Internet Redistributing Power and Opportunities in Talk Radio

This week we are proud to present a guest post from Michael Harrison, Editor and Publisher of Talkers Magazine.

Michael Harrison - Talkers Magazine

Michael Harrison – Publisher and Editor, Talkers Magazine

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, whichBoston Herald Radio Logo 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.

Talkers Radio logoAnother 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.

Boston Herald Radio Announced, Marks “Tipping Point”

Boston Herald Radio LogoMonday, 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.

Boston Herald Front Page 072913We 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:

Legendary Programmer David Bernstein Named GM of TalkersRadio

We’re thrilled to learn that TalkersRadio, the new 24/7 Internet Talk Radio station being developed as an experimental “skunkworks” and farm system for talk shows, will be managed by David Bernstein. From Talkers Magazine, Wednesday July 3, 2013 edition.

Legendary Programmer David Bernstein Named General Manager of TalkersRadio.
David Bernstein
Prolific radio industry programming and management executive David Bernstein has been named general manager of TalkersRadio, the online experimental talk radio station being developed by TALKERS magazine for launch in mid-August.  Bernstein, a leading talk industry consultant and talent coach, has served as PD, OM or GM of such heritage stations as WOR, New York; WRKO, WBZ, and WAAF, Boston; WTIC, Hartford;  WPRO, Providence; and KVON, Napa/San Francisco among others as well as VP/programming of Air America.

Kevin CaseyTalkersRadio will operate as a 24/7/365 streaming station located on the TALKERS website (www.talkers.com) with links strategically situated on major aggregating portals and websites on the internet. Its primary target audience will be members of the broadcasting industry itself, serving as what TALKERS VP/executive editor Kevin Casey describes as a “laboratory or somewhat of a ‘skunkworks’ where we can experiment with talk shows that fall outside the typical and safe fare found on AM/FM radio.”  Casey continues, “It will be an industry farm system, gym and spring training camp all rolled into one where new show ideas and programming concepts can be developed in a professional setting with high standards but without the restraints of commercial, ratings or corporate pressure that currently restrict most professional operations from doing what radio MUST do to survive in the long term, and that is to take chances.  It will not only be a place to nurture new talent but a platform upon which current well-known players can work out new approaches to their craft. We are doing this as service to the talk radio industry, which, of course, is keeping with the mission of TALKERS magazine.”

Michael HarrisonOn announcing the appointment, TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison states, “The acquisition of the full time services of David Bernstein is a major coup for us – one that we have been working on for almost a year, while he’s been finishing up a number of projects for which he was responsible as president of Bernstein Talent.  I have known David for almost 25 years and consider him to be one of the most intelligent, creative, versatile and talent-friendly radio managers I have ever met.  He is a man of vision and integrity.  All of us at TALKERS are absolutely delighted!” Bernstein states, “This is a radio ‘dream job’ and I am enthusiastic beyond words about the challenge ahead whereby I can hopefully be part of an initiative that will ‘make a difference’ in the radio business.”  His responsibilities in the new position include scouting, recruiting and developing talent for TalkersRadio as well as advising its day-to-day operations and entering into strategic partnerships with other broadcasting operations.  He states, “We will be developing Talkers magazine logoTalkersRadio as a showcase and workshop for new programs to play ‘out of town’ so to speak in front of listening audiences before they open on the big stages of the business.  TalkersRadio will give some suddenly-terminated hosts the opportunity to do farewell shows for their listeners and ‘bridge shows’ to carry them to their next gig. It will be a place for ‘orphan shows’ that don’t quite fit existing AM/FM formats to get an airing and see if they have traction.  We will give some existing high-profile talent the opportunity to do programs about subjects that they are not ‘known’ for doing within their present situations.  For example we are in discussions with a major political news/talk personality who has always had the desire to do a show about metaphysics and parapsychology – stay tuned, it will be mega-cool.”

In addition to his responsibilities with TalkersRadio, Bernstein will advise operations of its sister platform PodJockey (“a boutique for outstanding podcasts”) and assume a seat on Backbone Logothe TALKERS editorial board.  He can be contacted at david@talkers.com. TalkersRadio will utilize the groundbreaking software developed by its technical partners Backbone Networks of Westborough, Massachusetts, revolutionizing the convenience and accessibility of remote spoken word internet broadcasting.  

TalkersRadio Gets Heard With Backbone Radio

This week we are proud to present a guest post from Michael Grotticelli, Online Editor of Broadcast Engineering, regarding The TALKERS New York 2013 event last week #TalkersNY2013.

Talkers magazine logoBackbone Networks Corporation, the company that is leveraging the latest in Internet streaming radio delivery for all types of professional and college-level applications, was the talk of the town at the recent “Talkers New York 2013” conference on June 6.

The radio industry’s preeminent trade publication, worked with Backbone Networks to stream the conference live at www.talkers.com and officially launch a new 24/7/365 streaming spoken-word Internet radio station called “TalkersRadio.”

We caught up with Michael Harrison at the Talkers New York 2013 conference, where—through a series of keynote speeches and panel discussions—many of the biggest names in talk radio shared their views on the new era of radio.

He evaluated his experience working with Backbone Networks.

“Talkers” publisher Michael Harrison said the Backbone platform represented the perfect conduit for his readers and the industry at large. Among a host of programming, Harrison said the new channel provides a platform for “bridge shows” – those channels that have terminated AM/FM talk show hosts can do a series of final shows to say goodbye to their listeners and/or announce their upcoming plans within a radio show context; and “orphan” programs that do not conveniently fit into prevailing AM/FM station format categories.

All of these types of programs and more are fully supported by the Backbone network and its full-service technology that gets users on the radio within seconds from anywhere in the world that offers broadband online access.

“Our relationship with Talkers is a perfect example of how we provide the required infrastructure and production tools to create programming and get it out to listeners while you concentrate on the creative and promotional side of the business,” said Richard Cerny, president and co-founder of Backbone Networks, in Westboro, Mass. “The radio industry is changing in so many ways, but at the end of the day it’s all about going where the listener is and supplying them with compelling programs.”

To this end, Backbone Networks has developed a platform that straddles both over-the-air and Internet delivery, making getting up and running fast and easy. Cerny said that by “doing all the dirty work” and taking all of the guessing work involved with getting a station up and running, Backbone Networks can make a significant impact of the future of radio.

And indeed, Cerny might be on to something: Many are calling the Backbone cloud-based platform the easiest, most affordable way to start and operate a world-class, professional Internet radio station. All you need is a Mac and a mic. Backbone takes care of everything else.

TalkersRadio has been in development for the past year and a half and is a joint project between TALKERS’s parent company Talk Media, Inc. and Backbone Networks. It will feature a scalable radio platform that makes it extremely convenient and affordable for talk show hosts to do a fully produced program – with live callers and guests – from an amazingly simple technical remote and portable set up.

Backbone Networks also operates and hosts the largest network of college and high school noncommercial educational (NCE) radio stations, as well as public radio, commercial and sports radio stations.

Our thanks to Mike Grotticelli for this guest post.

If you want your talk show on the Internet’s first world-class Talk Network, contact Talkers.com.

If you want to start and your own 24/7 professional radio station, with live on-air from anywhere production, automation in the cloud, and radio streaming worldwide, give Backbone Networks a call and see what the future of radio looks (and sounds) like.

TALKERS Magazine to Launch TalkersRadio

TalkerRadio Backbone SigningTo Debut to Broadcast Entire “Talkers New York 2013” Live. TALKERS magazine announces the launch next week of “TalkersRadio” – a 24/7/365 streaming spoken-word internet radio station that will be available to listeners on the trade publication’s website, www.talkers.com and feature a unique brand of stationality that, as publisher Michael Harrison describes, “views the world through the lens of the talk media industry.”

TalkersRadio’s mission will be to serve as:

    1. a laboratory for interesting new concepts and talent in talk;
    2. a farm system to help develop deserving up-and-comers;
    3. a real-time stage for talent to audition for specific jobs and opportunities;
    4. a platform for “bridge shows” – a new device by which suddenly terminated AM/FM talk show hosts can do a series of final shows to say goodbye to their listeners and/or announce their upcoming plans within a radio show context;
    5. a vehicle for “orphan shows” – programs that do not conveniently fit into prevailing AM/FM station format categories;
    6. a showcase for new and adventurous programming concepts and ideas; and
    7. a medium to exclusively broadcast TALKERS magazine live events such as the annual convention next week and Talk Radio Day at the United Nations the following day.

TalkersRadio will also carry several “regularly scheduled” programs to give it, as Harrison describes, “the feel and consistency” of a real radio station.  Some of these will be talk shows about the industry and others will just be talk shows about life in general.  “The key,” according to Harrison, “is most of the programming will be the type that is unavailable elsewhere.”  TalkersRadio has been in development for the past year and a half and is a joint project betweenTALKERS parent company Talk Media, Inc. and Westborough, Massachusetts-based firm Backbone Networks Corporation.  It will feature a leading-edge concept in broadcasting technology developed by Backbone that makes it extremely convenient and affordable for talk show hosts to do a fully produced program – with live callers and guests – from an amazingly simple technical remote and portable set up.

According to Harrison, “Our partners at Backbone are technical wizards.  Having them power this operation will give us the flexibility and means to really make a significant contribution to talk radio as both a cultural art form and a 21st century-rooted business — the ongoing mission of TALKERS magazine.”  Further developments about TalkersRadio will be posted in the coming days and weeks.

Things I Learned About Talk Radio Last Week

New Media Seminar 2012 logoLast Thursday I got up early and took the 5:45am Acela Express from Providence to NY Penn Station for a full day of the most interesting conference I’ve been to in many years.  It was TALKERS Magazine’s annual New Media Seminar, where some 350 talk radio stars and producers shared their view of where the industry is headed.  And I loved every second of it. I won’t even try to give you all the detail of the day, but I will give you a few nuggets that relate to our business at Backbone.

First, the First Amendment is still a ball in play, and we got that message from all sides.  No less than Sean HannityEd Schultz and Gov. David Paterson impressed upon the crowd that boycotts and retaliation are uncalled for when the listener can easily “change the dial”.  Of course, our Internet radio “dial” now allows for thousands of choices, with each of those stations having virtually unlimited freedom of expression.  Which brings me to my second point, Tom Leykis.

The persistent message all day was that talk radio is changing right before our eyes, whether it’s in slow motion or as a blur.  That technical change is the transition from terrestrial to the Internet.  The operational message is that nobody’s job is secure in traditional radio, you must prepare for the change now.  “Don’t expect to drive to work and park next to the building with the tower. The tower will be gone, and so might you.”

Panelists and talk show hosts Lionel and Tom Leykis talked about the importance of career preparedness, and it was Leykis who was the day’s most specific panelist about this subject. He tells us that while you still have a job in traditional radio you must get to know your sponsors and accumulate a database of your fans, because you will wish you had done both when you are out on your own, trying to start up your own station, like he did.  He told me later he took a couple of years and created his own station the hard way, not the Backbone way.  But he succeeded, and Leykis represents the future for many of the future-looking panelists and conference attendees.

Holland CookeIn another session, talk radio consultant Holland Cooke was, as you would expect, full of great ideas and tips on how to bring more people to your Internet radio site and station.  We were all warned not to try to take notes while he presented, because he threw more at us than we could keep up with. (“If you work on-air, at a local radio station, your job, as-you-know-it, is toast.”)  The first thing I did when I got back on the return train home was to buy myself a bunch of hyphenated domain names to increase my SEO.  You don’t understand?  Contact me, or better, Holland, at talk-radio-consultant.com and ask him.

Because of conflicting vacation plans, I won’t be able to attend the October version of this Seminar in Los Angeles, but we won’t miss out.  George and Paul will be there for sure.

You should, too.

P.S.  Michael Harrison, CEO of Talkers announced at the beginning of the Seminar that this would be the last “New Media” Seminars, because he’s been hosting them for 15 years, and this media is no longer “new”.  It will henceforth simply be called Talkers Seminar. Meanwhile, I notice in today’s news that Blogworld Expo is just now changing its name going forward to NMX, New Media Expo.

IBS Student Radio Network covers the NH Primary recap

Tuesday was the first in the nation primary held in New Hampshire.  It was a great day as Emma Bisogno from Simmons College Radio, Joseph Jack Horgan from Emmanuel College Radio and Leona Smith from Zumix Radio covered the event.  Elena Botkin-Levey, director of Zumix Radio was there to help everything run smoothly.  This is the first time the IBS Backbone Student Radio Network has covered a Presidential primary election.”  We’d like to thank Talkers Magazine for sponsoring radio row and for making it a great day.

Sununu with IBS-SRNHere is a summary video put together by Talkers Magazine on the event.  Many of the talkers would like us to look beyond entertainment and become engaged in the political process.  An interesting thing to note is how these talkers view their audience as a community.  The difference between twenty years ago and today is the number of tools that they can bring to bear to grow their community, network and footprint.  Twitter and Facebook are used in real time for audience feedback, questions, topics and even news items.

We have lots of pictures of the student radio network stations broadcasting from the event. There is also more on the topic as the lead article in today’s Talker’s magazine summary.

While there we caught up with Oliver Janney, the faculty advisor for Goucher College radio, while he was working the primary for CNN in Manchester.  Great job covering the primary!

What an outstanding on-the-job learning experience this proved to be! We’re proud that our member stations have such a ready reserve of talent to cover world class events like this.  We hope this is just the beginning for our stations and their unique network.

Liz Claiborne Talkers Magazine Talk Radio Event

Talkers magazineBackbone and IBS-SRN member station hosts Nicole Murphy from WLIU-BK Brooklyn and Alyssa DiNubila from WNEK Spingfield, MA were part of TALKERS magazine “It’s Time to Talk Day” — a massive radio row raising awareness about Domestic Violence, produced in association with its sister firm, Talk Radio News Service, and the corporate sponsorship of Liz Claiborne, Inc.

Held last week (12/8/11) in the fashion showroom of the Midtown Manhattan corporate offices of Liz Claiborne, Inc., the ambitious event was one of the largest and most successful, bringing together more than 20 talk media hosts from around the country who broadcasted their shows live or recorded interviews for delayed broadcast.

Alyssa NicoleAlyssa and Nicole had the opportunity to interview Wanda Lucibello, Faranaz Rodriguez , Napur Argarwal, among others, during the two hour event and rebroadcast on their home stations and made available to all the stations on the Student Radio Network.  It is also content that can be replayed later on any of the stations on the network.

The event generates some press in Talkers Magazine.  For some additional photos of the event check out Matthew Harrison’s photo account of the event along with my own Flickr album of the event.

This was a great event for Backbone and members of the Student Radio Network because it emphasized the benefits of being part of our network and how easy it is to set up and run a live remote.  We anticipate doing a number of these in the future starting with a live remote from the NH primary early next month.  Watch for more on that in the near future.