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The top 5 best examples of interactive radio

Who is doing the cleverest, most innovative things with interactive radio? We pick five best-of-breed stations and programmes.

An email comes in from a colder climate:

"Would it be possible to share a few examples of programming initiatives that have some interactive component? I am interested in finding some innovative examples of programmes which use the potential of the technology to its maximum. But specifically for the interactive aspect, I was thinking about anything that engages the audience (incorporating a twitter feed on the display during the show, comments, questions, etc)"

Why yes. Here are five radio stations and programmes who I think are doing amazing things with interactive.

1. Now Playing @6Music, BBC Radio 6 Music
This slightly confusingly titled show (the station's Twitter account is actually @bbc6music) belies an excellent use of social media and interaction, and richly deserved the Sony Radio Academy Award for best use of multiplatform this year. The brainchild of Somethin'Else, this was the first joint commission between BBC 6Music and BBC Audio & Music Interactive; and has been described as "music radio 2.0". It uses Twitter and Facebook, yes, but also Spotify and blogs, too, to curate and reflect music played by 6music's audiences. Some of the highlights for me in this programme have been big stars tweeting their playlists and answering questions; use of the #nowplaying hashtag to choose songs to play; and collaborative Spotify playlists chosen by radio audiences. The programme on 25 November promises that listeners will be asked to compile a Massive Attack and Bristol-themed playlist, and the blog explains much more. Well worth a listen - the programme's available for seven days on the BBC iPlayer Radio.

2. BBC Radio 1's homepage, BBC Radio 1
The live feed on BBC Radio 1's homepage answers many of the issues that music radio has with a website. The dynamic and ever-changing homepage reflects what the station's doing right now: now-playing merges with favoured tweets from the audience, links to interviews, photos from the studio and elsewhere, links to features and more information, and sometimes live video. Presenters and producers are in charge of what appears here; and it marks a clear end to promotion of personal Twitter and Facebook pages on-air, since every call-to-action can be "go to the Radio 1 website right now and you'll see..." - just this homepage widget is, I believe, this is the gold standard for music radio station websites: reinforcing the benefit of talent and 'shared experience' that you get with radio.

3. 102.3 Now! Radio, Edmonton, Canada
An unusual website, some of which I'm not sure I like, but the output of the radio station is worth a listen. The station uses Facebook, Twitter and SMSs - and their own 'shoutbox' - to be "Edmonton's social network". The station now uses the tagline "Join the conversation", and when tuning in, you'll notice a significantly high amount of audience participation - a lot of speech on a station that, refreshingly, doesn't tediously ram a music proposition down your throat. Importantly, the station replies back, too - the station had a policy of personally responding to every single contact they get, and sent over a million SMS messages in their first year. (They'll respond to tweets, too.) This station adds the kind of interaction that's impossible for computer algorithms to cope with: and as a result is now number one in their target market. Well worth a listen.

4. Geoff Lloyd's Hometime Show, Absolute Radio
Interactivity needn't all be about Twitter and Facebook - though Geoff Lloyd uses both with aplomb (with both a personal and show-specific presence). The show (described by the Radio Times as 'almost hip') contains a large amount of observational humour from an audience who have clearly been trained to think along the same lines as Geoff - amusing stories abound, in the unlikely setting of a fairly busy drivetime radio programme. The show, like many on Absolute, uses their website well: posting photographs, podcasts, videos and tweets; but the main focus of the programme on-air is the rather more straightforward interaction that makes for a great listen. Tip: listen on Absolute Radio's website after signing up - you'll get less ads and more music, to greatly lessen the amount of clutter in the drivetime segment.

5. BBC World Have Your Say, BBC World Service Radio and BBC World News tv
World Have Your Say is the BBC's take on talkback radio: not, actually, dissimilar to many phoneins on LBC 97.3. However, they've used technology to the max on this programme; taking SMS and phone calls, messages on Facebook and Twitter, Skype calls, email and a bunch of other ways of getting in touch, turning a potentially pedestrian format into something rather more interesting. World Have Your Say is a great radio programme, but is also in vision - watch a recent episode here - showing that visualised radio needn't be crap TV. The pictures show additional messages from Facebook and Twitter; some of the callers in-vision, and the variety of different ways to connect: as well as the ever-present #WHYS hashtag. If you ever needed a good example of visualising a great radio programme, this is it.

Have I chosen the right ones? Who else is doing innovative, clever things to help interact with their audiences on radio? I'd love to hear your comments.

James Cridland is the Managing Director of Media UK, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business.
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5 comments

Recommendations: 0
Ian McDonald
posted

Really interesting list. It’s all about hearing and responding to the audience, isn’t it.

You can read more about the thinking on the Radio 1 homepage in blog posts by its producer, designer, and lead software engineer. (Disclosure: I ran the BBC Internet Blog at the time.)

Recommendations: 0
Art Grainger
posted

Get It On with Bryan Burnett on Radio Scotland weeknights 6 – 8PM (FM only). He plays music … with a theme, using listeners requests by e-mail, Facebook, phone and so on. The listeners give suggestions for themes, as I have done on a few occasions.

My suggestions have included Points Of The Compass (i.e. bands, artists or songs that have North, South, East, West or so in their name). Songs past their sell-by date (e.g. Prince’s 1999, Eurythmics’ Sex Crime, Special AKA’s Free Nelson Mandela etc).

Recommendations: 0
Dusty Rhodes
posted

All 80s on DAB in Dublin allows you to select what song you want to hear and plays on-air within the hour. You can also add a dedication which displays on the DAB screen plus website. It’s getting more and more use by listeners.

Recommendations: 0
Stuart Pinfold
posted

Don’t forget the TV version of WHYS followed on from the successful Nuqtat Hewar and Nowbat-e Shoma on BBC Arabic and BBC Persian.

Watch on the links above.

These shows also accept comments from viewers via a range of methods including Skype, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and email (as well as telephone calls, of course)

Recommendations: 0
Tiziano Bonini
posted

These are all awesome models of interaction but I’d like to comment other examples from Europe public radio. To name just a few:

1) Le Tweet liste, on Le Mouv’ (Radio France) is a sunday programme’s dedicated to music. The listeners choose the playlist music on Emilie Mazoyer’s (host) twitter page from Saturday 11:00 am to Sunday 11:00 am at (@EmilieRadioFr).

2) RaiTunes, on Radio2 Rai (Radio Rai, Italy):
The Facebook fan page of the programme is a lively space, where the programme keeps on living when the presenter switches off the microphone. The fans are young and extremely active. They use to post an average of 60 to 100 You Tube links to music videoclips every day (even on week end!). The update of the page never stops during the day. People (girls and boys, women and men) keep on posting at every hour, day and night. The FB wall continually changes. It seems a collective stream of consciousness. Music video posting is the real glue of the RaiTunes community. The listeners of the show are used to music shows, are used to go to concerts and they behave like a concert audience. The fans who post on the wall show to possess a high and wide musical knowledge, perfectly matching to the musical choice of the presenter. On the wall we can assist to a collective process of “fine tuning” of the General Taste of RaiTunes audience.
Before and after the show the fans keep on posting music and making comments about it, but when the show begins something special happens: they stop posting music and start to listen to the programme, leaving FB page open on their computers. During the 80 minutes of the show FB page is updated almost every minute by comments and questions about the music played by the Dj. In those 80 minutes people post an average of 60 to 80 comments on the wall, like a concert audience chatting about what is listening to. Music is the totem and people gather around. When the show ends, they start again to post music video, as concert audience does at the end of a performance, when people start to shout “We want more, We want more”.
A few minutes after the end of the show RaiTunes team publishes on FB a You Tube video playlist, a collection of videoclips of all the songs played during the just ended episode.
Once or twice a week (usually tuesday and thursday) the playlist is user-generated, as it is decided by the community of the listeners together with the presenter. The selection is made all along the day before the night show on the Facebook fan page of the programme. The presenter plays a classic Dj game with the listeners, the “back-to-back”: he chooses the first song posting a You Tube video of it on FB and asks to the listeners/FB fans to reply with another link to the video of a song fitting to be sequenced to his first choice, and so on, until the playlist is completed.

3) Voi siete Qui – You are here (Radio24, Italy): is a crowdsourced storytelling project, a mix of faction and documentary: listeners send written life stories to the programme’s authors, that select and dramatize them and tell every episode the story of one listener. The core issue of the story of the day is anticipated on Facebook and fans can comment and tell their similar stories and also these little stories can be chosen to become a radio story.
The Broadcaster made an ebook from the stories of the listeners.

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