Radio trends: tagging stuff

By James Cridland for
Posted 9 December 2015, 12.00pm est

James Cridland

Over the past few months, I've been presenting some future-radio trends to audiences across the world: mainly focusing on brand consolidation, brand extension, and personalisation.

There's another trend, though, which I'm seeing more and more: that of tagging.

In its simplest form, 'tagging' is to make a note of something you've heard on the radio for later use. In the UK, the BBC has enabled a product called Playlister in its radio players online and on mobile for a while now. Playlister literally creates a playlist of songs you heard on the radio that you really like. That playlist can be exported to services like YouTube or Spotify; but also lives on the BBC website.

The team behind BBC Playlister have also been experimenting with a physical button, which mimics the button you'd find in an app. Speaking at the UK conference Next Radio in September, Jasmine Cox shared a bit of their work if you'd like to learn a little more: but it sounds as if having something physical means it's more likely to be used.

If all this sounds a little familiar, it’s probably because in 2008, HD Radio in the US also had iTunes Tagging support - allowing you to do something similar to the BBC Playlister, but only for Apple’s iTunes service (and only if the broadcaster supported it). If it wasn’t in iTunes, it didn’t tag - hardly conducive to helping you discover new music. But as an idea, it was as neatly executed as you’d expect: perhaps, as is sometimes the way, the right idea but just a little early.

New tech from a company called Airshr enables a listener to do something similar to Playlister, but with all the content you hear on the radio. You add a little button to your dashboard, or use the app, and you can get more information about what you just heard: whether it's a song, an ad, a telephone number, a commercial, or an interview. Just like Playlister and iTunes tagging, AirShr needs to be supported explicitly by the broadcaster (and is only supported by one at present); but at least it'll work - eventually - on many different stations.

A connected radio - one that understands a little more about the existing broadcast FM/HD/DAB station via the internet - could also do this tagging. The open RadioDNS project is developing a tagging solution that could work on any station that wishes to support it. In some of the work so far, the concept of an 'onion skin' has been described: a listener might be 'tagging' the guitar riff of the song they're listening to, the song, the artist, the previous commercial message, the show, or the station itself. What's clear with all the research undertaken so far is that it's not sensible to expect a radio listener to stop what she's doing and play with a complex user interface. Radio is a multitasking medium, after all, and the best we can hope for in terms of interaction is one button press - and for a listener to then choose the element of the programme she was interested in, at a time to suit her.

In any case, not all radio stations will be able to support this kind of technology. Which is where Rewind Radio comes in - a service that allows you to say "I heard a good interview at about a quarter to nine on LBC, and I want to share it". The system records radio station output via the internet, and allows you to clip pieces of audio. So here's a clip of Sydney's Kyle and Jackie O ringing a rival broadcaster on World Peace Day, for example. You can even embed those clips into other websites. It's a neat and clever tool, filling a gap in the market; and quick and simple to use.

Live radio is still, overwhelmingly, the most popular way to consume radio content: and anything that allows a listener to retain details of the new stuff they've heard, and share it with others, is a welcome part of radio's future.

Disclaimer: The author was a founder of RadioDNS, the hybrid radio technology.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.

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