Radio Entrepreneurs Interview

I recently had a great time visiting with Jeffrey Davis as a guest on the daily Radio Entrepreneurs show that runs from 6:00PM to 7:00PM.

Radio Entrepreneurs shares the stories of entrepreneurship in the interest of giving more exposure to innovative and fast moving New England companies– and creating a knowledge pool for the enrichment of the entrepreneurs’ community around the world.

Jeffrey and I spoke about what it takes to work in radio today and how Backbone’s technology enables station owners and content providers  to have lots of flexibility in their operations.

Visit their web-site to listen live! Or, listen to their audiocasts for a great source of business and entrepreneurial knowledge targeted to the radio industry.

Alt Weeklies to Launch Online Radio Station

Association of Alternative Weeklies logoNetNewsCheck logoA nice article about how local newsweeklies are responding to the changing media landscape.

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN)  represents 115 alternative newsmedia organizations throughout North America. AAN member publications reach more than 38 million active, educated and influential adults in print, on the web and on mobile devices.

AAN’s mission is two-fold: to provide services and leadership that ensure the success of its members; and to strengthen alternative journalism through advocacy and education.

There are a wide range of publications in AAN, but all share these attributes: an intense focus on local news, culture and the arts; an emphasis on point-of-view reporting and narrative journalism; a tolerance for individual freedoms and social differences; and an eagerness to report on issues and communities that many mainstream media outlets ignore.

Fundamentally journalism is about reporting news whether in written, visual or audio form. AAN members are great reporters and journalists. They often provide a perspective not provided elsewhere. Online radio has a worldwide reach and putting a station together with the support of the broader association will provide a platform that will help get the word out.

Tiffany Shackleford - AAN Executive Director

Tiffany Shackleford

One way they hope to help the alternative newsweeklies is to extend their reach to other media.  TiffanyShackelford says sponsors — particularly groups who want to reach the “young independents” in small and medium markets, that alternative media attracts — “are already showing interest,” she added, “I think there is an opportunity for a lot of these advocacy groups who either won’t or can’t buy public radio because they have more stringent rules on sponsorships,” she says.

The article in NetNewsCheck is a great read on the current state of the industry and its future potential. If you are a newspaper and would like to expand your reach via radio we’d love to talk to you.

Mayor Menino, Internet Radio Pioneer

Being in the broadcast business I cross paths with a lot of media makers. Mayor Menino was the very first in studio guest on Boston Herald Radio on their launch day, August 5th, 2013. It was my pleasure to be there when he came into the studio with Joe Sciacca.

Hillary Chabot and Jaclyn Cashman interviewed him as part of their show Morning Meeting. The Herald had recently moved to the Boston Innovation District — the Mayor was the greatest proponent of the growth of that area of Boston, and I think he was really very interested in a new media project getting launched there, and wanted to give it his blessing.

That was Mayor Menino, always looking to connect with the community and push things forward.


High school students share lessons from series on Boston Herald Radio

Brian Foster, a junior at Excel High School, speaks on air in the Herald Radio studio with Joe Battenfeld and Erica Moura during a visit the Boston Herald.

Brian Foster, a junior at Excel High School, speaks on air in the Herald Radio studio with Joe Battenfeld and Erica Moura during a visit to the Boston Herald.

The biggest sport in Boston might really be politics, and Boston Herald Radio is giving the youth of New England a voice in the events. The city’s “watchdog newspaper” tells how students from area high schools were honored guests on a half hour special show to discuss their view of the political landscape.  Read the article here.

Boston Herald Radio is produced digitally online using Backbone Networks technology and service, and is carried worldwide online and terrestrially in the greater Boston area.  Backbone Networks also operates the largest network of student-run college and high school radio stations.


Radio, Comrex and open standards

Comrex logoAt Backbone we take pride in using open standards where possible. We have found that one of our local radio industry neighbors, Comrex, does too. Their product line has consistently applied the best in current technology to the specific needs of broadcasters. 

We’d like to thank them for the shout out about working together in support of some of our mutual customers. While it is a bit pre-mature to announce the Backbone product it is safe to say we think our Internet radio customers will find a great new way to distribute their content in the near future.

Funding your college radio station

Funding your college radio stationWe have been running the IBS Student Radio Network for years now and have over 40 stations as members. One question we often ask our schools is how are you funding your college radio station? As you all know every school is a bit different and that impacts how the stations are funded, organized and how they operate.  Let me provide you with a high level overview of how schools are getting their funding.  I will also provide a preview of things we are investigating to help with the broader funding effort.
Student Government – The school has a number of clubs and provides the student government a budget to operate the clubs.  Depending upon interest, budget and drive of the students they generate the necessary interest to get their share of the student government budget.  The stations at Goucher College, Long Island University and Babson are funded in this manner.
Communications/Journalism Department – The school has one or both of these departments and offer majors in these subjects and other closely associated fields.  What we are starting to see is a move toward consolidated “media” departments that encompass the student newspaper, its radio station and where they have a program “television”.  The trend we are seeing is a move to transition the “Communications” department at some schools to become the “Journalism” department providing more focus on the research and reporting aspect of communications and the associated skill required.  This is reflected in what is happening out in the commercial world.  The stations at Franklin & Marshall, Lehman CollegeTowson, Oklahoma State and Simmons College are organized in this manner.
Underwriting/Commercials – Some schools augment their budgets with underwriting and commercials.  Traditionally if the school ran a terrestrial radio station they were non-commercial.  As such they were required to comply with FCC regulations on what it means to be a non-commercial radio station.  These stations took underwriting spots instead.  While Internet radio does not have the same restrictions most stations are operating as if they were FCC non-commercial regulated because it is good training for the students.  Oklahoma State University takes underwriting spots from the local pizza parlor and a few other sponsors.
Other – One of the schools we had worked with runs a radio station and a record label.  The radio station is used to promote the music of the record label and vice versa.  The school offers programs in both to help the students gain valuable experience in their desired fields.
We are investigating how to help schools with some of the above efforts and other synergies they may have within the school and elsewhere.  Our fundamental view is that the stream belongs to the school, our efforts are intended support the station in how they would like to operate.  Anything we do will be opt-in by the school/station.
Underwriting/Commercials – While many of the schools would like to fund their efforts through underwriting they may not be set up this way.  Some have asked Backbone to provide underwriting spots for them.  At the network level this is easier but it also needs to have significant local flavor and buy in from the school.  For example, a school would like to opt-out of ads that do not align with the mission of the school. 
Other schools would like all fund raising to go through the development department.  Others are looking to align their suppliers with their externally focused efforts.  For example, the cafeteria has all Coca-Cola products, they would like to make sure they run Coca-Cola underwriting spots on their station and not plugs for their competitors.
Local Events – Many schools have a community service requirement for their students.  We are investigating ways to help the radio station work with local events as a means of community service and outreach.  For example, a number of our schools have broadcast the Jamaica Plain Music Fest.  Local stations can broadcast the event and promote the causes of the community.  Additionally, the event sponsors may want to underwrite spots on the local stations.
Departmental Synergies – Some schools have significant athletic department budgets and their teams are a source of great school spirit and pride.  Backbone Radio enables the broadcast of remote events quite easily.  We are looking for schools that want to work with their athletic departments to broadcast their games, i.e. Lacrosse, Field Hockey, Basketball, etc.  This fosters cross department cooperation and additional experience for the students at the radio station.  Like the underwriting listed above we are looking to work with schools on these efforts.  Additionally, schools that do broadcast their sporting events command a premium for spots on that type of programming and may be able to get some of their funding from the athletic department.
Other – There are some Internet oriented crowd sourced funding efforts that are cropping up.  We are looking for ways to help enable these at the network and station level.
We will continue to look beyond our place as a service supplier to help stations address the opportunities available to them in broadcast.  College radio is a great place to learn and experiment with different operational models.  We are looking for ways to partner with our stations in these experiments. Leave your thoughts on what you think of some of these efforts or other opportunities where we can help.  We look forward to making college radio a vibrant, creative place to listen.

Radio Hires the Internet Star

Mark Ramsey

Mark Ramsey

This week we have a guest post from veteran media strategist, researcher, and trend-maker  Mark Ramsey, president of Mark Ramsey Media.

As we are in the middle of the season filled with college radio events, Mark has allowed us to republish Radio Hires the Internet Star from his blog. This short story is a great lesson about how old media can use new media to drive engagement, as well as how a few new media stars understand the power of old media better than some who work in it.

Andrea Russett

Andrea Russett

What’s the best way to develop new talent?

Is it to steal from the switchboard and upgrade to sidekick?

Is it to place a blind ad in an industry trade?

Is it to hire or voice-track a good-enough talent from another market where that talent’s awareness in this market is zero?

You could steal somebody from across the street.

Or you could do what Phil Becker did.

Phil went to the Internet.

But he didn’t recruit just anybody.  He went for the locally-based YouTube talent who already has an audience and a following – over 250,000 YouTube subscribers and more ethan 100,000 Twitter followers to be exact.

And she’s 16 years old.

Phil is GM/Director of Content for Oasis Radio Group and his new talent, Andrea Russett, is the newest star at Oasis’s HOT 107.9 in Fort Wayne, IN.

Watch this chat with Phil about what his team did and just how well it’s working:

Since that post Andrea Russett’s popularity has continued to skyrocket. I expect we will be hearing more from her.

Visit the Hivio site for the upcoming audio festival event where Andrea Russett will be one of the speakers.

Glenn Ordway goes back “on the air” with Sports Talk Boston

Sports Talk Boston logo

I have listen to sports radio in Boston for years and along with many of my friends am a bit of a sports radio junkie. I was one of the early listeners to WEEI when they were on 850 AM.  Glenn Ordway and his Big Show was always part of the mix. They provided great analysis and commentary and did it in a very entertaining manner. The Whiner Line segment was always good for a few laughs. Unfortunately he parted ways with WEEI a little over a year ago.

Glenn Ordway - Sports Talk Boston

Glenn Ordway
Sports Talk Boston

I had heard for months that he would be coming back and thought that he had found his new spot on Sirius as a weekend host on Mad Dog Sports Radio. With a large national audience and a great stable of sports talkers like Chris Russo and Dan Patrick I figured that Glenn was set. I was wrong. Glenn still has a large tie to the local Boston community and many wanted him back on the local dial but his vision is larger than that.

We first talked to Glenn in January as he laid out what he wanted to do in bringing his show to the internet and more broadly establish a station and a national brand that has local flavor. Glenn liked that we could help him broadcast over the internet in a manner that was familiar. We provide him his Internet radio automation, live assist, phone screener, live caller audio, podcasting and all sort of statistics.

Well, through the miracle that is the internet, he launched his station Sports Talk Boston.  Glenn went back on the “radio” last Monday with his own show, The Big Show Unfiltered, in his regular time slot, 3:00PM-6:00PM. He is back with some of the old crew like Pete Sheppard and Steve Buckley along with a few new wrinkles like Internet radio phenom Alex Reimer. You can call into the show at 617-500-2257.  If you would like to text, the number is the same, 617-500-2257.  

One of the big draws on his old show was the Whiner Line. Well, the Whiner Line is back and unfiltered. If you want to call in to the Whiner Line the number is 617-600-7183. That segment has been recreated and is available as a daily podcast

To hear the new show you can listen on your computer through TuneIn. Or you can download the smartphone app from either the Android store or the iTunes Store. The app is also available on over 300 devices and in 60 cars so you can listen most anywhere. Once downloaded open the app and search for “Big Show Unfiltered“.  Starting today he will be simulcast on Sirius 108 and XM 206.

Glenn expects to take his show on the road. We’ll let you all know when he schedules one. Let us know if you have any questions about tuning in and listening . . . or a whine you would like to make.

Why I’m a Happy S.O.B.

Richard CernyEven though I’ve lived in central Massachusetts for decades, in my heart I’m still a South Omaha Boy. When I was a kid, I delivered the weekly shopper called The South Omaha Sun. Warren Buffett bought that, although we didn’t know who he was back then.  More recently he bought the big paper in town, the Omaha World-Herald, the prestigious daily that my family read.  If you wanted to know anything, you got news print on your fingers.

Times have changed, and so has the Omaha World-Herald.  Not the part about prestigious, but about the inky fingers.  This month the OWH launches one of the country’s first online radio stations run by a major newspaper.  What pleases me even more is that the flagship newspaper of Berkshire Hathaway Media chose Backbone Networks to create the station for them. The

Omaha World-Herald logo

Why Internet radio? Mike Reilly, executive editor of the World-Herald, said in a post by Tom Shatel on that the traditional newspaper audience continues to evolve as a tablet or Internet audience. This move is about following — or perhaps leading — that audience.station will use Backbone’s late beta-stage talk radio phone system to take calls from listeners during broadcasts, as well as a few new features we’ve developed specifically for talk, sports and news radio.

We’re in an age where our audience is growing, but it’s growing into digital space,” Reilly said. “It’s growing online. All the industry trends tell us that people want options online other than reading words. They want to listen.

Reilly said he and World-Herald Publisher Terry Kroeger and Larry King, vice president of news and content, have discussed this move for two years. Only a handful of newspapers in the U.S. have their own online radio show, but that number figures to increase in the future.

One of my favorite quotes is from Wayne Gretzky,” Reilly said. “You skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been. I think about that quote as I think about this project for us. We see the future of radio, so we’re going there.

The Bottom Line on World-Herald Live

“We’re not very far from ‘Star Trek.’ ” — Mike’l Severe

Mike'l Severe headshot

Mike’l Severe
The Bottom Line

The World-Herald’s first program is a sports talk show, “The Bottom Line”, which runs Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. CDT, and features World-Herald sportswriters, entertainment writers and news writers.

Mike’l Severe, a well known local sports/talk personality will host the show, which he says will cover a combination of sports, entertainment, movies and dining out. Severe makes the move after nearly 10 years as co-host of “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” on radio station KOZN.

This is a new age for newspapers,” Severe claimed. ” The responsibility now is to get to the next level. I still want to have that tangible product in my hand. The question is, how do you supplement it, hour by hour, minute by minute?

For years, it was always ‘read it tomorrow.’ Now, if you want to talk about it right this minute, pick up a phone and we’ll talk about it right now.

Equipment for Online Radio Remotes

Our customers often ask us for guidance on what equipment to purchase in setting up their radio stations, especially their remote broadcasts, when running Backbone Radio. There are virtually limitless configurations that can be supported, and often the answer is “it depends.”  The answer is often colored by your budget, what you are trying to accomplish with your live remote and your preferences in equipment and operation.

Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle at JJ Foleys

Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle at JJ Foleys

Let us lay out some of the basics.  First,you will need a Macintosh® computer. Clearly a portable Macintosh like a Macbook Air makes it easier to carry the equipment. If you want more screen real estate, the 13-inch Macbook Air may be a better choice than the 11-inch version.

For audio input into the Macintosh it will depend upon our needs at the site. For example you may need just 2 microphones for play by play and color at a basketball game and all you need is something like an M-Audio M-Track. For Microphones it is really a matter of taste. We have been using Shure 58’s and have found them to be quite reliable. Headphones with good sound isolation are also critical. Again it is a matter of taste and we have found the Sennheiser HD-205 II. One of our customers is using an Audio-Technical BPHS1 combo headset and condenser microphone. It simplifies the set up and makes it easier to transport the remote kit.

Of course the most important thing is an internet connection that is rock solid. Many venues now have an Internet drop so you can use that. We recommend that you go to the venue the day before the remote to test the network connection and clear up any issues you may have with firewalls and spotty service. Still, that leaves you with a single point of failure. To address this we also have a portable WiFi device in our remote kit. Which one to get is often up to your location, the coverage available from the providers and how congested the network could get during the remote.

Imagine running your show on an AT&T network at the Meadowlands with 90,000 people uploading YouTube videos, pictures to Facebook and all sorts of other traffic. That could impact your ability to get a consistent network connection. We have found that in major metropolitan area where Sprint has WiMax coverage it is a great solution. Longer term you may want to find a solution for where you find you are running the most remotes.

As the telecom networks are built out further I expect it will become easier to get a reliable network connection. Something to track going forward. We have put together a page of devices and items that we have used along with those of some of our customers. If you use something different and it works great please let us know. Happy broadcasting.