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NRSC PAD Study: Concise Radio Display Text Is Better

Analysis of artist, song and album title data is intended to help stations and receiver manufacturers bring program-associated data to consumers

Knowing how many characters are needed to display a song title, artist name or album title can help stations and receiver designers plan the best use of precious resources — namely, limited over-the-air data bandwidth, receiver display space and consumer focus.

So says a subgroup of the National Radio Systems Committee, the technical standards-setting body co-sponsored by NAB and CEA. It performed an analysis of program-associated data. The RDS Usage Working Group, part of the RBDS Subcommittee, conducted much of the effort using a PAD database developed by Clear Channel Radio as the basis for this study. The RDS Usage Working Group is chaired by Steve Davis, senior vice president of engineering and capital management at Clear Channel Radio.

The NRSC report explores PAD field length, including how many characters are required in various situations. (In this sample graphic, the number of songs with Artist string length at or below the X-axis value can be read off the Y-axis; so for example, approximately 96% of songs in the study had an Artist string length that fit into 36 characters.)

In its report, the group used a real-world database of fields that are being transmitted over RBDS and HD Radio text transports.

However, it noted, the broadcaster (Clear Channel, in this case) transmits the data over other media such as the Internet that provide richer text display capability. The report notes that PAD is being used for RBDS, HD Radio, streaming meta-data and iTunes tagging as well as various reporting features such as BMI and ASCAP reporting.

Among the findings: If a station created a database with two sets of fields, one for radio receivers and one for media with a richer display, one set of fields could be abbreviated to maximize the quality of the listener experience over a variety of receiver types, and the other set could be used to provide unabbreviated content to other delivery systems.

For consumers, the more complete the character display, the better. Hardware scrolling and paging can help when display real estate is limited, but the user experience is better when the consumer can see the whole field in a single glance, concludes the group.

Extra text, such as the phrase “Now Playing,” will lengthen the time it takes for a driver to observe the real information — Song Title, Artist and Album — being conveyed on the display. Concise text is better.

Read the report here (PDF).