Update: nēdl won third place in the challenge.
The Pilot Innovation Challenge, an initiative of the National Association of Broadcasters, “recognizes creative ideas that leverage technological advances in the production, distribution and display of engaging content.” More than 150 ideas were submitted to address the challenge question, “What is an unconventional way broadcasters and other local media could serve communities?
Radio World recently spoke with Ayinde Alakoye, co-founder of nēdl, which has been named a finalist in the challenge. Winners will be announced on Nov. 13.
Radio World: What is nēdl?
Ayinde Alakoye: nēdl, as in, “The needle in the haystack,” is a search engine for live broadcast radio. nēdl is addressing a growing $39.5B global ad market by letting listeners use speech recognition to search live broadcast radio in real-time; eliminating the need to go station-to-station to find news, sports, entertainment, and talk content. nēdl not only lets you search over 100,000 domestic and international stations, but users can also create their own live stations and inject their speech into the real-time search results so others can discover them by the words they are saying. We’re building software for your home, car, and pocket (mobile, smartphone, smartwatch).
RW: Where did the concept come from or how was it developed?
AA: We wanted to amplify one of the best qualities of live radio — serendipity. The concept came from realizing that people like the idea of finding what pops into their mind playing live on the radio. It’s similar to when you and your friend say the same thing at the same time. You feel like you are in sync with them. That’s what using nēdl’s real-time search is like. You were thinking of something and you find someone or talking about it or singing it live. You feel like you are in sync with something larger than yourself in this way. The broadcast component came from listening to consumer demand. We had a start-up prior to this one that let you listen to radio with your friends. We always got the same request, “Can you help me start my own radio station?” So this does that. We let anyone become a broadcaster now and index them by the words they are saying in real-time.
RW: How does it work?
AA: nēdl searches more than 100K domestic and international stations in real-time to find the keywords or melodies that might be streaming at this moment and allows you to find user generated content as well.
RW: Is it painless or does a radio station have to do anything special?
AA: We set out to create a no brainer, no pain, all gain solution for small, medium, and large radio owners. Radio stations literally do nothing and we will turn their jock’s speech to text remotely with our Pro subscription plan. This way we can make their airwaves searchable and bring them advertising dollars from our partnerships with the world’s leading display and audio ad servers. If they want the benefit of this service for about the cost of a Netflix subscription, then they can choose the DIY plan and we let them do a frictionless software install themselves. No equipment necessary.
RW: Does this cannibalize their radio app usage or increase their streaming costs?
AA: We created nēdl to be 100% additive to a radio station’s existing revenue streams. When nēdl listeners find a radio station by the song or words they are saying, the station automatically earns revenue share from nēdl (if they are a partner) and that layer of ad share is on top of their terrestrial ad dollars and whatever display or audio ads are running in their app.
We’re also giving stations a chance to earn listeners. I just found a new hip-hop station earlier tonight — just because I searched for Big Sean and found him playing on a station I would have never heard of otherwise. I saved it as a favorite and I’m going to keep coming back. Everyone wins.
RW: Since this looks to be based on what is said, does it have much application for a music station?
AA: Most music-dominated stations have great morning personalities that they’ve invested a ton of money in to make them great. But, if you’re not listening to the station, you don't know what they are talking about. It’s kind of like the riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest....” nēdl gives you a better return on those investments by making personalities discoverable just by the words they are saying. So it’s just as valuable to a music station as it is to news, sports, comedy, or talk radio stations.
RW: Is it available now? If not, when will it be available?
AA: Our first skills for Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) will be around in time for Christmas and we plan to have our iOS and Android apps available not long after that.
RW: Where did the name come from?
AA: I’m not a gamer, but I happened to play a video game that is based in Seattle. So, I think the Space Needle was rolling around in my brain when we were thinking of names that would evoke the idea of search for consumers. It didn’t click until I said, “needle,” out loud, and when I did it sounded right.