Nieman Lab on the Future of Local Journalism

Nieman Lab LogoThe Nieman Lab, part of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, just ran a lead article by Joseph Lichterman on the how local newspapers are hoping online radio can be a growth area. Nice mentions of a number of our customers, the Omaha World-Herald, Hersam Acorn Newspapers and the Boston Herald.

The article confirms what we have seen over the last few years, a blurring of the lines between traditional media outlets, television, newspapers and radio. More and more outlets are becoming what Michael Harrison from Talkers Magazine calls a media station. From the article:

As Internet radio and podcasting have become more prominent in recent years, a number of local newspapers — from small community chains like Hersam Acorn, which owns 18 local papers, to metro dailies like The Boston Herald — have launched online radio stations.

It’s easy to understand why else Internet radio might be appealing to local newspapers. Radio has traditionally a local business — bound by the strength of a transmitter’s signal the same way a newspaper was defined by how far delivery trucks could drive in the morning. Local news and talk radio has been reduced to just NPR stations — if that — in many markets, leaving a potential market open. And the same force that worries terrestrial broadcasters — the coming of the connected car, where tuning into a podcast or streaming radio station is just as easy as finding something on your FM dial — is a potential opportunity for newcomers.

Most large metropolitan newspapers have a significant presence in the community. Radio is another way to get the news out.

With the release of Backbone Talk we have made it easier for stations to get on the air, get out of the studio and connect with the community.  We anticipate helping more local newspapers find their voice through radio. How do you see the industry evolving? Leave you comments below.

 

 

Backbone provides support for The Bottom Line

The Bottom LineFundamentally we believe that the best radio is when the station gets close to the community. That is often done by getting out of the studio to broadcast events.

Shortly we will be releasing our Backbone Talk product that provides a cloud based phone system for screening calls and placing them on the air. We will also include a couple of add-on options, a high-fidelity guest line and a digital off-air call recording feature that is integrated into Backbone Radio’s automation service.

The Omaha World-Herald and their primary internet radio show The Bottom Line with Mike’l Severe have been using the pre-release version of Backbone Talk. Like our Backbone Radio product, Backbone Talk is a phone system in the cloud. Placing certain broadcast components enables you, the broadcaster, to get closer to the action.

Radio World logoRecently Jeff Bundy, who oversees the internet radio effort at the Omaha World-Herald, wrote an article for RadioWorld about what it was like to use Backbone Radio and Backbone Talk to start up their radio station and get it on the air. Jeff said:

In the eight months we’ve been using Backbone, we have broadcast live remotes from locations in the baseball village outside the college world series and just outside Memorial Stadium for home Nebraska Cornhusker football games. We paid to have an Internet connection dropped at the locations and we were able to go live easily.

Many in the The Bottom Line audience live for these events. We’re just happy that we can enable them to do this in a very simple fashion. If you are looking at starting an internet radio station let us know how can help you with your efforts.

 

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.

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 Omaha.com 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.

Major League Lacrosse — Broadcasting via Internet Radio

Radio World logoEvery week last season Major League Lacrosse broadcast at least one game live. Initially starting with the ESPN feed of the game of the week, transitioning to their own broadcasters and then to taking live calls before games and during half time. And Backbone was with them every step of the way and for that opportunity we are grateful! In traditional broadcast media doing a live remote (or outside broadcast) is very expensive. There are lots of moving parts and pieces to coordinate. The set up and tear down alone is quite time consuming. With Backbone’s help, Major League Lacrosse took steps to simplify what they needed to do to get their broadcasts on the air.

MLL Championship at Harvard StadiumAfter talking to traditional broadcasters and getting quotes on what it would take do these remotes the old way they turned to Backbone. We showed them how “With a Mac and a Mic” (and an Internet connection) they would be able to take their show on the road from week to week and run a very high quality broadcast. This week they told their story to Radio World Magazine in the streaming edition.  It is a great read and even mentions things we have in the works . . . but not announced.  Stay tuned for more about what we have been up to.