Long ago, before television roamed the earth, local newspapers printed the program schedules of radio stations. You could check the paper to see what was on which network and when, just as you do today for TV.
Most such listings perished once television grabbed hold of the American public’s imaginations. But the idea still has merit, especially on the Web where conventional broadcasters find themselves up against thousands of Internet-only stations.
Then imagine if such program listings could be used to help you schedule and record your favorite shows, for later listening on your desktop PC, home entertainment system, or iPod?
(click thumbnail)This capability exists at www.RadioTime.com. Its RadioGuide is a searchable directory that lets you find programming by genre, station, network or location, drawn from 36,000 sources worldwide.
For instance, say you wanted to hear the return of Don Imus to the airwaves and didn’t live close to one of his syndicated stations. Just put his name into the RadioGuide search engine, and it will not only direct you to a radio station that streams his show, but you’ll be told when it’s due to come on next.
Similarly, you can select a city and instantly be presented with a list of its radio stations and links to their audio streams. Just click on a stream, and the station comes direct to your desktop.
As for recording, RadioGuide can be used to record audio from the Web, using a downloadable feature call RedButton. That feature is free for 14 days, then you have to pay $29 to keep it activated.
RedButton allows you to set your computer to pick up the desired stream when it occurs, and record it as MP3 files. Later on, you can play those files back on your PC, port them to your home entertainment system via WiFi or take them with you on an iPod or other MP3 player.
As with many products, RadioTime was inspired by someone’s dissatisfaction with the way things are.
In this case, RadioTime CEO and inventor Bill Moore was tired of not being able to hear the shows he liked when he wanted to hear them, and was envious of the capability TV viewers have to find and record their favorite programs.
“I wanted to have a TiVo that would record audio from radio, like a PVR does video,” says Moore.
“I also was one of those early adopters who bought a device to listen to Internet radio through my home entertainment system, and realized that the station information was scattered all over the place. So it made sense to create something that allowed people to timeshift/record their favorite radio programs, and to be able to search easily for these shows using an electronic programming guide.”
It was this yearning that motivated Moore to create RadioTime. Developing the RadioGuide was only part of the process; he also had to track down and log the thousands of streaming audio sites on the Web, a process that never ends due to the ever-changing state of the Internet.
“We monitor more than 50,000 programs, 100 networks and 800 sports teams,” says Moore. “It’s a big job.”
Will people use a “TV Guide for Web radio”?
“We’re getting about 55,000 visitors a day, and over 1 million unique visitors a month,” Moore said.
“Our usage mirrors the general population’s radio references. There’s more interest in spoken word than music. There are also some niches that are more popular through our site than on-air, such as ethnic broadcasters such as Tamil radio.”
RadioTime’s RadioGuide is free to all who visit the site, so how does Moore make money from radio program listings? One way is by selling the RedButton recording software. Another is by selling front-page space to radio organizations; you might see ads for The End 107.7 FM Seattle or the Nebraska Public Radio Network.
People who come to RadioTime are looking for audio content, so why not ensure that your station catches their eyes first?
RadioTime also works deals with companies that buy online ad space, and licenses its radio programming data to third parties “just like Gemstar licenses its TV Guide information,” says Moore.
The service is useful for AM/FM broadcasters, he feels. “RadioTime helps make broadcast radio more competitive with other forms of media on the Web, by putting radio front and center for surfers wanting audio. As well, our RadioGuide allows stations to promote their popular shows to a global audience; again boosting potential listenership.”
Over 95 percent of adults listen to radio, on average 20 hours a week, Moore said. “RadioTime helps them find what they want to listen to, and for broadcasters who use us to grab their attention, helps us to direct them to on-air broadcaster Web sites.”