Amid the dizzying confusion and litigation surrounding music services and the direction of commercial music-radio, Backbone Networks has established itself as the technology partner for emerging online sports, news and talk radio stations. For NAB 2016, the Company is announcing Backbone Production Suite™, an integrated set of cloud-based talk radio tools now used by online and AM/FM stations, promising “Your Station Anywhere”.
Backbone’s objective at NAB 2016 (Booth #N6732) is to connect with radio producers and engineers who understand the opportunity unleashed by cloud-based radio broadcasting. The Company will illustrate how cloud-based production is turning radio “inside out” and how this nexus can turn terrestrial and online radio organizations into allies rather than adversaries.
While we all use the cloud for one purpose or another, independent radio producers are actively developing businesses by creating online radio stations for veteran radio personalities in different cities, without having to leave town themselves. Using Backbone Production Suite, producers are able to tweak the audio, execute stop sets, screen callers, tie in remote hosts and guests, record shows and publish podcasts, program automation in the cloud, stream archives, and deliver shows to AM/FM stations anywhere on Earth.
Creating unique, live radio today requires capturing content where and when the action is taking place. With mobile devices, virtually everyone can be on the scene and broadcast in studio quality. To turn that into a professional broadcast, however, still requires a professional producer. With Backbone Production Suite, that producer can stay home and work in the cloud.
“The idea that I can very easily program, schedule and tweak a radio station from wherever I am with my MacBook® is cool and amazing enough, but the idea that we can go live from anywhere with broadband is just awesome.” — John McDermott, Vice President, Programming at DGital Media, Founder of Alternative Sports Talk Radio, and Former VP, Comedy & Entertainment at Sirius/XM
For existing AM/FM stations, this presents an array of new opportunities in distributed production.
Backbone Networks Corporation is a technology company that provides software as a service for radio production, automation, hosting, and streaming. At NAB 2016, Backbone will also be offering a sneak preview of its cloud-based syndication capability, which operates on a central switching software fabric called the Backbone Bridge™.
Backbone will also demonstrate how Production Suite integrates with an innovative, new service called LUCI Global® by Technica del Arte, that gives stations access to remote reporters, guests and co-hosts, in studio quality, using the free iPhone app.
Backbone commercial clients are primarily in the sports, news and talk radio space. Among them are major league sports teams, leagues, including MLL Radio and FNTSY Radio, and independent sportscasters; news organizations, including The Boston Herald Radio (the Associated Press’ Innovator of Year for 2015) and Omaha World-Herald Radio; and numerous talks show programs, including MotorWeek’s Goss’ Garage.
In the non-commercial/educational (NCE) broadcast sector, which is significantly more music-based, Backbone provides the high fidelity production and broadcast technology powering our nation’s largest online network of college and high school student-run radio stations, the IBS-SRN, on behalf of the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) is your trusted experienced resource for over 75 years for information, action, and help with college radio, TV, webcasting, podcasting, streaming, and high school radio.
The 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.
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.
Recently 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.
The inevitable course of radio and associated media toward the converged digital “media station” is now becoming a reality. The radio station has transformed from a capital and debt-intensive, bricks-mortar-steel (and license) based facility to a laptop-cloud-backpack anywhere entity. The barriers to entry have been stripped away, leaving traditional AM/FM station owners holding an ever-depreciating bag.
At the same time, radio talent abounds. Today, there is a greater abundance of engaging radio hosts than at any time in recent memory, many unable to find an AM/FM radio gig. Fortunately, online radio is a welcome, if amorphous, vehicle to showcase these individuals. The pervasive question then becomes “How does the listener find me?” The answer lies in the concept of the content “platform” replacing the station “infrastructure.” In other words, it pays to put an online broadcast entity on a prestigious platform.
A good example of this is the Boston Herald Radio station, launched in August 2013, which combines the immediacy of a 100+ person major newspaper newsroom with well-known on-air talent to become the “other” talk radio station in the city. Working with Backbone Networks Corporation, the Herald was up and running in a matter of weeks, conducting a series of mini-debates in Boston’s preliminary mayoral race. There was no capital equipment to buy, other than a couple of computers, a mixing board and a few microphones, and listenership continues to grow. Content, not transmitter wattage, makes the difference.
Another example, closer to home, is Talkers magazine’s TalkersRadio, an experimental online station we created to provide a platform for self-produced “bridge shows,” hosted by terminated AM/FM talk show hosts that are between gigs or plunging into the new medium, and “orphan” programs that do not conveniently fit into prevailing AM/FM station format categories. We think of Talkers Radio as an experimental theater – a stage upon which established talk show hosts can try out new ideas and program concepts that might be too risky to test on their far more rigid terrestrial radio platforms. TalkersRadio is emblematic of the Content Platform — forming a nucleus for talent to find a forum and listeners to find the talent.
To create TalkersRadio, we called upon Backbone Networks, our technology partner, to build a network for hosts in any part of the world. Their cloud-based broadcast production and automation tied in perfectly for our plans for a 24/7 schedule of live and automated programming.
At each host location, we suggest a simple equipment package composed of a MacBook® Pro laptop computer, a basic mixing board such as the portable Mackie® ProFX8, Sennheiser HD203 Pro DJ headsets and couple of Shure® 58 microphones. This mix of equipment has proven to be ideal for taking the show on the road for remote broadcasts, such as breaking news and sporting events.
The other necessary item is a solid connection to the Internet. In the studio, that could be DSL or a cable modem with at least 128 kbps upstream bandwidth. In the field, hosts will use venue wi-fi, wired Ethernet, or rely on 3G/4G or WiMax access.
What distinguishes compelling talk radio is a host’s ability to interact with co-hosts and listeners, and that is where a multi-line call-in telephone system is key. The Backbone Radio product offers, in addition to interfaces for host and producer, a complete multi-caller phone system, with a Mac interface for the host and, if desired, a call screener. Since the phone system also resides in the cloud, no phone lines, handsets or extra equipment is necessary. Consequently, events like the Talkers Conferences or the RAIN events are simple and easy to broadcast. Our studios are wherever our talent and their laptops are, and signals go direct to the Internet without anyone “back home” having to flip a switch.
The opportunities are just reemerging for talk radio luminaries, all with the help of online technology and the content platform. This is a big departure from what we once knew as talk radio, and it is only the beginning.
Monday, July 29th, was an important day for both Boston and Backbone as one of the great “watchdog” newspapers announced the launch of its Internet news/talk/sports radio station, Boston Herald Radio. The new station is built on the technology of—or as the Herald says, managed by—Backbone Networks Corp.
We view this as a watershed moment for both newspapers and Internet radio. It’s one of the very first implementations of Internet radio designed to actually expand the brand of a major U.S. newspaper, providing new reach to its audience while maximizing the productivity of its writers and news staff. It also is one step further in legitimizing Internet radio as a medium for real time news, talk and sports content. It’s not just for hobbyists and DJs anymore.
We note that this moment is also what Talkers Magazine publisher Michael Harrison has been predicting for years, the convergence of print, radio and video (yes, the Herald has that, as well) into the Media Station. It was Talkers Magazine that broke this story yesterday.
Of course, we are thrilled that the Boston Herald selected Backbone as its technology partner in this venture. Backbone is the only full service Internet radio platform that provides virtually every operational element of a professional radio station, making it incredibly easy and fast to set up and broadcast, including live remotes from anywhere. Backbone services include integrated talk-radio multi-caller phone-in system, live assist, powerful automation, podcast generation and listener stats and maps. We’re also very happy that our friend, ex-WEEI personality and voice of Boston College football and basketball, Jon Meterparel, will host the afternoon drive slot alongside Jen Royle.
Stay tuned for further news, and please see more coverage at the following links: