Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
Soon to be available nightly, zero days a week
The flexibility of being able to download audio and video programmes to my mobile devices is one of the things that’s revolutionised by media consumption in the last decade. I have a 64GB ipod which is pretty much dedicated to podcasts, and it’s usually complaining that I’m about to run out of space.
I’m a massive consumer of documentary and current affairs, but I watch very little on-the-day TV news. And thanks to NBC’s decision to kill the podcast feed of Nightly News, I’ll now be watching even less.
I’ve been downloading NBC Nightly News pretty much every day for the last couple of years. It’s a great contrast to UK daily news programmes. I enjoy the different presentational style, I enjoy the different editorial decisions. But I also enjoy the very traditional collection of ‘stuff that happened today’ packaged into one simple bulletin.
There’s a helpful announcement pointing me in the direction of other ways to watch, via the dedicated app, or on the web, but here’s why the other options don’t work for me:
Both the app and website options need a live internet connection. I don’t always have one. The fantastic thing about a podcast or download is that it works wherever you are, even when your connection is patchy. I’m almost always enroute somewhere when I’m watching, hence my internet is always patchy.
Neither the app or wesbite options allow me to watch at anything other than real-time. I have something like 35 programmes on my device and in order to fit everything in, I almost always play things back at a faster speed.
This may seem extremely geeky (and I admit it probably is) but I often listen or watch up to 5 hours of media in a day, and I only have about three hours to do so. The ability to compress time is really valuable.
I chose an ipod specifically because is has the best implementation of this that I’ve found so far, as it attempts to keep the pitch the same, while increasing the speed. It doesn’t sound normal, but it isn’t so strange that you can’t listen or understand for quite long periods. A 30 minute show magically becomes 15 minutes long and I have 15 minutes to watch something else.
The audio version of Nightly News will still be available yes, and I could download that and play it back at a higher speed. However, without the pictures, I would do better with a dedicated radio programme instead, radio reporters don’t constantly refer to things you cannot see.
I don’t know the reason NBC are getting rid of Nightly News in video, but in doing so, mainstream TV loses another viewer and they hurt their overall accessibility at a time when ease-of-access is one of the most important things for a media producer. Make it harder for people to get to your offer, and the majority just won’t bother.
If I had the time, I could probably do a screen-scrape of their web video and get the programme back, but there’s so much competition out there, I’ll probably just switch to something else.
I never cease to be amazed at how organisations suffering from audience-flight make decisions which will exacerbate the problem, but at least my ipod has a bit more space now.
Score: Innovation 1, mainstream media nil. Again.
This morning I outlined some apps I think show interesting trends for the radio and audio industries, and for reference, here they are, with a couple of additions I didn’t get a chance to show.
The first three are all examples of text-to-speech developments. There are many organisations trying to achieve reliable mechanisms to automatically create speech radio.
This takes any webpage or RSS feed and turns it into speech. The computer voice is surprisingly listenable!
Newsbeat adds many more options for customisation and features a combination of computer speech and real human voices to. Weirdly, I find it hard to tell the difference sometimes, not because the computer voices are so good, but because the human voices can be very robotic.
This requires subscription to unlock all the features, but even without a mobile you can get a good idea of what’s it’s like by looking at their website.
Umano is fully human speech. How do they achieve this? The power of crowd-sourcing! You can audition to become an Umano reader, and then upload your finished readings. The users themselves select the stories they think should be turned into audio.
A couple of examples of content companies who have looked at the trends in online music listening and are seeing how they can use those in speech radio.
NPR diligently tag all their live radio and their app creates a live-sounding news and current affairs station. You can tell it what you like, it will start to give you more of that. I like it a lot.
It doesn’t have the personalisation features of NPR, but if you want programme segments, rather than hour-long chunks of radio, this is a nice way of doing it.
Storytelling with audio at the core
Operation Ajax – a comicbook-style docustory. Listen with headphones. I would happily plug in and spend hours going through, not just the story, but all the supporting material as well. An excellent example of genuinely multimedia storytelling.
Vio, is a live vocal processor for iOS. Headphones are a must. Hate the sound of your own voice? You won’t with this!
There must be many other interesting apps for audio and radio, if you know of others that you think are progressive or innovative, do let me know in the comments 🙂
The contents of a building where I used to work are being slowly sold off.
The closure and sale of BBC Television Centre has ignited strong emotions and there was a protest to prevent planning permission for a redevelopment, involving some high-profile celebrities of British culture, to no avail.
As an armchair economist it’s fascinating to pick out a couple of results of some of the completed parts of the auction, because for me at least, the prices just don’t make any sense.
They sold for a combined total of over £1,000!
I’m amazed, particularly as there’s not much about these which is scarce. The BBC still occupies three buildings across the road from TV Centre – I’m in one of them most weeks – and there’s still a machine that makes these signs and labels. If they’re worth this much money, someone should be running that machine night and day cranking more of them out!
How about lot 1444:
£55 for a door to nowhere, and you could surely make this for half that price with bits from a DIY shop. With this piece though, I can understand more why it is valued highly
It would be interesting to know the history of this door. It’s possible it was originally made for radio drama and came over to Wood Lane if it was needed to re-dub sound effects for TV. Or it could have a longer heritage and started life in a film dubbing suite, maybe in Ealing, or in Lime Grove. It could however just as easily been knocked up in 20 mins by a TV Centre carpenter in the 1980s.
It’s clearly the possibilities of this history, and the unusualness of the item which make it worth more.
Time for a reality check though. TV Centre was also full of functioning valuable equipment. Great for radio stations, universities, or small TV / film companies. Let’s take a look at the going rate for something still being used, like a professional digital videotape recorder.
I think ‘thetoplens’ got a bargain there!
The sale of stuff from TV Centre isn’t over yet! Two more auctions are scheduled, more equipment here, and you can still buy the satellite dishes and comms equipment. Although being unmaintained and exposed to the elements for well over two years, I’m not sure how much operational value there’s left in them. Plus for a domestic bidder in need of a new birdbath, you’re going to need a very large garden, and probably planning permission!
flickr / peterdaniel
Let me know in the comments if you got a bargain, or whether you consider you got something valuable, no matter what you paid.
And they wonder why radio listening is falling
It struck me tonight what an effort radio listening sometimes is, and this came as a shock. After all, this is radio: the original electronic medium, the simplest, the most pervasive, most easily consumed.
Yeah, I thought all that too, until I tried to catch the grand finale of London 2012, the Paralympic Games closing ceremony.
I was on a train to Manchester for most of it. The on-board wifi isn’t up to TV distribution, and although I brought my digital TV USB stick with me, (yes I am that much of a geek) reception is impossible on the move.
No problem, I thought, I’ll listen. After all, I love radio – I started my career at Radio NZ (after listening to BBC World Service all through my teens) and radio is perfect for a couple of hours on the train.
I got out my phone, pushed in the headphones, flicked on the built-in FM radio app and fell at the first hurdle. Not from poor reception, actually I could get 10 FM stations from the start-up scan.
No, the problem was partly to do with paralympics broadcasting rights and partly technology.
For reasons I don’t have the strength to go into, the Paralympics on the radio is only on BBC Radio 5 Live. 5 Live broadcast on AM, DAB and online.
My phone doesn’t do AM (sensible device, it’s rubbish) but neither does it do DAB (for the same reason).
That leaves me with online, and I spent a good 10 minutes poking round in Android’s app downloads to find a suitable radio player.
I found one, Tune-In Radio if you’re that bothered.
Luckily the 3G signal on that bit of the railways is better than the TV reception and eventually, I’m listening at something close to FM quality. (Incidentally the module sticking out of my phone in the picture above is a battery extender. Continuous 3G data doesn’t half suck up the power!)
Now what a hassle just to listen to the radio! And I was thinking that accessibility was the least of radio’s problems. Listening hours are falling, even though overall reach is high, and the younger you are, the less you listen.
Thinking back what irked me more deeply was the thought of how wasteful it was. Even though we’ve built up a network of AM, FM and now DAB networks, to get what I wanted I had to have a dedicated signal of it transmitted to the train simply because none of the others was an option.
This leaves me suddenly with lots of questions over radio’s future that I hadn’t asked myself before, and it makes me look again at the ways in which you can receive 5Live and knowing exactly why they leave analogue radio languishing at the bottom.