The word “crowd-sourcing” has only been around for a few years, but in many ways describes what radio used to do very well. The term is generally applied to some Web-based application where users can contribute and share some type of information that is relevant to the purpose of the Web application, i.e. Wiki (general information), Spotify and Ping (music) and Internet forums to name a few.
In the case of radio we can equate the “crowd” to be the listeners, who would call the station to request songs, acknowledge birthdays, possibly sharing something news worthy, reporting traffic problems or weather events. In many ways the station was “fed” relevant, local and current information by this “crowd.” The major difference between these uses of crowd-sourcing is that radio used it by a local audience, where Web applications have few geographic bounds. I see stations making feeble attempts using Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch with audiences, but it is usually nothing more than a billboard to subscribers, hardly an interactive platform.
Waze adds social media to traffic data.
I recently discovered a free application called Waze from a company in Israel. This may be one of the most useful applications ever. According to its Wiki page, “Waze differs from traditional GPS navigation software as it is a community-driven application and learns from users'' driving times to provide routing and real-time traffic updates. It is also free to download and use, as it gathers map data and other information from users who use the service. Additionally, people can report accidents, traffic jams, speed traps, police and can update roads, landmarks, house numbers, etc. Waze also helps users find the cheapest, closest gas station around them or along their route.”
There is also a contest-type feature that permits users to accumulate points. This application was made for radio! I don''t understand why broadcasters aren''t all over it. The first requirement of the killer app, make it interactive with not only the station, but other users and acknowledge users as much as possible. Here are my ideas on the killer station app.
Add a retail component: I think Amazon is hands down the best retailer in the world. It is also recognized as the company with the best customer service. One of the most useful features of retail websites are the customer reviews and ratings. I generally look at them to guide my buying decisions for most purchases. Instead of deluging listeners with a barrage of advertising spots for 5 minutes, try a different approach, such as getting information about their age, income levels and buying patterns, then tailoring ads that would be of the most interest. Perhaps create a retail portal inside of the app that permits the listener to buy and review something they just heard? Maybe they could create reviews of any local business. Look at partnering with a retail directory-type site such as YP.com. The second requirement of the killer app, target advertising and make it easy to buy directly from the Smartphone.
Understand the listener''s wants and needs: I''m fascinated that there is still a need for any station to perform music testing when there is a ton free data that will tell you the popularity of songs based on downloading. Giving users the ability to rate music, personalities and even spots would be valuable information. The third requirement for the killer app, let the listeners provide real-time research data.
Give the listeners what they want: Ultimately to compete with Pandora or some of the other Internet only services, you must allow each user to create their personal playlists. Nobody wants to hear the same 30 songs in rotation anymore. I think there is a way to keep the excitement that radio has been able to offer since the 1920s while delivering different content. Last killer app requirement: Let the listener create his own experience.
I''m sure you can think of additional ideas, but the bottom line is, increasing amounts of people will be getting their entertainment from a smartphone and less from the radio in the dashboard. To survive, owners and managers must start thinking like they are a new website start-up and less like a traditional operation.
McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.