Michael Robertson’s DAR.fm announced version 1.0 of RadioSearchEngine.com on Friday. I reviewed the beta version of the service back in November and found it both interesting and occasionally frustrating.
To recap: RSE lets you search for songs, radio shows or genres across thousands of stations that stream online, delivering you results for what’s playing right now, so you can hear it right now. It’s quite the feat of indexing real-time metadata that has only improved in the last few months. Search for a popular top 40, classic rock or adult contemporary track and you’re likely to find some station, somewhere, playing it right now.
Reviewing the Update
According to Robertson the 1.0 version has doubled the number of stations indexed to 40,000, improved the recommendation engine and added a song history for the each station you choose.
Taking the updated service for a spin I found the experience to be improved overall. The interface is a little cleaner and nicer looking, and it feels more responsive. However, I’m still confused as to why the name “Radio Search Engine” doesn’t appear anywhere. Seems like a lost branding opportunity to me.
As I surfed across stations they started playing in the RSE interface quickly most of the time. While this has more to do with the reliability of the station’s stream than RSE’s interface, the site’s resilience was impressive. It never crashed on me.
When I first reviewed RSE I got some recommendations that I found puzzling, such as the suggestion of a country song when listening to a track by the Cars. I didn’t receive any similarly odd results with the update.
One persistent interface issue is the back button. It doesn’t seem to do anything. I expected that clicking it would take me to the last station or song played. Instead, nada. The forward button is more like the seek button on a car radio, taking you to another station and song, though I couldn’t discern any sort of pattern for what that next station would be. Listening to Supertramp I hit forward and got The Police. I hit it again and got some Latin Jazz. Interesting, yes. Useful, not so sure.
Last time around I faulted RSE’s podcast coverage, especially for failing to deliver very popular ’casts like Marc Maron’s WTF. Now this podcast and many others come up and play readily. At the same time, I was surprised by how some obscure podcasts were included while other more prominent ones weren’t found. That said, I have to imagine that indexing podcasts is at least as hard as indexing radio stations. While the iTunes store and Stitcher have pretty extensive databases of podcasts, I’m not sure they’re accessible to other sites.
When actually listening to a podcast you only get the most recent episode, and there’s no way to navigate to previous ones. It would be really nice if a listener could browse podcasted and on-demand programs, since they aren’t live.
RadioSearchEngine is measurably improved from the beta version, and remains a fun radio surfing experience. If you have a song, artist or program in mind then it is quicker and easier to use RSE to find something to listen to than either iHeartRadio or TuneIn. Commendably, RSE does not harangue you to log in or bombard you with ads. Genre searches, however, are not quite there yet, even if its competitors aren’t much better.
TuneIn manages podcasts better than RSE, delivering an index of episodes to choose from, rather than only playing the most recent one. But TuneIn doesn’t give the same kind of accurate instant gratification for songs, artists and programs playing right now. If RSE could improve the browsing of podcasts and on-demand programming I think it would make the site an even more useful one-stop-shop for radio programming.
RadioSearchEngine has the potential to become a powerful radio portal, though it’s up against the marketing might of Clear Channel and the first-mover advantage of TuneIn. Version 1.0 is a definite step forward.
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