK, most analogue radio stations (including the BBC’s) broadcast on FM and/or MW, with BBC Radio 4 also on LW. FM gives the best sound quality. FM gives excellent sound quality and is mostly in stereo. Signals can usually be picked up with the small telescopic aerial on a portable radio, or the wire or ribbon cable supplied with a hi‐fi system.
Downside Most reception problems with FM like Hissing, Whistling, Distorted S and Z sounds are caused either by a weak signal Limited scope of interactivity DAB What is DAB? DAB is a digital technology offering considerable advantages over today's FM radio. The most obvious benefit to listeners is DAB's ability to deliver CD‐quality stereo sound in moving vehicles in particular, unlike DAB, FM reception is often distorted or interrupted by multipath interference. Listeners will be able to switch between the eight or more stations carried by every single multiplex without retuning their sets. And since a single DAB frequency can carry the same signal across an entire network, there will be no need for drivers to retune as they cross a country.
DAB's flexibility provides a wider choice of programmes, including many not available on FM. DAB can carry text and images as well as sound, and receivers are equipped to handle non‐audio data. Allowing programme selection by name or programme type, and enabling broadcasters to transmit programme‐associated data (PAD) such as album title, song lyrics, or contact details. Additional services, such as traffic information and sports, weather or stock market news feeds, are already on their way. Some even include full colour images. Main attributes Superiror transmission quality to AM/FM Digital Quality Sound Scrolling Text Station known by names Pause, stop and rewind facility Record Programmes Plan your listening ‐ An Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) on some models lets you plan your listening. Daily listings let you schedule your choice of programmes for listening to now or later, up to seven days in advance.
Downside Music lovers are calling on broadcasters to improve sound quality on digital radio after complaints that it is worse than traditional FM (Telegraph). Expensive Radio sets Reluctance by the Auto industry to take up DAB as the new standard Internet Radio There appear to be three main types of radio‐style functions and outcomes on the Internet. The first comprises of /an existing radio service ’broadcasting’ via the Internet. This means that a visitor to the web site provided by a public, community or commercial radio station can hear the stations’ real‐time radio broadcasts as they view other information about the relevant service in the form of written text and graphics.
Large commercial stations in the UK, like Capital Radio or Virgin, encourage listeners to use their station's websites to hear exclusive interviews, commentary, or live events that are not being broadcast on the main output; once there listeners are encouraged to chat online, join discussion groups‐to become interactive; they might order records and other goods they are told about, or take advantage of so‐called audio on demand services where they can access a CD‐database to construct their own schedule of music.
Radio stations are also using Internet services as a new programming tool, with user surveys helping to build databases on listeners' tastes and interests, to be used by the station or sold to third parties. The BBC also uses the technology to alert office users by e‐mail to what is available of interest to them or provide continuous news headlines onscreen, on a personalized self‐selection basis . Such an interactive approach to presenting information could, some suggest see a change feeding back into the nature of conventional radio broad‐casting.
The second form of Internet radio consists of what might be called ’on‐demand’ radio. The audio is a chunk of pre‐recorded material that can be heard, for example, the Guardian Podcast. The material can be changed and updated but interactivity on the part of the listener/consumer is limited, apart from being able to fast forward or rewind, or start and stop, at designated places. The material is not ongoing but has a fixed duration opening and closing. (RebeccaCoyle). Image Source: www.guardian.co.uk/podcasts
The third form of Internet radio is more often created specifically for the Net and it utilizes the advantages that the Internet has over most broadcast radio, that is, its various forms of interactivity. The ‘only net’ services are increasingly being used for music distribution i.e. pure continuous music stream. Users can engage in all sorts of information apart from listening to music. Social media tools like tagging, networking & metatext is also used by such sites. Digital production tools like collaborative filtering and music genetics are substituting traditional radio processes like scheduling and talent.
Christopher Priestman regards the fully automated music channels as the most significant advancement in music on the Internet, and the most successful split from terrestrial radio. He saysthe radio industry has almost perfected Source: www.last.fm these automated stations as, ‘… the most efficient means of playing music to an international public, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The economics of this are compelling. … a single station can serve any definable musical taste, based on instantaneous, invisible and 100% accurate audience research (e.g. which tracks or combinations of tracks make more listeners tune out, which rotations result in better sales) using server logs. Technical staff costs are minimal and 'on air' staff costs can be confined to a single playlist programmer. Voiceovers and on air ads are optional. The main ongoing costs are in marketing the station.’ (Priestman, 2001) The final category I examine is what I term 'hear‐view'. Some radio stations use their radio studio web cam to transmit pictures of live production ‐ often a DJ but also, for example, B.B.C. Radios 4 and 5 ‐ onto their web sites. But on television also, and therefore in television‐quality, a channel such as German WDR or Flemish RTL2 can be given over at times to a 'radio' programme, broadcasting live. There is a television camera operating in the radio studio, trained on the presenter, who can be a DJ or in another case a phone‐in presenter talking straight to camera. We both see and listen to
a live 'radio' programme being broadcast. Is this television or radio or both?
However, differences between Internet radio services and others are evident in the amount of information available at any one time and the forms of the information, particularly in relation to the amount of visual material over sound. This situation has led to digital audio broadcasting and Internet radio being derogatively labelled ’television on the radio’ by several industry pundits. Main Attributes Niche services available
Pull media Low barriers to Entry Lack of Regulation Excellent quality of stream (in broadband) Breaks barrier of space and time Downside Metered access to the user – NOT free (Internet usage) Sometimes services restricted to computers and lack portability Subscription based models – NOT all are free over the air Lack of personal touch, intimacy DTV All of the BBC's national radio stations including the World Service and the digital‐only stations; 1Xtra, 6 Music, Asian Network, Radio 7, 5 live and private commercial Radio brands like Absolute Radio/ Smooth, Heart FM are available on the digital terrestrial (Freeview), digital satellite (Sky and Freesat), digital cable (Virgin Media) and other broadband‐based television platforms. Source: http://www.freeview.co.uk/freeview/Channels/Radio
Digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom is made up of over forty primarily free‐to‐air television channels (including all national analogue stations) and over twenty radio channels. MOBILE PHONE There is a strong belief among many in the radio industry that FM radio receivers should be incorporated into virtually all mobile devices. Such a move will help to perpetuate the ubiquitous nature of radio and to provide a communication lifeline during times of crisis or natural disaster. The entry of 3G technology mobile phones makes it the best place to get music or even if you just want to hear a bit of chat.
Radio applications on smartphones have been one of the most famous picks, they are portable and most of them are free. A few UK FM radio stations have been pretty quick in getting their radio streams to the iPhone via a dedicated application.
There are two types of Internet radio apps, first are the feedback oriented, like Pandora and Last.fm; and second, are programmed radio stations, aggregated with AOL Radio and Tuner Internet Radio. Pandora Radio is a free application. It has a simple interface, effortless navigation, and thumbs up or thumbs down button that helps determine how a listener’s station will evolve. There is also a button which, when clicked, explains why Pandora picked a particular song. Users can bookmark any song or artist, as well as purchase songs from the iTunes Music Store. You select a band or a song and the algorithm does the rest.
Last.fm’s is also a free application. It is the only one that can currently be used in UK and USA simultaneously which instantly increases its international appeal. The premise of Last.fm is similar to Pandora: you need to set up and log into a Last.fm account, then can create your own radio “stations” based on artists’ names, tags, or other Last.fm users. You can also see what other users are listening to, generally, by entering a user name.
AOL Radio and Tuner have similar interfaces, listing stations by genre and displaying a station with a sound meter. AOL features more than 200 CBS radio stations, including several big city stations such as WFAM‐AM in New York, WXRT in Chicago, and KLSX and KROQ in L.A. Main Attributes Cheap Functions for skip/ pause/ stop Portable Highly interactive More Choice Flexible Good quality
Local stations available Downsides Bandwidth problems Capacity issues Geographically restricted (due to royalties) Monthly limits Not necessarily free Bad quality on high volumes Batteries get drained out quickly (2hr on an average) PODCASTING The term ‘Podcasting’ implies the use of an iPod or, indeed, any MP3 player. Whilst the term may become redundant, the concept will not. A demand has been proved for audio content delivered to users for time‐shifted playback on portable media devices. The term ‘Podcast’ is used term for any audio‐content downloaded from the internet either manually from a website or automatically via software applications. Podcast can either be subscribed through itunes, or a newsletter, or by going back d to the source of
the Podcast. Podacast can be branched in two broad categories, one is radio like audio made only for download and circulation, second is radio like audio which is broadcast and latter available for ‘time‐shifted’ listening. The method of distribution is the most potentially revolutionary, the most disruptive and represents a new medium worthy of a new terminology (Richard Berry). However, listeners will inevitably not see the boundaries and will treat all content the same, given that no matter how they receive it their consumption of that content will be the same. Podcasting can be described as ‘media content delivered automatically to a subscriber via the Internet’.
In the case of Podcasting the origins can be traced back to early 2004 when the Guardian journalist Ben Hammersley observed, ‘With the beneﬁt of hindsight, it all seems quite obvious. MP3 players, like Apple’s iPod in many pockets, audio production software cheap or free, and web logging an established part of the internet; all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? Guerilla Media? (Hammersley, 2004).
Large corporate broadcasters have found Podcasting to be a new way to access listeners and in new ways, often with new experiences. It provides economies of scale, and also a possible revenue stream. The niche nature of Podcasting offers a very focused delivery mechanism, targeting smaller groups of geographically disparate yet like‐minded individuals. If the entire content produced by a radio ‘station’ is available to hear at any point, then listeners are always available to listen and so theoretically overall listening can increase. I would like to discuss an interesting Podcasting application – Stitcher Radio (Free). It draws upon podcast content by ‘stitching together’ different podcasts into genre‐styled channels that an audience can turn on and enjoy. Supported by on‐screen banner advertising that is more conspicuous than any we’ve yet seen in an iPhone application. Stitcher acts as a podcast aggregator.
Main Attributes Pull Medium Time shifted Listening Added Flexibility Additional revenue stream Downside Not broadcasted Not necessarily free To be downloaded/ and need an MP3 device CONCLUSION As Radio strategist and managers, there are three main areas in which this ‘multi‐ platform’ potential can be further studied and exploited. The first relates to the development of bespoke services where radio programming could be tailored to the specifications of a small number of listeners or even a single individual. The second relates to the ability to discover significant, and commercially exploitable information about an Internet user. The third is what I will call ‘metatext’ radio where the Internet station is part of an integrated web presence which draws upon other aspects of popular music culture including written texts, images and hyperlinks to other sites.
There is a lot of on‐going debate about the introduction of DAB technology. I am thoroughly convinced that DAB is the way forward. The marginal cost economics involving Internet radio broadcast at times could either prove beneficial or reducing in nature. Emergency services can be copped with digital broadcast, the same cannot be assured with Internet streaming. Digital broadcast radio is here to stay, it mat not be a whole solution, but yes a part solution. The radio industry cannot be caught continuing with analogue transmission 5 years down the line. This survey is highlighting the strategic advantage of radio to be polymorphic. The biggest strength lies in its ability to adapt to any new medium/ platform and continue doing what it does best, entertain audiences with crafted audio. As Radio strategist | we can look at 1. Multiply existing models 2. Diversify and invest in content development 3. Be open to optional services (computerised music services like Last.fm) 4. Constantly engage with singular listener 5. Increase democratization and individualism (new tiers of radio stations), 6. Promote distinctive content novelties 7. Self promote radio 8. Avoid programming practices like consensus cut 9. Promote digital investments 10. Include newer forms of radio in strategy planning
I am revisiting our central concern ‐ has the concept of radio collapsed? Should audio digital communication be termed 'radio' or 'audio' now? What is evidently clear is that hardly anyone listens to one single radio apparatus any more or listens in one single way, may be we are heading towards the disruption of a consensus, or at least its temporary suspension, or at least at the end of one established way of talking about radio (Alan Beck). The realm of understanding definitely needs to be widened. Radio lobbying bodies like RAB should accept the newer forms of disruptive Radio. This will encourage other players to enter the marketplace. In the end, it would mean more choice and more control for the audience. The take up of Radio will increase and we can definitely avoid being in red. In the next chapter we would be discussing Last.fm in detail, which is very briefly described here.
Last.fm is a UK‐based music community website, founded in 2002. It claims over 30 million active users based in more than 200 countries. On 30 May 2007, CBS Interactive acquired Last.fm for £140m. Using a music recommender technology called ‘Audioscrobbler, Last.fm builds a detailed profile of each user's musical taste by recording details of all the songs the user listens to, either on the streamed radio stations, the user's computer or many portable music devices, this process is called, ‘Scrobbling’. This information is transferred to Last.fm's servers via variety of plugins installed into different user platforms. The profile data is then displayed on the user's profile page. The site offers numerous social networking features and can recommend and play artists similar to the user's favourites. Famous tools include, a communication system called ‘Shoutbox’. Users can create custom playlists from any of the audio tracks in Last.fm's music library, and are able to listen to some individual tracks on demand, or download tracks if the rights holder has previously authorised it. History of Last.fm The IPOD had just arrived. Richard Jones a computer science student witnessed this phenomenon on the High streets of Southampton, a town where he belonged from, people plugged in using these newly acquired MP3 devices. He was curious to know what were people listening to, he knew a ‘direct’ approach was not be the best idea. He was not the typical bloke, when friends asked him who his favorite groups were; he
wanted to give numerical answers. “I was always curious to know exactly how many times I played everything.” So Jones invented “Audioscrobbler” – a software that could collect data on what everybody were listening to. Fast‐forward and, Richard Jones was spending the long, hot summer of 2003 living in a tent on a rooftop in White chapel, east London. He was building an answer to his query. He was going to change the way we listen to music. The ‘AudioScrobbler’ technology was in the making. Back in 2000, Stiksel, a DJ, and Miller were running an online label in Germany for unsigned bands. All their friends were making music but had no way of getting it heard. So they built a website, uploaded their friends’ work, and soon found themselves inundated with new music. Jones, meanwhile, was creating his own musical universe at University in Southampton. He gave it to his friends, who installed it, and they told their friends, and “before long I was seeing people sign up from all over the world who I didn’t know, and I couldn’t trace how they found out about it”. Jones wasn’t just interested in the numbers. He wanted to make the act of listening ‘sociable’, to form a community. ‘Audioscrobbler’ was designed on collaborative filtering, a system that uses the data of someone’s listening habits to predict what other artists they might like, and then make recommendations. Martin Stiksel, 34, and Jones, 26, two of the web‐ site’s three founders, remember their first meeting. There was, they say, an immediate connection, a shared desire to liberate music. They were talking the same language, as if they’d known each other for years. Stiksel and his friend Felix Miller, 32, had happened to read a newspaper article about Jones and the work he was doing for his computer science degree. They sent him an
email, went to Southampton where he was studying, and talked. Soon after, Jones moved to London, set up the tent, and started work. Within four years, Last.fm had turned the three novelist into multimillionaires thanks to its sale in 2007 to the American media giant CBS. The founders became the poster boys of the London tech scene, leading the ‘streaming’ revolution. On 10 June, two years on from that defining moment, they announced their imminent departure from Last.fm on their blog. Their first investor, Stefan Glänzer, was a former DJ, music obsessive and entrepreneur. Glänzer formalized his investment in October 2005 and quickly got hooked, spending five days a week in the office. Soon they were attracting interest from elsewhere. Index Ventures, a venture capital firm, invested $5m in March 2006. With Index’s cash, they were able to invest in technical infrastructure, product development, and staff. By 2007, Last.fm had 15 million users. CBS the US media giant approached Last.fm. They didn’t want to integrate Last.fm, or take over the management, in fact, they wanted the founders to carry on exactly as before, and were attracted simply by Last.fm’s largely youthful following. Miles Lewis, Senior Vice President, Last.fm says, it was the 18‐25 audiences that they wanted, and Last.fm had them hooked to the service. Last.fm business motto always remained simple, ‘this is the last place for music, the ultimate place for music’. On 30 May 2007, CBS bought Last.fm for $280m. Stiksel, Miller and Jones received £19m windfalls; Glänzer and Index reaped financial rewards, too. The British press reaction was histrionic, describing the three founders as being “among the most successful – and potentially wealthy – Web 2.0 pioneers in the world” and ambassadors for a “resurgent
London tech scene”. Then, in March 2009, Jones announced that users in all countries, apart from Germany, the US and UK, would be charged €3 a month to use the radio service. Users were outraged, not by the amount, but out of principle. Even to this date, thousand of unsolicited mails pour each day (Miles Lewis). The ‘free culture’ sentiment is echoed loud in most emails. As one replied: ‘IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY . . . it’s bloody heartbreaking to watch such a beautiful, fresh, modern and clearly revolutionary concept like Last.fm go down the drain in such an ugly, distasteful way . . . You’re not freeing the music any more, you’re burying it.’ One of the majors, Warner, withdrew its music from Last.fm in June 2008 because, says a spokesperson, ‘the rates they were offering were below industry standards’. Stiksel says that Warner is ‘generally not active any more in the online space’, although it seemed happy to strike a deal with Spotify. Last.fm also started to see the competition swell. Spotify, a Swedish streaming service launched in October last year, provoked an immediate flurry of excitement in the industry. There are others, too ‐ We7 in the UK, and Pandora and Imeem in the US. None, so far, offers quite the same service – the recommendations and the social network – but they all face a similar financial challenge. The game is on, the players are young – the future beholds the answer. Wait and watch.
Business Process Flow
EVENTS INFO/ WIKI
SERVERS Web Hosting
Business Process Flow
Miles Lewis explains that Last.fm does three things, one, it makes sense of your music, second, it is a music wikipedia, and third, it helps you connect to other listeners and build a community. He does not use the word ‘Radio’ in his description of the core services of his offering. Analyzing the business process flow of Last.fm is an important step for understanding the parallels to broadcast Radio and drafting the ‘value chain’ for this service. This exercise will help us simplify the corporate equation and material flow in the system. The yellow arrows signify the flow of Music & other related content into
the system. The red arrows signify the flow of revenue in the system, either by online advertising or subscriptions. Operations at Last.fm are quite iterative, thus the material (music) to be transformed is traveling in the process whereas the resources are stationary. The skeleton operations model does draw parallels to traditional radio broadcast, as the diagram shows, the basic job is to get music out of the system. This operation becomes a two‐way operation after the server stage (the feedback system kicks in) where the content is juggled between the user and the recommender. Clearly a distinct business process can be observed here. The anterior process is designed to be agile and flexible depending on the user interaction or intent. The benefits of digital technologies in mass music mechanization (enhancing metadata) and distribution can be underlined here. While in broadcast radio, sponsorship deals and commercial features, at times, do alter the programming element of a Radio station; the advertiser here has no control over the recommendation system or the content. He is only bought into the system for revenue generation by making his presence in the interface display. The subscription flow is applicable for user from countries other than UK, USA, Germany, where Last.fm has decided to withdraw its free services. Subscription is unique and quite important to this kind of service model due to the heavy royalty payments involved in distributing licensed music. Here the content gets delivered to the user and comes back into the system richer in data. Metadata consist of valuable user experience and information like preferences, listening cycles, repetition and popularity. This iteration constantly creates value for the
business. The service promise of ‘recommendation and making sense of your music’ is based on this self‐enriching system. Such libraries of meta‐data hold possibility of being used as a commodity in the future. Understanding | Recommender: Collaborative Filtering System Step 1: User types in artist name, the HTML feed is now collaborated with the Metadata available. Step 2: A complex algorithm generates queries to the meta‐data, the recommender server detects & computes a list of artist & band based on user’s profile, collaborative recommendation & in‐ house developed music ontology (SPARQL query to the database) User types in Artist Name Recommender Server (Distributed Repository of User Profiles)
Step 3: User gets streamed recommended music, here the user can love, ban or skip the song. This activity once again gets recorded in the user’s profile, hereby making an impact on further recommendations. Recommender Server (Distributed Repository of User Profiles) 1 . User Profile is analyzed 2
User gets streamed recommended music
Step 4: User can love/ ban/ skip/ continue listening to the song, very implicitly, all users activities are being graphed to affect his future playlist. As the user profile is developing his music history & preferences, the complex algorithms also change, taking full notice of these actions, thus churning out more refined play lists. PRESS: Love PRESS: Ban PRESS: Skip PRESS: Listen This song will be added more frequently to the play list & will be recommended to more similar user profiles This song will never be added to the play list & shall be recommended to fewer similar user profiles. This song will be added less frequently to the play list but shall be recommended to similar user profiles. This song will be added to the play list but without any special preference. Recommender Server
Insert an artist name Streaming
Find Neighbors/ Network/ WIKI/ Events
Creations of Hyper-charts
Listeners digital journey
Listeners Digital Experience For a listener Last.fm is a free global music website that offers music fans millions of tracks in every genre for free on‐ demand and radio streaming. Last.fm doesn’t have any disc jockeys, weather, or news, but it does have a unique way of organizing the music it offers through its streaming service. It offers listeners a never‐ending box of musical delights, but with the caveat ‘’there is no going back.’ As soon as a track has streamed and the next begins, listeners can’t return to the previous musical selection; they can only move forward to the next track. And as is the case for a traditional radio station, listeners can’t choose what’s next. Last.fm is focused on finding and recommending music in a serendipitous fashion, but the choice is not random. Last.fm bases ‘what’s next’ on its own unique system of ‘indicators’ listed for each track. Last.fm’s offering is almost like ‘if you like this, you’ll also like this’ way of preparing the next track in the line. Listeners can also give each succeeding track a ‘Love it’ or ‘Ban it’—doing so will steer the patterns toward a particular set of indicators. Last.fm helps make sense of your music (Miles Lewis). It does so by ‘folksonomy’ i.e. user participation. Last.fm keeps track of what a given user listens to (the tracks are ‘scrobbled’, a reference to the original website’s name, Audioscrobbler.com), building a user profile of how many times and when the user listened to what. That profile is then compared with everyone else’s profile to generate basic associations like users who like The Ditty Bops also prefer Nellie McKay and The Weepies. This says nothing about stylistic similarity—only that if you’re the type of listener who likes one artist, the probability is high that you’ll like another. For example, if you like Samuel Barber,
Last.fm apparently thinks it is quite likely you’ll also be fond of Faure, Massenet, and Prokofiev. In addition, listeners using Last.fm can easily tag (using text) any piece of music or artist and thus help to build a collected set of music that is played when using that tag. A Last.fm user’s profile is built in two ways. First, you can listen to Last.fm ‘Radio’ directly from the website or by using a stand‐alone radio application free for download. This method builds your profile simultaneously while you use service. Second, a profile can be built indirectly, by exporting listening data from the users listening device. This imported information is then used to personalize services. The system generates individualized charts, music recommendations, radio streams and pointers to other users with shared taste (called ‘neighbors’). Users have profiles which display their most recent listens and individualized top artist and song charts. Users can select their user picture, write brief self‐descriptions, create play‐ lists, and create radio streams by tagging music. Many users seek permission from others users to be ‘friends’. Once both partners approve this connection, each appears in the other’s publicly visible friends list. The enriching nature of the system makes users loyal to the service. Each time the user streams music, it is a better recommendation, because the system understands the user. Last.fm provides several communication platforms, including writing publicly visible messages on one another’s profiles in the ‘shoutbox’, sending private personal messages, and participating in site‐wide forums. The system also provides information on music events and gigs in context to your IP location and listening habit.
In my interaction with Miles Lewis, he did not use the term ‘Radio’ as a description of his service. I found it contradictory to my visit to the home site. The central part of the home page displays an embedded player. You need to type in the name of the artist and it directs you to a page which has artist info and a button for starting the station. Simple. What I don’t understand is why does the Last.fm management detest from calling itself a ‘Radio’ or ‘Radio‐like’ service. We will investigate. Further we will create the ‘value chain’ of Last.fm and study it.
Value Chain Last.fm
TECHNOLOGY MARKETING AND PROMOTION | HUMAN RESOURCES RELATIONSHIP WITH SUPPLIERS
Eve nt Ne s & S two oci rkin al g
Music Content Feedback Editorized Music Stream
Last.fm Value chain The Value chain is designed borrowing information and insights from my interview with Miles Lewis, academic and trade pieces on Last.fm. Last.fm does not publish any figures or analytic data. My attempt to elucidate the value chain is the most critical part of this chapter. This section will lead us to the next chapter where I will be designing another value chain of meaning for Last.fm and comparing to value chain of traditional radio broadcast. I believe such extensive cross examinations will give us the answer to the central question of this academic effort. 1. Music Content & Archive We need music (Miles Lewis). Music is not only the central proposition of this service but also makes Last.fm dependable on Music labels. Music is the backbone of this service, whatever it may call itself, an internet radio station, a music community, music is key. It is evidently clear that the other offerings ‐ the artist info, the recommender services, the social networking extension, are weaved around Music. Can we imagine a Last.fm without music streaming or music content? 2. Feedback This component of the value chain is the ‘heart’ of the service. It collects valuable data from the listener and evolves after every click. It is home to the ‘AudioScrobbler’ – a complex algorithm designed to make sense of your music. The ‘Audioscrobbler’ has acquired a ‘first mover’ advantage due to the self‐enriching nature of the system. This is the most dynamic driver in the value chain. It enables bypassing a couple of processes if compared to the traditional value chain. Moreover, it acts as a mechanized scheduler
and editor to the service. This process adds novelty, mechanized coherence and uniqueness to an otherwise simple idea of online music streaming. 3. Music Recommendation Music recommendation works very closely with the feedback loop. Here, post the feedback, the music recommender starts lining up songs for the user. This process is unique for every user. This component is live and ‘pull’ driven. 4. Artist Info As the music recommender triggers off a song, the artist info is picked up and it travels to the music player. This component is important in adding value to the listening experience. It is a visual engagement for active listeners. Last.fm aims to be the wikipedia of music information and tracks, making this component critical and important. 5. Events and Social Networking This is the disruptive component in the value chain. The Web 3.0 culture can be observed here. Last.fm believes that listeners would be interested to connect with other like‐minded listeners based on their identical music tastes. After receiving analyses of the feedback, this component, connect the listeners to similar profiles. Community building is what described this process best. In today’s time bands and music have a global appeal and following. Such a service encourages listeners to be loyal to Last.fm – it is exploratory, live and exciting.
6. Editorialized Music Stream The editorialized music stream is a combination of the recommended music, artist info, the social connections and if any, events information. This is the confluence point of all processes. Though different platforms might have different interfaces, the result of the service will be the same. I am tempted to draw comparisons between this component and the ‘Final logs’ prepared in a traditional broadcast model. A user reacts to this process , triggering iteration. 7. Platforms & Technology Receiving platforms are critical to this service as it is essentially a push medium and an on‐demand streaming service. Special plug‐ins are developed by Last.fm to import data from listeners MP3 devices. This is explains the feedback route from the platform to the value chain. Real‐time feedback like skip, love, ban also travels through these platforms, is essential to ensure a great listening experience. It is an ongoing initiative at Last.fm to extend the services to as many platforms as possible to increase availability, flexibility and choice. Further At this juncture I cannot conclude whether Last.fm is a radio or radio‐like feature. I cannot help but see the missing ‘warmth, ‘emotional connect’ and apparent ‘intentionality’ in the processes. On the other hand, the visual experience, the artist info,
the social community building features come across as add‐ons to traditional radio experience. The history, product, the business flow, users digital journey, and the value chain of Last.fm have been covered in this chapter. In the next chapter I will pitch this understanding and learning’s to the traditional model of radio broadcasting using the ‘value chain of meaning’. We will extract a clearer explanation of the role of digitized music streaming in the future of the Radio landscape.
In the 1940‐50’s radio had to brace the advent of Television, then it had face the ‘virus‐ like’ take up of the Walkman, this time it is something more closer, its own mutated digital shadow. The new kid on the block, who has come explicitly to test the validity of that conception of radio: the automated music channel, in our case Last.fm. The technology of the computer‐based music playout system makes it possible to create a station, or more usually an aggregation of stations, which narrowcast music with either no conversation or any recorded voice tracks to identify the song or name check the channel. I seem to buy into the argument that recent technological developments have been designed to achieve usability, mobility, accessibility and radiobility. By radiobility I mean the technical ability to be radio, or to be radio‐like or ‘radiogenic’ (Tacchi). But these claim needs to be verified in our context. Christopher Priestman makes a very specific point, ‘… for the first time [Internet] radio has the challenge of defining itself by the nature of its content rather than the receiver we use to hear it’ (Priestman, 2001). Here in this chapter, I will be re‐creating the value chain and the value chain of meaning of a traditional radio broadcast. This we will pitch it against our previous chapters analysis. I will attempt to compare each component of both the value chains and understand the similarities and differences, more so the DNA of each service, the peculiarities, the characteristics.
Cre a Ne tion o two f rks
NO BARRIER OF SPACE/TIME - UNREGULATED BROADCAST
Mechanized Listener Interaction/ Feedback
Music Scheduler/ Selector/ Editorizer
Value Chain of meaning User
TECHNOLOGY FIRM RESOURCES RELATIONSHIP WITH SUPPLIERS
l ona diti nt Ad nte Co
Editorized Music Final Log Stream Pull Platforms
User centered revenue model
io ect Sel
Value Chain of Analogue Radio
SPOT AND SPONSORSHIP SALES CULTURAL POLICY TECHNOLOGY FIRM RESOURCES RELATIONSHIP WITH SUPPLIERS
Music & Sound Content Scheduling
Music & Sound Archive
Ad ver t
e Ins rts
Localization Talent/ Weather/ Trafﬁc/ Speech Editorized Music
Push & Pull Platforms
sic Mu zation i tor Edi
Content Archive Talent
Re ven ue
Editorization & Scheduling
Localization Periphery Final Log
Value Chain of Meaning for Analogue Radio
FREE SERVICE - AD SUPPORTED BOUND BY CULTURAL POLICY
RADIO BROADCAST - TIME BARRIER- INTERNET STREAM - PODCAST MARKETING AND PROMOTION | HUMAN RESOURCES RELATIONSHIP WITH SUPPLIERS
Similarities 1. Profiling as a Radio Station ‘Profiling’ in simpler words can be called labelling. Each service provider strategically labels itself with a certain recognized concept for varied reasons – to increase familiarity, to prove differentiation, for earning acceptance. Radio stations call themselves radio because of their nature, no questions asked. Last.fm does not call itself radio, it is stated, that radio is a part of the service. On the other hand, Last.fm intentionally uses the suffix ‘FM’ to attract radio listeners. It clearly positions itself like a radio station, a new type of Radio station. The idea behind the name Last.fm is double fold – one, the middle two letters of the word last denote ‘Audioscrobbler’ and second, they want to position the service as the ‘Last radio stop for a listener to get his music’.
Part of my argument comes from the home page visit, where it clearly states the word ‘Radio’. Here, to further emphasize my point, I am plugging Agre's comments on new media, ‘These Internet stations will each need to gather the capital (financial and intellectual) to create a coherent brand image across a coherent segment of the population, hence the profiling under a recognized banner’.
2. Automation in Service Evidently Last.fm is an automated music delivery system. Traditional radio stations too switch from ‘Live‐assist’ to ‘Automation’ mode of delivery. Richard Berry and Paul Carter raised the issue of automated radio broadcasts, usually during the night by small and medium commercial stations. The question posed of these stations was, 'do they cease to be radio at these times?’ Comparing the sound patterns of produced music in each of the services, automation and digital involvement is key to create a meaningful editorialized music service. Traditional radio stations use software’s like RCS selector to schedule music in a predetermined mathematical pattern. Automation is a must and needed in both services. While it can be argued that Last.fm is more dependable on automation services, I cannot think of Radio stations operating without schedulers and digital processes in today’s time. 3. Music Editorization Music editorization is the systematic process of selecting a song meant to add value and enhance user experience. Traditional broadcasters either have a music team or a designated manager doing that job. Last.fm runs on complete automation. Both services have a system in place which delivers music in a coherent pattern and ensures that the delivery is not random in nature. Elaborating on the un‐radio‐like qualities of music channels, Alan Beck cites the ‘absence of human contact’ involved and the lack of ‘that famous friendliness of radio’ (Beck 2001: sections 7.3–7.6). Once again, yes I agree, the ‘warmth’ is missing, but the value creation is not inferior in any of the process, which is central to our finding.
4. Relationship with Music companies Recorded music has a central place in the broadcasts of the majority of radio stations and in the political economy of the medium because it provides a source of cheap broadcasting on the one hand and a way of organizing listeners on the other. This dual benefit has been institutionalized in the formats and ownership patters of over‐the‐air radio (Tim Wall). The relationship between record companies and radio stations has traditionally been accompanied by complaints from some listeners that either the presenters’ voices or the presenters’ choices spoil their enjoyment of the music. So, given the option, a significant number of listeners prefer turning to a music streaming service because they have no distracting DJ presence in evidence. In the view of Music labels, Radio broadcast technology does not offer enough capacity to vast variety of music produced. On an average a Music radio station can play a maximum for 336 songs in a day (14 songs x 24). Music labels find music programming restrictive. Services like Last.fm service the ‘long tail’ model of music products. It provides a fluid model for track promotion; the power to promote a track lies with the listeners and track popularity. This goes in tandem with marketing initiatives carried out by Music labels. Having said this, Music labels are much aware that traditional radio broadcast can offer more value to their tracks and bands owing to the nature of the medium and its relationship with listeners. A radio promotion by a popular station can make a relatively unknown band famous. Last.fm cannot argue on that. So the ‘creation of value’ argument weighs equal for both parties. I note here that, both, traditional radio broadcasters and Last.fm are heavily depended on music labels but the former provides a bigger window and the latter provides an effective one.
5. Visual Content The visual player of Last.fm displays current songs, artist info, related events etc. Radio broadcasters are also opening up to webcams being fitted in the studios. It is seen as an effort to connect the listener to the on air talent, and provide him with a peek into the studio, the place of action. Moreover, traditional broadcasters are adopting Last.fm like visual players on their websites. Priestman comments, ‘… the very reason why many radio enthusiasts are suspicious of web radio, because they fear that the requirement to interact visually weakens radio's unique identity and heralds its take‐over by TV. On the other hand studio webcams may be a bit of a curiosity and they do support the idea that radio is about presenters working live in real studios, though it is difficult to imagine actively watching one for any length of time’ (Priestman, 2001). Clearly, both services are using visual aids to engage and generate loyalty among their audience. 6. Suturing/ Multiplatform availability Suturing techniques are establishing 'the reality of the radio station and the broadcasters themselves' and denying 'absence' (Crisell, 1994, 6). These techniques work in combination. They help to construct and maintain the listener's identity among an audience of displaced individuals. Radio suturing devices involve listening apparatus, listener positioning, attentiveness and compensation for absence (Alan Beck). Overall, suturing on radio serves to bind the listener in and mask the absence, two prime needs of radio, to restore belief and attention in the broadcast programme and the wholeness of the radio events. Both the services don’t share many common platforms, but they both do share ‘similar’ listening apparatus. Now wifi enabled radio sets are available
which can stream services like Last.fm. The visualization of the audio player is also one such example. 7. Revenue Model Radio broadcast is free for a listener. Radio sells airtime i.e. spots. Last.fm is free for users in UK. It earns revenue from online advertising, event promotions, music downloads, and subscription fees from countries apart from UK, Germany and USA. Traditional radio broadcasters too are scrambling for newer revenue models. They have created websites as an addition to broadcast. Now major Radio players are also generating revenue by selling online advertising space, event sponsorships, music and podcast downloads. 8. Interactivity Interactivity is an inherent quality of Radio broadcast. Music and speech radio thrive on listeners interactions. It would not be wrong to say listener interaction is by far the most innovation for radio programming. This interaction is via phone‐ins, and messages via cell phones. A traditional broadcast creates a perception that every single listener is a part of large community. The Last.fm service model is also reliant on user feedback, preference participation, but it is fully automated. It profiles its user individually and connects them to other users to create a direct virtual community. Both the services have channels for two‐way communications.
Summary The similarities between both the services are discussed above. One more critical similarity is ‘Listeners’. Last.fm and traditional radio broadcasters share audiences to an extent. A study of their profile, behaviour, preferences and reasons is another discussion altogether. We have seen both services intend to entertain listeners, a common offering – music, fragile relation with music companies, revenue models, interactivity, availability on multi platforms, editorialized music. Now let us look at the difference between both services. Differences 1. Standardization One of the clearer distinctions between Last.fm and traditional radio broadcast is the lack of standardization. Last.fm is a bespoke radio‐programming offering. Standardization is process of aural imaging by patterns and repetition of sound over a said frequency. It confirms a brand presence and identifies itself to its listeners. Given that most radio stations operate 24‐hour broadcasting. Each programme within the ongoing broadcasts is differentiated with signature tunes, introductions etc. while also merging into the general tone and style of the station ’sound’ and abiding by the station’s aims and general concept. Some may say that standardization increases familiarity and hence forges a relationship with listeners. Last.fm clearly lacks all of these elements.
2. Scheduling Scheduling is key to traditional radio programming. Researches over the years have proved that Radio caters to different audiences in different day part listening. So, for example, ‘breakfast’ and ‘drivetime’ are prime broadcasting timeslots that attract the greatest number of listeners. The station will employ the best resources and most experienced broadcasters, as they are known (or assumed) to have the greatest number of ’captive’ listeners. In addition, certain material is considered suitable for particular times of the day. Last.fm is a pull driven and on‐demand medium. Scheduling is not necessary. 3. Talent Talent can be captured under various concepts in context to a radio station. Establishing an announcer’s or DJ’s ‘personality’ or profile is important in a medium whose strength (since the advent of television) is considered to be intimacy and a direct personal address. Most popular announcers use vocal timbre, colloquial speech, microphone proximity, a quirky or memorable style of address and familiar manner, and so on. Last.fm does not have any ‘talent/ presenter’. Once again the distinction is based on the ‘warmth’ and ‘relationship’ issue. 4. Regulation Radio broadcast is powered by FM broadcast which is a scare spectrum and hence the regulation element. Internet radio stations do not go through any of these hassles. Christopher Priestman summarised the growth so far of Internet radio, ‘… [The
Internet] makes getting a station 'on air' very easy … it does not require a licence to transmit … its range is local to global and … it has an inherently interactive, horizontal infrastructure. But the Internet is also very confusing in the wealth of media uses it brings together’ (Priestman, 2001). 5. Context of content Services like Last.fm are not bound by barrier of land, space, countries and geographical boundaries. The defence case for Internet Radio came from Peter Everett, ex‐B.B.C. Producer, ‘Global Internet radio will segment listeners by niche interests rather than by geographic location. The connection/identification will be different but just as strong as, if not stronger than, that generated by locality‐based services’ (Everett, 3 June 1999). Traditional broadcasters design their content in the context of their locality – their culture, their issues, their understanding. They are blanketed by the context in which they work which could vary in different cases. Last.fm works on the global appeal ground – a listener from across the continent can relate to its output. 6. Quantity of Output There are around 600 tracks hitting the servers at Last.fm every second (Miles Lewis). This translates into a couple hundred thousand tracks being played every 24 hours, dwarfing the output of a traditional radio broadcaster who can aim at maximum of 336 tracks a day. The quantity of output directly relates to added cost but also empower services like Last.fm to conduct tough negotiations with Music companies.
7. Radio Flow Radio flow is an effort to maintain the sonic continuity of a service. ‘Dear air’ is considered as a death sentence in rulebooks of traditional radio broadcast. It is absolutely necessary to fill the sonic space of broadcast. Radio flow is most pertinently achieved by a tight scheduling of a combination of sounds, music, and speech i.e. ensuring a continuous stream of aurally stimulating sound. It promotes the 'nowness' of radio, its orderly unfolding, duration and succession. On a switch of a button a listener should be able to receive an audio signal. Last.fm is a pull driven & bespoke medium. ‘Radio flow’ is not compulsory. Only once the user starts engaging with the service, the flow is initiated. Summary Last.fm travels a point‐to‐point route; whereas the traditional broadcasters systems use the 'one to many', routes. It does reproduce the broadcast characteristics of analogue terrestrial transmission, more choice, more control plus some unique additions of its own or if I may say, disruptive additions. It has following of loyal listeners who enjoy the service ‘making sense of their music’. Scholars and industry may argue that Last.fm is not even close to the definitions and understanding of radio, but then, every medium has its moment of evolution, and I am pretty sure this is for radio. Much of the material discussed so far in this article comprises largely what one could describe as radio or un‐ radio like or at least features strong ‘radiogenic’ elements or characteristics. This study
of Last.fm and traditional radio broadcast reveals the variety of developments that digital technology can offer. Learning’s With the intervention that multimedia and networks are making, we are being driven ever more to look at 'audio content'. Obviously this does not have the ring that radio retains. I can’t seem to justify the presence of ‘warmth’ and ‘ability to form relationships’ in the service of Last.fm But there is most certainly an audio content industry forming around key delivery mechanisms, such as the Internet. Perhaps we will be forced to explore in greater detail the differences between formats and programmes, and more particularly, between audience modes of consumption. If the audience is prepared to listen to crafted audio content, but does not recognise the absence of presenters, stations identities, news, weather and so on, does not want the content to be in a localised context, does not speak their language, does not represent their culture, then who are we to tell those consumers that they are not listening to radio? I am going to revisit this argument in my next chapter where I will introduce a concept that attempts to encompass both these services. This exercise has left us with the following lessons: 1. Now it is technically possible to combine the technology of computer programming and the interactivity of the Internet to create bespoke radio programming.
2. Rather than selecting a particular station based on your music type or taste, it is now possible to indicate what types of music you would like to hear and an Ala Carte playlist is offered to you. 3. All sorts of combinations – a proportion of ‘known’ as against ‘unknown’ tracks, amount of DJ chat, spoken features – can now be offered on demand in a stream. 4. Absence of regulation makes copyright the single most important issue for these services. 5. Niche radio programming is no longer a risk. Small‐scale niche operations can cater to audience expectations. 6. It is also possible for Internet providers to track where a particular Internet audio user goes on the Web, and use this information to build up a profile of their interests or activities. This information can then be used to sell small groups of Internet users to advertisers who are looking for individuals with those sorts of profiles. Of course it is marginally more expensive to produce an individualized service, but audiences are prepared to pay a premium subscription for this degree of personalized programming. I believe the technology at Last.fm could still be further exploited to offer different combinations and permutations of editorialized audio. Last.fm is significant because its technology allows for, and even encourages, very different forms of institutionalization, broadcast practice and listening cultures.
We are back to the central issue of this research 'what is radio?' In attempting to redefine the boundaries of radio in this digital era and what it can offer the listener? Or what it stands for? we should avoid easy assumptions about the technologies ‐ whether in distribution or production, clearly they add to the scope and communicative possibilities of radio. Paul Carter has already answered the puzzle in terms of reception theory, that most listeners do not notice the difference. He says, ‘Radio is what radio seems to the ordinary listener’. Using the Internet as a transmission platform, far from being automatically un‐radio‐like, creates much new space for the kinds of programmes that are generated by people’s enthusiasm, passion and need for the sociable, conversation‐orientated character of making and listening to radio. Indeed it is the Internet’s narrowcast characteristics that appear to bring us much closer to the dreams of those pioneers who heard in radio the possibility of increasing the sum of human understanding. We are denying the evolution of radio. On the other hand, what digitalization is doing to radio is loosening its fabric, inviting us to pull away at strands at its fraying edges. I want to develop my conclusions on the lines of Tacchi and Alen Becks work. I suggest that Radio is not a business ‐ it is an working idea, an open ended concept. Its dynamism does no allow it be to be captured in a caught in a closed theoretical definition. Yes, the idea and pillars of radio can be explained, its horizon can be viewed but not captured. Broadcasters and service providers are now in the business of ‘crafted audio’. Tim Davie remarked, ‘I sincerely do
not care what they call radio in the long run, what I do know is that there is a very big market for crafted audio and our job is to reach out to them’. However, such utopian ideals for a new radio ecology need to be tempered by a recognition of a new set of imperatives which will drive this new media form, just as an earlier set drove our existing radio system. Whitehead has made a vital contribution to the thinking of radio as essentially spatial – a space of relations – rather than as sound, he says, ‘It’s misleading to think about radiophonic space in sculptural terms, as a space to be ‘ﬁlled’ with sound ... it is more a series of cultural, social and political relations to be engaged in some way ... Radio happens in sound, at a perceptual level, but the guts of radio are not sounds, but rather the gaps between sending and receiving, between transmission and audition, or however you want to name the space. Radio is essentially a gap medium. (Alvarado, 1) There are industrial answers to the case study we have discussed, in regards to the style context and formatting of service, its intentionality and sociability, its output, use, reach and their budgets. I provide some sort of an answer, under my definition of 'RADIOTRACK' (a term for all the instances of radio).
Above is the concept of RADIOTRACK I suggest that radio is a ‘Stretch’; it is a ‘Gap’, between an Audio and an Audience. It does not matter what is the mode of delivery, context, reach, format or location – what remains central to this concept are two things, crafted audio being directed towards an audience or an audience seeking to consume crafted audio. ‘Crafted Audio’ is derived from my study of the value chain of both services we discussed in the earlier chapter. ‘Crafted Audio’ is an audio, which goes through a value addition process via a broadcaster or a service provider – namely by music editorization, or music genetics, or scheduling. The ambit of my concept ‘RADIOTRACK’: 1. It is essentially audio material – Music, Speech, Sound. No problems with webcams, webpage’s, visual players, tags. 2. It is not necessarily point to multi point method of communication. (Technology is making large‐scale bespoke radio programming possible.) 3. It is transmitted in some way – involving sending and receiving apparatus. It is not something you can pick up and carry off like a CD. In the above diagram I have used two parameters, reach and proximity. ‘Reach’ represents the collective number of listener or audiences or listeners using a specific service. ‘Proximity’ represents a combination of factors like ‘Localization’, ‘Intimacy’ and ‘Liveness’ of service.
A perforated line that cuts across the diagram, it is the ‘open concept’ line. I assume that we have still not exploited the complete ‘proximity’ or ‘reach’ potential of the medium. In the future, there may be a more intimate role for broadcast or live radio. Radio could get more closer to the audience. I have circled number in my illustration, each of them represent a type of radio service: 1. Traditional broadcasters, who are high on reach ‐ maybe a mass radio station and have all the ingredients to make their content local, intimate and live. They are ‘closest’ to the audiences. Ex. Capital FM, London. 2. DAB/ other platforms used by traditional Radio broadcasters – here the content is the same, maybe a different platform. The reach may vary depending on the technology take‐up by the audience. Ex. An iphone application for Capital FM, London. 3. Podcast from a traditional broadcaster– It is the same crafted audio, due to the ‘time‐shifted’ or ‘on‐demand’ nature of this delivery, ‘liveness’ and ‘intimacy’ might be compromised, hence a tad lower on the scale of Proximity. 4. Services like Last.fm that provide service of music delivery + additional features. The mechanized nature of the services recreates the ‘liveness’ element, but maybe not be intimate, hence the lowered proximity. Products like ‘collaborative filtering’ attempts to substitute the human element and add a higher degree of personalization to the user experience. Once again, the audience take up is assumed high. Another example that fits here is Pandora FM, USA.
5. Here I am place Internet radio only services like live365.com. The take up of such services is narrow compared to other categories. Internet music station, mostly due to budget constraints work with software’s that stream music back to back. It lacks personalization, human element and proximity. Hence lower down in the level of proximity. Conclusion I am not suggesting 'anything audio is radio'. If everything is radio, the fact that any particular phenomenon ‐ e.g. Internet only radio ‐ is radio could not be very interesting. If anything can be radio, the interest lies in the conditions in which the radio possibility was realised which I have clearly mentioned in the ‘ambit’ of the theory. We need to move beyond the understanding that ‘radio is radio’ because a broadcaster or a listener says so. When radio researchers and practitioners from around the world talk to each other it becomes clear that ‘real’ radio itself is different in different places and at different times to a large extent it is context speciﬁc. (Tacchi) We can draw parallels to other ‘craft’ forms and their effort or frustration in arresting their medium. With the rise of conceptual art and when once Andy Warhol exhibited Brillo box packages in 1964 ‐ anything could be art. Danto famously summed this up, and recently in his After The End of Art: ‘… you can't say something's art or not art anymore. That's all finished’. (Danto, 1998, 2) Francis Sparshott in her case, of dance and art, and she particularly warns against a context‐free formula, ‘No possible
statement that purports to sum up in a definition what dance is (and hence what is not dance) could possibly sum up the purport of all such generalizations [made by people]: being made on different context‐bound principles, they are inherently ‘unsummable’. Any theorist who simply puts forward a general definition of dance in this day and age is showing crass ignorance and insensitivity.’ Clearly there is no systematic answer matching the vast, ongoing radio product. Words like 'art' and 'radio' point to areas of life and culture within which there are specific difficulties and practices, and these call for various sorts of theoretical engagement. This philosophical attempt to theorize radio is not about finding the truth, though we can understand and come to grip with the components floating around the concept of radio from the past and present. As Radio managers, planners and managers there is a need for reinventing, reconsidering and reconfiguring our understanding of radio. I have not exercised any degree of finality, conclusion or closure in my effort, due to the massive size of the medium. Yes, part of the definition of radio is to do with the structure of the medium and its technology, the vehicle, within its historical continuity. But this is not, in itself, the one necessary‐and‐sufficient‐condition. My ‘RADIOTRACK’ concept encapsulates a family of meanings in radio, acknowledging that radio is not a precise concept or a singular activity, but richly diverse (as Price‐Davies and Rob Watson).
I have considered a general and simplistic study of the universal components of the organized patterns of sound that constitute radio. The ‘Value chain’ methodology gave us some interesting insights on the potentialities of radio and digital technology. The enterprise of radio‐philosophy can be summed up as ‘radio is empowered to create meaning’ and as Radio strategist we need to maximise and explore this creative potential. With such radical changes in broadcasting technology and with more imminent ones coming up, it is best to keep to an open concept of radio. This can be emended over time and extended to objects, texts, works and broadcasting that it did not apply to previously. My conclusion on radio is that the medium is conceptually scattered, profoundly problematic and that is a direct challenge to the Industry. The synthesis of work on pre‐ digital radio may amount to a looser sort of theory of radio because the field of radio has changed; further, it may no longer be clear over what and where radio studies holds jurisdiction. However, one thing can be noted, there are possibilities (in wake of digital advancement) that a new 'radio work' or 'radio' technology or future use of 'radio' will arrive which has nothing in common with paradigm radio works or technologies of the present. We can expect newer business models, institutions, formats, types, and mutations of Radio. Today's radio experiment may become tomorrow's commonplace mainstream technique. Last.fm stands testimony. And, yes, nobody has killed the ‘Radio star’‐ it just needs a comeback!
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