A version of this story appeared in the Radio World ebook “A Call to Action: Radio’s Existential Battle for the Dash.”
New York Public Radio is building its digital future and working to assure its relevance in connected cars. The multi-prong strategy includes integration of Rapid software from Xperi’s All In Media division.
The software allows stations to automatically collect or manually create rich visual content and publish it on digital radio platforms, FM, online and mobile.
NYPR owns two major FM stations in New York. They are news, talk and information flagship station WNYC and classical station WQXR.
“We know how visible and competitive the dashboard is, with rich graphics and data from Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Sirius XM, TuneIn Radio,” Chief Technology Officer Steve Shultis said in late 2021.
“Human nature loves bling, it loves eye candy. So you’ve got to have a logo, you’ve got to have depth of metadata to grab the customer and hold them there, just to be able to compete.”
The right Humperdinck
AIM and its founder Chris Gould have assisted NYPR to create public-facing metadata and visual displays, integrated with its HD Radio systems and the public radio system MetaPub.
When the work is complete, listeners to the two FM stations who have HD Radios will see album art on the classical music station and other Artist Experience visuals on the news/talk station.
The Rapid software is a sophisticated cloud-based metadata distribution tool that acts as middleware, collecting information from the station website, automation system or third-party provider. There are other middleware systems, but this one has access to an unusual resource
“DTS now owns TiVo and Rapid as well as Xperi,” Shultis said. “So once you sign the deal with them, you have access to all that metadata from TiVo, an incredible array of Artist Experience, metadata and album art. For us that is especially desired on the classical side.”
Historically, he said, it has been difficult to align album art with classical music content; WQXR experienced match rates as low as 30%. Those problems led the station to turn off its Artist Experience metadata until a better solution could be found.
“There are so many versions of Beethoven’s Symphony Number 5. And there’s a German classical composer called Engelbert Humperdinck — we knew things were wrong when the audience was calling us saying, ‘Oh, you’ve got the lounge singer Engelbert Humperdinck performing today.’ That was embarrassing. And because we couldn’t get the match rate we needed, we pulled the plug.”
Shultis expects Rapid will solve such problems.
“It also can be your single source of truth for your metadata, assuring that you’re using correct, consistent taxonomy across different areas of the radio station.”
Rapid also is a scheduling tool.
“So if at 10 a.m. we air ‘The Brian Lehrer Show’ and at 12 p.m. we air the show ‘All of It,’ both of which are live shows, Rapid can hold those schedules and switch the metadata at the appropriate time. The producers can input specific metadata for their show as it’s happening or do it prior. And then Rapid can push the metadata to the websites, the transmitter sites and wherever else it’s going.”
Rapid will also be embedded into an extensive new Digital Asset Management system that will serve the entire NYPR enterprise.
“Among many things, it will provide hierarchical storage management, a fancy term that just means if you haven’t touched a digital asset in 30 days or so, it will move it to lower-tier storage that might take a little longer to retrieve, although you will have compressed proxies available immediately” Shultis said.
This approach will eliminate silos that have developed within the company, with various departments managing assets and metadata differently. The new DAM will also help the organization better manage its massive historical audio archive reaching back 85 years.
“Rapid serves as the cohesive distribution arm of our metadata, so it will hook into this new digital asset management system.”
In short, NYPR is moving from numerous back-end systems to fewer — with the focus on a main storage system and a main distribution system — partly in an effort to present a more consistent face to listeners.
Shultis cites the example of the program “RadioLab.” One episode may have four or more versions: the broadcast show, with breaks for underwriting; a podcast with breaks for different underwriting; a “members only” podcast that has no underwriting; and a streamed version. All have slightly different metadata needs.
“When a listener tunes in to a NY Public Radio station, whether it’s in the car or on a podcast, the logos will be the same; and now the metadata will be standardized, with the ‘NY Public Radio look and feel.’”
Shultis also is a firm believer in “segment-level” metadata.
“More is better. When a person tunes into the middle of an interview, they say, ‘Wow, this is a great interview, but who is it?’ So instead of just presenting ‘All Things Considered’ the display will say something like ‘All Things Considered, an interview with Paul McLane.’ I would advise any engineer to go as deep as you can. The audience is hungry for that, and that’s what our competition is doing.”
New York Public Radio also supports DTS AutoStage as part of its digital strategy.
Shultis was drawn to it by its service-following feature, in which a receiver transitions from the OTA signal to the station stream if the vehicle leaves the coverage area.
“We’re big on podcasting and streaming. We deliver over a petabyte of data per month of podcasts and streams of our programming. So when I heard about this idea through the NAB and Xperi, I was all over it,” he said.
“This is especially important for people in New York City, who may commute an hour and a half by car from the suburbs, which can easily lay outside the coverage area of a metropolitan station. Broadcasters have tried to do this all along with single-frequency networks — to be able to fail over to your next repeater site to keep the listener engaged.”
Shultis looks forward to seeing more cars on the road with DTS AutoStage. He is enthused about how WNYC and WQXR metadata show up on its display in a Mercedes S Class, an implementation that includes a useful carousel tuning view and that also presents the station logo to the driver directly behind the steering wheel as well as the center column screen.
Overall, Shultis has been vocal to his station leadership about the importance of managing their visual product.
“I just bought a basic-model Subaru. It’s got a beautiful, wide flatscreen with HD Radio in it. Older, analog radio cars are dying away, and the HD Radio marketplace in the New York City DMA now has over 50% penetration of cars, so this is what we’re doing to compete in that marketplace.”