Amid all of the new tools for music discovery, there are many that get lumped in with online radio since they approximate a radio listening experience. Whether it’s algorithms or human DJs selecting the tunes, these customized playlists may feel like the radio of the 21st century to their users.
Since I still love old-fashioned broadcast radio, I am most drawn to the social media projects that facilitate listening to actual radio stations. Matthew’s covered the allure of the radio listening service TuneIn, which allows users to search for stations in a specific location or genre; and I’ve described my fascination with Soundtap, which has built a curated dial of underground listening options focused solely on college and community radio.
Another new project, RadioFlag, purports to be “the first live radio content search engine and listening social network,” according to its founder Tony Roman. RadioFlag’s website and apps allow users to search and flag radio content. On the surface, the RadioFlag website feels like a Twitter feed about radio stations. Through these posts and conversations, one is able to access more details about specific stations.
RadioFlag initially launched with a mobile app in April, 2011 and introduced their most recent beta website in August, 2011. Roman explained that he was frustrated because he had trouble finding the radio content that he was looking for. To fulfill that need, he decided to build a search tool that works with actual radio stations. He said that many other online “radio” tools have little to do with radio. Roman explained, “Radio at its core has a human element. It is live, interactive, unpredictable, informative, etc… These other companies in my opinion serve their audience very well, but they are not radio. They are recorded music concepts and playlist services.”
RadioFlag broadcasted its launch over the college radio airwaves of KUCI at University of California, Irvine and is also showing its commitment to college radio through a partnership with College Radio Day. RadioFlag is the “official app” for College Radio Day and they are helping to promote it to their users. They are working together on a “Spirit of College Radio Award,” which registered stations will be eligible to win.
Although RadioFlag has an interest in and ties to college radio, its tools are open to all kinds of radio stations, even those of the commercial variety. Roman pointed out that,
“We believe that when most users log into RadioFlag for the first time, they will most likely search for and listen to their favorite station, which will probably be a mainstream commercial station. However since RadioFlag places all stations on equal footing, meaning on our FlagCasts users will see flags to content on many different stations…they will then be exposed to stations they would have never discovered before, and many of those stations will be smaller stations with small budgets, but offer amazing content, such as college radio. So our goal is to create new exposure for local, indie, community and college stations that otherwise may never reach this broad listening audience.”
On RadioFlag, visitors can access radio station streams through a search tool or by clicking on a station’s icon attached to users’ comments flagged with that particular station name. Some DJs have set up profiles with information about their programs and their posts get included in their radio station’s feed, helping to connect listeners to their shows. The categories of “stations,” “users” and “interests” are highlighted on RadioFlag, whereas radio stations and radio shows are the stars of Soundtap (which limits its sphere to college and community radio).
Currently RadioFlag is full of college radio options, but that may change when more commercial stations sign up for the service. At that point, it will be interesting to see if college and community stations remain the focus of the site/apps or if larger, more popular stations will begin to dominate its news feeds and its list of trending stations. Stay tuned.