Doing More with Datacasting

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Often, broadcasters will implement RDS for the sole purpose of displaying song title and artist. However, it's quickly realized that once they've captured the listener's attention visually, showing only basic song data for the duration of every song is throwing away a huge opportunity for marketing the station and better serving listeners and advertisers.

It doesn't take long before most broadcasters wonder what else they can do with RDS or HD Radio data. Weather, traffic, stocks, sports scores, advertiser phone numbers, these are all excellent ideas. But how do you manage all that data? Most importantly, how do you do it in a way that best serves the listener and without it feeling spammy.

Luckily, there are software solutions to help you manage the data. Let's look at some of the concepts behind these solutions and some proven techniques for making the best use of the resulting data displays.

Alternating messages through interleaving

Displaying song artist and title data is good, but for the entire duration of every song, this seems like overkill. This is where the concept of interleaving comes in.

Figure 1. Data interleaving example for a 3-minute song. Click to enlarge.

Figure 1. Data interleaving example for a 3-minute song. Click to enlarge.

Interleaving is the process of rotating two or more messages at a time. Interleaving allows a station to display program associated data (PAD) such as title and artist, and to display non-PAD data such as programming notes, promotional information, weather and traffic updates, advertiser information and more. Interleaving can do more for a station than any other single data upgrade, and because it's all managed by software, it can be easy to do. Figure 1 shows how interleaving is applied as a song is played.

Keep in mind that any data strategy beyond scrolling title and artist will require the kind of management tools found only in good datacasting software, software that can synchronize what's being aired with what's being displayed. Also, most good datacasting systems will allow some form of date- and time-sensitive message scheduling. More advanced systems work in much the same way that music scheduling software works and even allow categorizing of messages. This opens up the ability to do such things as schedule more traffic information in the morning, more weather data in the afternoon and more sports scores in the evening.

Linking data to audio events

Event linking is another practice that can open up datacasting possibilities for a station. When datacasting software receives event data from the automation system, this data is generally limited; it's static and usually specific to that cut. Event linking allows that data to become more dynamic by linking alternate or additional text to a specific cut from the automation system. For example, when a Taylor Swift song plays, the data display could read "Taylor Swift in concert this Thursday, tickets still available." Linking messages to specific cuts allows a station to have more control over what information is displayed for each cut and to frequently update that information with enhanced data.

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