I think I telegraphed my intentions for the No Agenda Stream on Sunday's show effectively, as quite a number of people have responded positively to the thought of changing from a predominately music format to News/Talk.
Background: I've been a radio host, producer and programmer for 32 years, most of my adult life. Although there are many variations, there are two main formats: Music and Talk. Radio is a real-time medium, although a lot of what you are hearing today on the mainstream airwaves is pre-produced and highly packaged. It is also innundated with commercials. It has become unlistenable.
For about a year now, the No Agenda Stream has been running 24/7 from my studio at the Hilltop WatchTower as an outgrowth of the live broadcast of the No Agenda podcast on Thursday and Sunday mornings.
It's been a very successful experiment. We learned how to create a complete 'open source' community driven and managed station, programmed by the listeners, which we call our producers.
We figured out how to allow people to create their own 'shows' and get them on the stream using dropbox. We understand how to switch to live programming with hosts strewn around the globe with skype. We have an awesome and robust chat environment that has become the real-time hub and feedback mechanism for everything on the stream and events happening around the world.
A couple of events took place over the past week that brought on a lightning bolt of an idea. It started when I was stuck in traffic for an hour and a half. Unlike most people, I don't have a daily communte, but felt their pain when attempting to find something, anything interesting to listen to that wasn't constantly interrupted with advertising. I finally settled on NPR (National Public Radio) and even though I can enjoy listening to a lot of what I consider to be propaganda, even this so-called 'public broadcast network' interrupts their programming for 'a word from their underwriters, sonsors, advertising' ...whatever you want to call it. It's an interruption at regular intervals. And to be honest, I think what I read on local weblogs is better reporting than the 'news' they are transmitting.
There was also a lot of sabre rattling this past week from the government about throwing people who stream licensed content without paying for it in jail. Although I'm not too worried about being sent to the big house, if we want to be serious about marginalizing mainstream media (and I do) then we can't do it illegally. My pirate days are long gone and music programming isn't just competing with radio anymore. Personalized radio has come into its own with mp3 players and streaming companies like Pandora, who btw are losing their shirt in licensing fees, and still have to make money with ads.
My podcast partner John C Dvorak also wrote a seminal piece in his PC Mag column about internet streaming radio in devices, and how it needs to be simplified and the need for a podcast component to every live radio stream.
I also found myself listenig to the No Agenda stream in the car myself a few days later, Gx2 was being interviewed about his new album, and although there were a few tracks being played, it felt very different from a straight music based format, as he explained why he produced the tracks, what his inspiration was and the music itself became part of the interview.
That's about the time when it hit me. We are going all News/Talk, in a new and revolutionary way that only the No Agenda community can pull off.
First, a positioning statement. The No Agenda Stream will be: "All News, No Commercials and No Agenda"
Now for the tricky part. How do we make it entertaining enough that people will want to listen to it. The fact is you can't. No amount of programming and fun shows will entertain all of the people all of the time around the world. We are after all a 24/7 global society. I love the DH Unplugged financial podcast, and I'm sure people will be happy to drift in and out of listening to it when in the car, especially since it won't be interrupted by commercials and it's well produced, informative, and the hosts are interesting to listen to. But you aren't going to 'tune in' every weekday at a certain time to hear it. If you're that into it, we're going to help you get the podcast version of it. The stream will be something you know you can always tune in and be entertained and not barraged with crap.
Think about your own actions. When big news happens, you probably turn on CNN and check out hashtags on twitter to get the latest updates.
That my friends, is the sad state of the news media. Believe it or not, that is actually CNN's entire business model. Fill up the airwaves with Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Joy Behar until the next big event hapens, that's when they get their ratings. And of course they will milk that for all it's worth, all the way through the 10th anniversary (!) specials of 9/11 we're about to be over-exposed to.
Of course CNN, like all corporate owned mainstream media is compromised. They won't bite the hand that feeds them, be it GE, or the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Its probably even worse than it appears (ĒDave WIner).
So, how do we become the go-to place when big things happen? By being there, live, with our producers who live locally, our boots on the ground so to speak. We can do it, and have the technology. We'll break scheduled programming to get people on via skype and cellphones (thorugh skype-in or asterix). I don't care if they're only reporting on what the local media and their neighbors are saying, it's going to be better than the dribble and disinfo from CNN and 140 charachter "OMG" tweets on the social networks. Voice and sound also gives a lot more context than the written word in these cases.
You don't have to be an acclaimed journalist or skilled broadcaster to be an interesting voice on the stream. I'd give my left nut to hear 5 minutes from someone in Germany talking about the local reporting, news and feelings people have abou the e.coli scare in Germany, followed by someone who actually lives in Athenes and is witnessing the financial crisis first hand. Riots in Spain? I want to hear from a Barcelona 20 year old who can't find a job. Oil spill in the gulf of mexico? Heck, I'll even listen to entertainment news from someone who lives at Hollywood & Vine. No more canned crap from the mainstream, just real people, telling it how they see it. We don't have to win any peabody or pulitzers, just tell me how you feel. Read the top stories from YOUR newspaper. Pas on what YOUR neighbors are feeling.
The voices don't have to be professional, in fact, I prefer them not to be. I want them to be real, authentic, genuine. The reporting may not be correct or fact checked, but it will be first hand, not filtered thorugh layers of editorial staff and cut off just when it gets interesting. And listeners will be able to cherry pick my favourites for podcast consumption if I wish.
All this can be automated, the technology is in place. It's time for RSS to revolutionize radio. And you're going to be a part of it.
If you have a podcast, with an rss feed with enclosures (not an itunes feed!) and you're interested in having this programmed on the stream, then drop the link in the comments below. Please! No email and 'suggestions'. I don't have time to get clearances from people, contact the producers of the podcasts and point them to this piece.
Golden rule: No Commercials. We encourage people soliciting donations in their programming. It works. The No Agenda Podcast is proof, and we worked hard to get where we are today. You can succeed as well.
If you are one of the 150 people already posting stories on the No Agenda News Network, you are all set with a podcast feed (although you might not have known it). If you find yourself posting 3-5 links a day on the NANN, figure out how to record yourself on an mp3 file. It isn't that hard anymore and there's plenty of free software avaiable and people to teach you how to do it. Read the top 3 story headlines, give us your commentary, what you think is really going on. Make it short, 5 minutes or so. Next, create a post with a title and description and click the 'enclosure' button. Select your mp3 file and post as you normally would. The file will be automatically uploaded to a world wide accessibe server and even better, it will automatically be downloaded into the No Agenda Stream scheduling system for playout on the stream. Under your links menu is your feed, it is now podcast enabled!
If you don't have a podcast or an account on the news network, shoot me an email and I'll set you up with one.