What’s the point of technology if it controls you and you need to constantly ‘feed the machine’? I am a huge fan of automating as much as possible and getting on with the jobs computers can’t do. Computers are designed for repetitive tasks. Here are some ideas for processes you can automate within your radio station:
How long does it take you to compile a segment for podcasting? Imagine tagging your source file in your playout/database system and having the following happen automatically:
- Intro and outro appended to file
- Processed in multi band audio processor
- Converted to appropriate formats for distribution
- FTP’d to content web server
All this leaves your staff to do is add the details to your CMS. Does this sound too good to be true? It isn’t. I’ve already done this, and it’s surprisingly easy to build. Programs such as Omnia F/XE make the audio processing possible, using a file-based audio processor.
Song Data & Playlists
Reduce the quantity of song information requests you get by putting this data online. Most play out systems provide a data feed, so you just need to store this in a database and render it on various web pages. You can also link this up with services such as iTunes, Amazon and Spotify to provide quick ways to get a song preview, view album artwork and buy/stream the song.
Instead of gathering weather data from multiple sources and putting it into a template: automate it. In Australia, our Bureau of Meteorology provide data feed in formats such as XML and JSON.
Using the skills of a software developer, it’s quite easy to parse the appropriate feeds and store it on an intranet page.
Networked content distribution
If you share content within your own radio network you probably use technologies such as RCS’ WANCasting to automatically transfer audio files between stations.
If you are sharing content outside your own network of stations maybe you use FTP sites and production assistants to import the audio. This can take a lot of time, much of which is repetitive and formulaic. Depending on how much you trust your content providers, you can semi-automate or fully-automate this task. Setup a FTP site as a watch folder, and then have tasks such as normalisation, tagging and import into your play out system done by a script. You can then have a manual quality assurance process to make sure everything is correct (but you should have quality assurance checks on your own content anyway, so this won’t be new).
Online Donations and Donor Self-Service
If you are community radio station and accept donations from listeners, then I suggest integrating your donations page online with your donor management system (donor CRM, etc.) to save staff from double-entering the data from one system to another. This integration can still be dealt with in a semi-controlled manner, with a real person viewing the data before it is permanently saved. However, this integration will save you a lot of time.
Taking this one step further, you could expose donor details online for review and editing via a secure self-service portal. This would allow your donors to update their details in your database without needing to call up and do it over the phone.
These are just a few things which you can automate. If you think of others, then post in the comments below.
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