Internet killed the radio star

Hey, do you have a radio station in a box?

Well, you’d better let it out!

Seriously – how many radio stations in a box do you have in your market? The first one in the Boston area was kind of exciting, and it had great and just perfectly snarky precanned announcers and station ID’s. But with the slow crawl of automation across the spectrum it gets pretty tiresome. It was especially galling for the one station that did the deed over a period of months: you could imagine the despair in the remaining DJ’s faces as they went to their two or one shift per day, as more and more of the day was programmed by CPU. I stopped listening to that station, just out of spite for the owners.

I’m sure in many circumstances it can be a profitable business decision to cut the lease on your office space and rent some rack space. I do wonder how ad revenues change when they make the programming switch – I suppose there may be significant differences during drive time, given that the various local DJ chatter is likely a significant factor in listener behavior. But obviously dropping virtually all staff expenses has got to be a huge savings.

My question is: does this serve the public as well? How can the same set of music, but with only pre-recorded announcers voices instead of live, knowledgeable human conversation, possibly be a better value to the public? I don’t see it.

The issue is the old fashioned idea that the airwaves belong to the public. The FCC manages them for us all: with mixed results perhaps. But if the airwaves are licensed for the public good, how can we allow all these stations to replace their blood with electrons? I can’t see how losing the experience; the traffic and local news blurbs; the chance to call in, or have fresh and locally accented commentary, or even just plain human contact during your commute? Music is a given (in most stations that is); the fact that perhaps a box station has a few more minutes of music doesn’t count for much public good. But the loss of the more responsive and human content to the station really feels like a significant loss to me.

Seriously: is the station format any portion of the FCC’s licensing decisions? I somehow doubt it, but I am kind of curious. Even though I will admit that I do listen to the MIKE-FM box, although only because I don’t yet have an MP3 radio installed in my car yet.

Anyone have the code for radio-in-a-box?

I’m just curious: a few weeks ago, at least two of the Boston area radio stations that use computers for programming had a huge increase in the rotation of Men At Work songs. I was all about myself to post a blog entry about how I listened to the new popular hit the first time it was around, 20 years ago, but thankfully never bothered you all with that bit of nostalgia.
But in the past week, I’ve noticed a similar overplay of songs by The Cure in particular, so if figured it wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just a big 80’s music rebirth in general. So I got to thinking, how do the radiostation-on-a-server things work? You know, the box you can buy – in some cases, server included, others it’s just code – that runs a radio station. All you need to do is dump a bunch of music files on it, and plug it into a transmitter. Two questions:

  • Do the default random song choosers have long-term views? I.e. do they specifically pick clusters to re-use over multiple days, or are they just plain random song – to – song(within the style/genre/beat frequency parameters I’m sure they’ve developed)?
  • Anyone have code to auto-submit song requests to this kind of station? Places like InterTech Media and others have made turnkey websites to help run radio-in-a-box stations, so I’m sure some folks have figured out how to get their favorite songs played more frequently on their home stations.

Just curious.
Actually my first radio presets are NPR and The River, because they’re intelligent and local. But MikeFM actually plays a lot of good stuff, so I leave them in there.

(OMG, not only is mikefm dot com a cheezy ad-grubbing parking domain, but mike937 dot com is too! The real Mike {as much as he is real, given that no actual humans are employed by the station} is actually 937mikefm.com. Sheesh. Almost enough to make you want to support legislation banning crappy domain parkers.)

When will billboards be facing the sky?

I mean, with the various combo satellite/road map websites out there, and the frequency with which satellite imagery of popular areas is refreshed, when are businesses with large buildings going to go the extra mile and print their name and logo on the roof?
Seriously! It’s already well established in SecondLife. There are plenty of businesses who’ve already done it, usually on a sloped roof that can be seen from nearby hills or roads; it’s an old tradition going back to Burma-shave days and earlier.
My question is: when will someone setup a billboard or advertising consultancy that specializes in this stuff? Proper fonts, best way to adapt logos to be visible from satellites, astrophysical analysis of common photo satellite orbits and the best way to position the sign, etc. etc.
This isn’t just “first mover” advertising hype, either – although I’m sure that’s worth a sale or two as well. Think about the last time you used Google Maps (or anyone else) to find directions to some new Big Box Store. The directions say to take the highway to “Commerce Way”, sure, that’s informative. But checking out the satellite view, there are no fewer than 3 Big Box Stores, one major mall, and three mini-malls all along Commerce Way. Imagine how cool it would be to recognize the logo to Big Box Store on the roof of the right building, perhaps with an arrow pointing to the side of the building with the main entrance, so you can plan where to park!
Whoever it is, I want in on the business. Given that I’m not doing the footwork to find my own VC, I’m willing to take services-in-kind in exchange of an equity stake. It’d be an interesting market, especially if since you could probably get away with a lot to start with, since most community’s billboard regulations probably wouldn’t trip you up, since it’d only be visible from the sky.
Bonus tip for coatings manufacturers who team up with imagery specialists: if you could figure out the right paints (that reflect well at a distance, but not up close), it’d be wicked cool to paint the logo on the entire parking lot. A bit tricky to get coatings that wouldn’t obscure the parking lines for drivers, but that would pop out in a satellite image of the parking lot. Darn, wish I were in manufacturing, that’d be worth a patent.