Test Drive: The Tapscan Continuity Director

After this data is saved, the next screen is the Client Copy Entry/Edit screen. If you selected a generic script, it appears here for editing. If no script was selected, you get a blank screen ready for entering your own copy. If you are entering data for a tape received, you wouldn't use this screen at all. Press F10 to save your work. You are then given the option to print the script to a printer. After this option, you are asked if you want to assign a cart number at this time. If you do, you are taken to the Assign Carts section of the main menu. This is where much of the power of The Continuity Director shows itself.

The Assign Carts menu has three options: Assign Cart Numbers, Change/Review Cart Numbers, and Reports for Carts/Copy. When Assign Cart Numbers is selected, the Assign/Edit A Cart Number For Copy screen appears. This screen attaches several bits of information to the cart number including a contract number, the client's name, the product (or spot title/ID number), the client category, the copy start and stop dates, copy length, whether it is co-op or not, and whether the copy has been received or not. There is also a field for File Designation. This File Designation section is a versatile part of the program.

The Continuity Director comes from Tapscan with the File Designation of LOC for local clients. Many stations like to designate cart numbers 1 - 100 for, let's say, local accounts; cart numbers 101 - 200 for national accounts; etc.. You will more than likely need more than one file designation for your station other than LOC for local. Adding file designations is done in the Utilities section of the program. This is where you might add additional file designations such as PSA for PSAs, PRO for promos, and NBC, let's say, for network spots. If you're running an AM/FM combo, you would have file designations such as AM and FM. Beside each file designation name, the range of cart numbers you desire is listed. Once this is set up to your station's needs, cart number assignment becomes a breeze. Let's say you've got a network spot that needs a number. Go to the Assign Cart Numbers screen. Select the File Designation you wish the cart to have. When you get to the cart number field, the program automatically selects the next available cart number. No more double-assigned carts!

Another choice under the Assign Carts sub-menu is Reports for Carts/Copy. Here is where the majority of the program's reports are generated, and these reports are most handy for keeping your cart file very organized. Here you can get a report on Current Copy by Client Name, Current Copy by File Designation, Current Copy by Co-op, Cart Numbers by Client Name, Cart Numbers by File Designation, Copy Not Received, as well as a report on future copy needed and copy that has expired and can now be removed from the racks.

As you can see from the list of reports above, there is a lot the program can do to help you keep things organized. Probably most helpful to your accounting department are the co-op reports. They're very easy to retrieve, and the program will even spit out the co-op scripts complete with a filled out co-op form at the bottom of the script, which includes an invoice number, invoice date, and invoice totals, ready for notarization.

Each of the reports provides several items of information for each line of the report. For example, the Copy By Client Name Report lists all carts in alphabetical order by client and includes the run dates, length, whether or not the copy is co-op, and the contract number the cart is assigned to. The Current Copy by Client Name report adds the File Designation, Cart Number and whether or not copy has been received to the list of info. In fact, most of this information is displayed on all the reports. The main thing that changes is how the reports are sorted or indexed. Since the program is basically a database program, the information can be sorted on several of the fields in the database, from client name, to run dates, to co-op (Yes/No), etc.. Also, any of the reports can be printed to the screen instead of the printer if so desired.

We were unable to put The Continuity Director to work at a radio station for this review, so there are probably a number of aspects of the program we didn't cover simply because we haven't used it for several months in an actual station setting. So, we contacted Greg Fadick at KRXY in Denver to get some input from someone who has been using the system for almost two years. Greg is the Production Director at the station and had this to say about The Continuity Director: "Quite honestly, I'm saving about three and a half hours a day with The Continuity Director." Greg reports that he is maintaining a library of both active and inactive carts. So, when a client calls and wants to run some old copy, he simply runs a quick report of all copy for that client and can quickly select the cart that needs to air. No production order to do; no spot to dub. "I've yet to find a complaint about it," says Greg of the system.

In the Utilities section of the main menu you find several options that will be used primarily for setting up the system. Some of the utilities include password designations which prohibit unauthorized use of the program. File Designations are done from the Utilities menu. There's even a selection that lets you set the screen colors to your liking.

There are some other little features of The Continuity Director we were pleased to see. When you're in the script editing mode, the F5 key starts and stops a stop watch on the screen. No word processor designed for copywriting should be without one! From the main menu you can access a calculator which you can use to balance your check book since you'll have so much spare time. Another great little feature is the appointment calendar which is accessed by pressing Alt-F8. This is perfect for scheduling studio time as well as personal appointments and lunches with clients, salespeople, etc.. Finally, F1 retrieves help screens that give you some basic information about whatever part of the system you might be in at the time the key is pressed.

The Continuity Director is not a new program. It has been around for a couple of years now. Tapscan is best known for their Arbitron ratings analysis programs, but it was certainly a pleasure to see them put their programming efforts to work on a program for Production Directors and Continuity Directors. We haven't seen another one like it.

The program is sold on an annual lease program with monthly payments ranging from $75 to $175 depending upon market size. This fee covers your monthly generic script update disk which provides up to fifty generic scripts each month to add to your database. We took the time to scan twenty or so of the 232 scripts in the program we received, and while we didn't come across any copy that was extraordinarily great, the scripts were definitely creative enough to use or expand upon. For someone who is spending a lot of time writing copy, the copy section of the program alone is well worth the monthly fee. The time you would save would more than justify the cost of the program. Add the other features, and The Continuity Director looks like an excellent bargain!

The only drawback we could see was the fact that if you use the program as a standalone program, you may find yourself entering some data twice, once in The Continuity Director, and again in your station's continuity system (assuming you're not using Tapscan's traffic system). Still, the time saved not having to deal with a loose leaf cart filing system more than makes up for the time spent entering data a second time.

The system may or may not be for you. Don't make that decision based upon this review. Call Tapscan and ask for a demo disk of the program. Get the literature and ask questions. At such a reasonable cost, there's no reason for not checking it out. Finally, all Continuity Directors should think twice before jumping up and down about this program. It just might turn your job into a part-time job, or even worse, it might take that part-time job and give it to the Production Director. Yikes!

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