Technologists busily re-inventing the Web say radio stations can look forward to an Internet where it's much easier to collaborate, innovate, and manipulate data and software on a wide variety of Net-friendly devices.
Driving this change — a trend loosely referred to as Web 2.0 — will be the rapid and widespread adoption of social networks by radio stations and other businesses. Employees will seize on to these networks to collaborate internally, and listeners will use them as an active part in forging direction on all aspects of a station's identity.
Indeed, technology market research firm Forrester predicts that business investment in social networks designed for customer and client input alone will reach nearly $1 billion annually by 2013, as corporations capitalize on a trend first popularized by companies like MySpace and Facebook. Entry level social networks, in the form of radio station blogs and simple discussion forums that invite and publish comment from visitors, are already popping up on the Web. The Bob Edwards Show heard on Satellite XM's XMPR, for example, has its own community discussion board, as does NPR-affiliate 89.7 FM, WKSU, (www.folkalley.com/community/forum) and 90.1 FM, WMPR (www.wmpr901.com/messave_board.php).
In addition, more full-blown social networks — miniature replicas of MySpace and Facebook — are expected to become increasingly common. Clear Channel Radio, for example, launched its online community portal www.erockster.com this past spring. The social network features a discussion board, blogs, member-uploaded photos and videos, as well as on-air, online and on-demand music that targets 13-34 year-olds. Members also get to influence erockster.com's content by inputting their preferences on the site.
“Our main focus will be on quality and we're going to give a lot of bands that don't have a chance to be heard on the radio that opportunity,” says Eric Szmanda, erockster.com's chief producer. Initially, radio stations will be able to source software for building these social networks from small and nimble boutique providers like Neighborhood America and Leverage Software, which offer tool suites that bundle together the most popular facets of social networking, such as profile creation, blogs, discussion forums and content uploading and sharing, according to Forrester.
But by 2013, expect the biggest guns in the software industry, including SAP, IBM and Microsoft, to fully incorporate Web 2.0 tools in their product lines, says G. Oliver Young, author of the April 2008 Forrester report, “Global Enterprise Web 2.0 Market Forecast: 2007 To 2013.”
“SAP, IBM, Microsoft and others are already beginning to give away Web 2.0 functionality for free to drive use of their core applications and value engines,” Young says. “Microsoft's SharePoint has a lightweight wiki (a network-based collaboration tool), while IBM is now offering social networking mashup technology through its Lotus Connections and Lotus mashups products, respectively.” (Mashups are tools that enable users to combine data from previously disparate databases, which often reside in different software applications.)
Meanwhile, equally influential in the re-invented Web will be a new approach to computing where most — if not all — of a company's software applications will reside on the universally accessible Web, rather than locked away on mainframes or on individual PCs — a concept known as cloud computing.
Emblematic of this trend is Microsoft's new Live Mesh, software, which is being designed to link together all of a company's Internet devices — including desktops, laptops, Mac computers, cameras, mobile phones, media centers and digital picture frames — for instant collaboration.
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