Friday, October 17, 2008

Online radio Vs. On Air Radio

I think WBUR is definitely taking the right direction shifting its focus to online radio as component of aired radio instead of as a parallel project. As Robin Lubbock mentioned in class, we should look at it not as “multimedia” anymore, but as “unimedia”. All the new technological tools work together and we should use all of them to get to the audience.

As previously mentioned by Prof. Kennedy, it is important to notice that radio has an advantage over other media, and that is that unless someone comes up with the marvelous creation of an instant transportation machine, we will still need to take a few precious minutes of our lives to get to places by walking, driving, etc., and it is likely that in the meantime people will like to listen to something, as radio station. That doesn’t mean radios should not worry about online competitors as print and TV do, but will get to that point further down.

Another aspect that might worry local radio stations such as WBUR is that technological advances will soon allow NPR to reach directly to listeners through satellite radio and there will be no need for smaller radio stations. That does not seem likely because of the same principle we think print media will never disappear. First of all, there is always need for local news, so WBUR is more likely to grow in this sense rather than decrease. Also in terms of revenues and sponsors, it is more likely that local institutions will sponsor local radio stations rather than national wide stations.

But even though apparently WBUR should not worry about a future extinction menace, the fact that they use many technological tools to help make the station be as interactive as possible, can only be positive for them. It offers extra services to their listeners: someone who always listens to the station will probably like to receive their station’s website news updates. And they will probably be interested in cheking out what the rest of listeners have to say or comment. And if there are photos to share and people to meet even better.

I worked in two radio stations for over 5 years, and the possibility of having another way to interact with the audience is really important. We only had the chance to receive emails and had a few chat rooms, until we found out about a tool named Orkut, which works similarly as Facebook and we had a great reaction from our listeners: they formed communities and made it work by themselves, proposing themes and possible discussion items for the show.

So using Twitter, Flickr and Youtube? Definitely Yes. It might not attract new listeners (it would be interesting to get some figures about the online ratings), but not using those available tools today is not an option.

A good example of how important online interaction can be for a radio station is Boston's Kiss Fm. Their teen audience spends a lot of time uploading photos, blogging and even reading their political news update. They concentrate all their interactive tools in their website, unlike WBUR that links to programs that might take you out of their web. (which I don’t think is a bad thing to do).

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