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The byo.fm Experiment

Radio is stale and needs a digital overhaul. It hasn't advanced much beyond the AM dial. The audio fidelity has gotten better and recent internet services like Pandora will find songs similar to a source song, but beyond that it's nearly unchanged since the 1920s when commercial radio went mainstream. Awhile back I started thinking about what would make the ultimate radio experience and worked with my team to build it. Here's what we came up with:

byo.fm byo.fm

More Than Music
Listeners should be able to insert news, sports, and entertainment sources into their listening experience. Some people like Fox News and some like NPR and maybe some want both ends of the spectrum. They should be able to select sources that suit their taste. In addition, they should be able to control the rotation rate. Perhaps they want news only once an hour or they're a news junkie and want it every 15 minutes.

Localization
Users should feel connected to their community with regional information from their local TV, broadcast radio and newspaper sites. Besides a range of local news sources they should have weather and traffic tailored to their locale, delivered at the exact time they want to hear it.

Customization
Everyone has unique hobbies or interests and their radio station should know this information as well. Maybe they care about Beagles or Catholicism or Men's Lacrosse - no matter what the topic, users should be able to add this info to their experience.

Interactivity
Users should be able to look ahead to see a list of upcoming segments in their audio experience. Simple clicks should skip past unwanted segments, replay interesting segments or even jump ahead directly to something they wish to hear.

Ubiquitous
A custom radio experience should be available everywhere. Of course on a PC or laptop, but also your Android, iPhone, iPod touch, internet radio, tablet or any net-connected device.

With this wish list we set about building the next generation radio experience. Take my.yahoo or igoogle and "audio-ify" and wrap it around the music we know you'll love and make it playable from anywhere. This experiment presented many challenges - like how to cost effectively get an infinite number of DJs for nearly any topic in the world without spending billions like XM Radio. (Clue: You can have Obama read your weather report!)

We call this experimental new service byo.fm which stands for build your own radio station (or bring your own music). If you've got a few minutes, you can create your own truly personalized radio - what you want to hear, when you want to hear it. You'll be able to load your favorite music, select your preferred news, traffic, weather, sports and control how much of each is on your station. Like any programming director, you'll get to audition and hire the DJs for your station (without the  worry over sick days or workers compensation claims). Once finished, you can listen to your station from PCs, Android, iPhone, net radio devices or any web connected device.

The days of being force-fed media by newspapers and TV selected by editors are over thanks to the internet. Radio needs to go through the same digital transformation and move to an on-demand, personalized, consumer centric experience.

byo.fm is a significant first step. I hope you'll give byo.fm a try and let me know what you think.

--MR
michael@michaelrobertson.com



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