Spotify needs no introduction, it’s been a decade since the audio giant launched in Sweden in 2008. Starting out as a music streaming site, the company has now opened its doors to all types of audio. In turn it’s become the most famous digital audio content platform in the world with 159 million users worldwide and a reported 83 million paying subscribers in June 2018 (up from 57 million in June 2017).
We spoke to Victoria Ryder about what makes the independent radio CodeBass Radio tick. Driven by volunteers made up of developers, designers and others within the community, it’s pure passion on the airwaves, where quality content and pushing your limits has brought success.
Hi Victoria, do you mind introducing yourself?
Howdy! I am the Executive Producer of CodeBass Radio, a community-driven internet radio station. Our tagline is “Where Geek & Music Combine – Immense music and an awesome community of listeners.” I coordinate the 24/7 operations with the help of my Sr. Producer, Ben Farrell, my manager, James Allen, and a team of all around awesome people. Our team, staffed 100% by volunteers, is comprised of full-time Application Developers, Designers, Audio Visual Engineers and other talented geeky professionals.
How did CodeBass Radio start?
Our core team is made up of various professionals with a special interest in broadcasting who either lacked the time or resources required to pursue the field via more traditional routes. We are all trendsetting personalities who like to push our own limits, as well as to inspire others to do the same. We are all very active within our sphere of influence, so the ease and speed with which we are growing is no surprise. The quality of content is pretty amazing, and it only gets better as we all learn our way together.
Sounds like such a refreshing change from the norm. You represent an online independent station, what do you think are the pros and cons of being in independent media? How did you overcome the difficulties?
While the on-demand services such as Spotify are taking hold and definitely have their place in the world of music, the CodeBass Radio team still believes in the personal touch of human-produced radio around which we can build a solid community of good, productive, inspired and motivated people. We are proud to say that our listenership has steadily increased. However, we believe in the quality of listeners and creativity of content more than quantity.
Being independent, we definitely have a lot more control over the stream. However, licensing and legal issues become a bit more complex. It is definitely a trade-off, and I always have my eyes open for better hosting opportunities that allow for the sort of flexibility we currently enjoy with regard to both content and stream origination.
We agree, though, on the importance of the quality of listeners and content. Speaking of which, what makes good content?
Remembering that the listeners are people, actual and whole. They are friends and community members with a desire to feel involved in determination of that content to some extent. We do what we do because we love the human side – the interaction. It is absolutely no fun for us if it’s not fun for the listeners. Our shows cover a variety of different formats and genres. The key factor, though, is that most of them are directly interactive with our listening community to some degree. Many of the broadcasters are out there tweeting from their own Twitter accounts. The listeners know they’re conversing with the broadcasters. Most of the listener interaction takes place at Twitter hash tag #CodeBassRadio vs. the station’s main account. However, we’ve had shows take call-ins via Skype and the like. Our most popular show, The 80sRewind Show, can be viewed behind-the-scenes via webcam with lots of regulars interacting in the webcam’s chat channel. We love to see our numbers rising, but we’re most interested in maintaining quality content and knowing that each number counts.
We do have two station accounts on Twitter:
@codebass – my account with consistent periodic updates and general chatter.
Yes! Interaction is always a tried and true practice. How do you think broadcasters should approach monetizing their content?
This is hard to say and a question with which I am currently wrestling. My ultimate desire is never to run advertisements in the stream. Whether our station can remain self-sustaining without them remains to be seen. That desire is basically the one that keeps us determined to remain wholly independent. At the very least, we desire a final say over the type and frequency of advertising. I am hoping that using a portion of the CodeBass Radio website for advertising will negate the need for in-stream advertising. We just recently started leasing ad space in our sidebar.
There are other streams of revenue you can tap.. selling t-shirts or being a reseller of products you like, asking listeners to donate support. There are many avenues of exploration, but you must be ready to be out there promoting all the time. There is no magic switch. If you want to be focused on people vs. automation, it is that much more challenging.
Did you follow Radiodays Europe? What did you think about the quote by Tim Davie: “The most important thing you can do today is tell your mobile operator that you want phones to receive a broadcast signal, as IP can’t deliver us the growth that we need”?
I do not follow that publication and hesitate to speak out-of-context. My viewpoints are diametrically opposed based on my own experiences, but I am certainly not experienced enough to debate BBC’s Director of Audio. He is welcome to bring me over there for a few days to walk around in his shoes, if he’d like to enlighten me. I am open-minded and can never learn enough about broadcasting technology!
Lastly, anything you’d like to share with Spreaker’s community?
Just that it has been fun to watch Spreaker grow. We at CodeBass Radio value advancing technology, and we especially value exploration and collaboration in this constantly changing landscape of online social A/V. We’ll continue to observe and learn from you, and we hope you will stop by and give us a listen.. maybe chat us up on Twitter!
Claire Wardle of Storyful and of BBC fame, graced us with her interview on how social media is changing the journalism game, and about the evolution of radio and podcasting. Read on for more:
Do you mind introducing yourself?
My name is Claire Wardle and I’ve recently started a new role as Director of Development and Integration at Storyful which is a social news agency based in Dublin.
It’s great to have you! How did you start your experience at BBC News?
I was an academic teaching at Cardiff School of Journalism for 5 years. In 2008 I completed a year-long piece of research with the BBC on how audiences were submitting stories, photos and videos to newsrooms via SMS and email. Off the back of that the BBC asked me to come and work with them for 6 months, and in that time social media suddenly exploded. The BBC asked me to develop social media training for their journalists and to date about 3000 journalists have completed the training. I’ve also trained staff at other broadcasting organisaions around the world.
So cool! Let’s get right to it: how do you think journalism has changed with the introduction of new digital tools, podcasting in particular?
Now people are much more likely to find content because it’s being shared with them by their social networks. As a result, ‘chunks’ of content are becoming more and more popular, whether that’s a 3 minute clip shared on Audioboo or Soundcloud, or a 20 min podcast via Spreaker.
And in terms of news gathering, people who are witnesses to events are uploading their own content, sometimes that’s background noise, but often people are interviewing witnesses or giving a running commentary of what they’re seeing. As a result journalists stuck in newsrooms are able to connect with these people to make their coverage stronger.
Like at your site Storyful.com. How reliable is user-generated content in terms of information, and how can I recognize quality content?
User generated content comes in all forms and the sheer quantity of material is eye-watering. The most talented journalists today are those who can find the best material and verify it as quickly as possible. The best way of verifying content is to contact the person who uploaded it, and to ask them detailed questions about where they are, what they can see, what technology they are using and to cross reference that with previous content, Google maps, weather forecasts etc. Verifying user generated content is much harder than people think, it’s not just a case of doing a search of Twitter and publishing the first thing you see.
Radiodays Europe is coming up shortly. What are the current hot topics that might come up?
Digital vs FM will be a hot topic. Radio stations know their FM signals will disappear sooner rather than later, and it’s whether radio stations are ready. The other hot topic is the development of apps such as Spotify or Myxer where listeners can create their own playlists and chat with others as they listen to it. This ‘social’ type of listening is becoming increasingly popular and radio stations have to catch up with these trends so they don’t get left behind. DIY radio is also a hot topic. Sites like Spreaker and Flipzu give people real power to make their own content and to share it widely. Again, that’s a huge threat to established radio stations.
It’s a change that will affect all of us. Anything you would like to share with Spreaker’s community?
I love Spreaker. I don’t think the ‘mainstream media’ have a sense of how many people are making really high quality content every day. The fact that the audience can choose what they consume – a podcast shared on Spreaker or a current affairs programme on the BBC World Service is what makes the time we’re living in so exciting.
Thanks so much for the interview, Claire!
Today we are proud to interview Olivia Collette, who has recently given an interesting analysis on the radio renaissance of the last few years.
Hi Olivia, do you mind introducing yourself?
My name is Olivia Collette and I’m a freelance journalist and copywriter. You can see some of the things I’ve done on my blog.
How did your start your work experience in the media field?
Since 1998, I’ve always worked in communications. I started out as a journalist and moved to advertising and PR. I’ve always oscillated between both, and I’ve written about a lot of different topics. Most recently, I was the Communications Manager at Spacial, the people who created SAM Broadcaster, a popular radio automation software.
We really loved your post on Sparksheet, and I’d like to focus on the concept of Radio Reborn. In regards to user generated audio content, when do you think it tends to be best? (does it shine in sports, journalism, local radio etc)
When I interviewed Mark Ramsey for the Sparksheet article, he talked about how you don’t need lots of money to make something work. What you need is “the passion of people in the presence of their own idea.” At Spacial, our software was very popular with people who wanted to start their own independent online stations, and I consistently found that because they specialized in content that they loved, their stations were amazing. For example, I was a big fan of Codebass Radio (a programmer-run and -themed station), Deeper into Music (alternative music) and Tamil Mel Isai (music from Tamil movies). You can always tell when someone is enthusiastic or when they’re phoning it in. To me, content shines when the people creating it are passionate about what they’re doing. The Internet is a great place to reach out to niches. Masses are bigger than niches, but niches are more loyal. Be consistent and they’ll stick around.
Totally agree! We notice it here at Spreaker, too. How do you think podcasters should approach monetizing their content?
I’m a journalist and I write about things that interest me, so I get to study certain subjects for small, concentrated stretches of time. But I don’t consider myself a radio expert or consultant by any means. I love radio, and it was a pleasure to write about it for Sparksheet. But that would be a better question for, say, James Cridland or Mark Ramsey. That said, if we follow This American Life‘s model, they have a certain amount of content available for free (the most recent podcasts, for example) and charge a relatively low cost for the archived content ($0.99 per episode). That model has always worked for them. Then again, that show has really strong content that people are willing to pay for. That’s probably the most important part of the equation.
I suspect people will be interested in the popularity of music services like Pandora and Spotify, who are reshaping the way people experience radio. I also hope people will address the issue of music royalties versus online streaming fees. There’s a lot of imbalance there, at least in the U.S., and it would be great to hear some new ideas on that. I’m glad Ira Glass will be there because he’ll be able to talk about creating strong content, which is often lacking in this “anyone can do it” age that we live in.
Absolutely, having Ira Glass in Barcelona is a great plus. Anything you’d like to share with Spreaker’s community?
Be passionate. Be consistent. Repeat.
Thank you so much Olivia for your kindness and your really interesting interview!