Invasion of the Pod People

By Matt Dubiel

There is an assault on broadcast radio. It started with the web and morphed into satellite concerns. Enter the Ipod. Even broadcasting big wigs are calling out the Ipod as a concern.

Emmis’ Smulyan Feels iPod Threat
January 19, 2005
Smulyan said, ”Despite the buzz surrounding satellite radio, I believe iPods are a bigger threat, because you have a larger number of people with an alternative source of music.”
-FMQB

iPodThe thing is, the Ipod can become one of radio’s best allies. Ask Adam Curry. Yes that Adam Curry, from MTV. Adam has pioneered a use of the Ipod that is gaining momentum across broadcast lines. Podcasting is a tool that terrestrial radio should embrace and make their own. What the hell is Podcasting? No it isn’t hooking your Ipod up to your car radio so you can hear your favorite mp3 over your car radio on 88.3. Podcasting is a way for you to take Rush, Mancow, Dr. Laura, or the Top 8 at 8 with you wherever you go, or more importantly, it is a way for your listeners to take that audio and play it on demand. You don’t even need an Ipod! Podcasting is on demand audio, and it is based on the same technology used with Internet web logs.

Up until recently, the problem with downloading big chunks of audio or video is that you had to click and wait. You click to download an mp3, and then you wait 30 minutes, while your 10 minute mp3 downloads to your PC over a high speed connection. Podcasting takes the click and wait out of on demand audio.

Morning Shows & Talk Shows

Let’s say you are the executive producer of Mr. Smulyan’s high profile Chicago Morning Show, Mancow’s Morning Madhouse. After the show is over, you can mp3 each hour as a separate file, code it at 64kbps and upload the show audio to your web server. Your listeners can download a Podcasting program (Ipodder is one example) and “subscribe” to your feed. They need only subscribe once to the Mancow Feed (at this point it is free – wink, wink), and every day the program checks the source code for new audio and downloads the latest. The audio is waiting for you when you get to your PC. It acts much like Tivo does for the consumer. You can direct the program to put your downloaded files wherever you want. If your Ipod is docked to the PC, you are set to take Mancow with you where your Ipod goes. You can also set up a folder on your desktop, and it will archive all the audio you subscribe to. Naturally, you attach an image and appropriate tags to every mp3 file you upload so when people listen, your BRAND is all over the file. Instead of hearing only a commute worth of the Mancow show, now you have a P1 who has spent 3-4 hours listening. If that person shares that show, or logs onto a P2P site, you have just extended that BRAND that much further.

Concerts and Special Events

Your station has an acoustic brunch with Bare Naked Ladies or Jingle Ball, and you tape the performances. You may or may not sell a “WXYZ Unplugged” CD or “Jingle Ball Live 2005” CD at events or special retail locations. Imagine if you put a couple of tracks, or a 15 minute excerpt online for your “loyalists.” Then, after they get their audio, they can buy the CD before anyone else — direct online? You can even tag the tracks with a promo: “Listen tomorrow morning to Matt & Maggie for your chance to win tickets to see the Bare Naked Ladies Live!” Taking it even one step further, you can tag any “Podcast” with a sponsor! When you have 1,000 subscribers to one of your station branded Podcasts, why wouldn’t someone want to reach those people directly? The possibilities are endless. Contesting can be executed via your station Podcasts. You can leak new music to your loyalists and have them provide feedback on the song to the link at the end of the Podcast, or even better, you can sell the song directly in CD quality. Do you have a music news feature or a celebrity sleaze minute? Put that baby online and watch the information superhighway at work.

Commercial Delivery

How do you get your spots? SpotTaxi, DGS, FTP, BYOB? Do you do freelance work? Do you have sister stations in other buildings or markets? How do you deliver audio to them? Now you can Podcast it. Here is how you can make it work like FTP on acid. A 60 second audio file coded at 320kbps is great quality, better than most pros deliver. The file size that a :60 mp3 would take up at 320kbps is child’s play for Podcasting. Here is an example of how it can make life very easy. We have a guy 60 miles away who is going to record local weather for an AM station we run off of satellite. He can record his feed everyday and upload it to our web server. I can set up our Podcasting software to save his feeds into a folder that I choose, which happens to be the same folder our automation software retrieves audio from. So instead of him emailing me his weather reports and me arriving at 6am, he records them, uploads them, and Ipodder will download the files automatically and update the audio on the air. We cut out the middleman. Let’s say you have 10 rock stations and 10 AC stations. You produce a piece that is only for your rockers. Normally if you have an FTP site, you upload it, and email everyone, and tell them to download what you’ve uploaded. With Podcasting, all you have to do is set up your feed to them, give them the “address” and they each set up a folder on their desktop specifically dedicated to receiving your audio. Every morning from there on out, they check the folder and see what is waiting for them, as if the audio fairy came while they were sleeping. Your AC stations can have their own feed. Down the road, anyone who provides you with spots regularly can set up a Podcast for you to receive their spots automatically instead of you having to remember 8 different passwords and account names and log onto their FTP sites.

The point is, this technology holds various options for radio, and more importantly radio’s clients, if radio embraces it and utilizes it. Imagine if you got a daily or even weekly Podcast from your PD, GM, or CEO with a little pep talk and update on what is going on with the station, group or company? In a world of voice tracking, market managers, and electronic media, radio needs to take advantage of anything and everything it can.

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