Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

a business idea – radio schedules 2.0

Posted by shannonclark on December 1, 2008

I’m old enough, just barely, to recall a time when local radio schedules were printed in the local newspaper. As a kid I used this to track down “old time” radio shows and Dr. Demento. Today almost no schedules here in the US are available in any form, individual stations may publish them somewhere on their website, and a few specific shows publish a schedule of when their show may be syndicated, but there is nothing (at least that I have found – if there is please leave a comment) as good as the extremely well done The Radio Times in the UK.

So a thought for a modern 21st century twist on a very old idea – simple, location & timezone aware radio schedules – probably driven via a community powered wiki like tool (with options for “official” schedules from any station interested). Schedules which would be published in many formats – with full, open API’s to access them (as well as iCal subscription links and probably RSS feeds including search driven feeds).

I’m thinking a website and likely iPhone app (probably for other devices as well). And it should be platform neutral so have options to also display Internet radio stations, streams, satellite radio and also podcast links for shows which have them (many commercial as well as non-commercial shows do).

And ideally there could be many interfaces to this data – time & day & location being just one.

Not neglecting very basic data would be key here – call letters but also the actual dial location (or locations) & URL’s etc. Best case also some estimate of reception for a given geo location – though this is wildly hard.

And don’t neglect AM and non-English stations (heck don’t limit this to US stations).

I suspect I am far from the only person who has moved to a new city and now has no dial sense – ie I don’t know where to find radio stations which I might be interested in or specific shows on those stations.

Anyway a thought for a service which I’d love to see – and a reminder that factual data isn’t copyrightable (so while show descriptions might be the fact that a show starts at a given time on a specific station is not) plus I suspect anything which helps rebuild audiances/build them will be welcome.

Consider this idea cc-atribution licensed. Feel free to turn it into a commercial project – though if you do I’d love to be involved and even if not, would appreciate some attribution. 

Done well I think such a schedule could seriously help terrestrial, online, and satelitte radio. It could also include other “scheduled” audio (and perhaps video) content – so might also include the expected release schedules for podcasts, video series, online shows and more. 

A bit of my background, for many years I worked on and build calendaring systems and served on the IETF iCalendar working group, including a brief stint as an editor of the RFC for iCalendar. I’ve been thinking about calendaring issues for many, many years. I’ve also been a lifelong radio and audio entertainment fan. I even did audio sound effects for a college production of the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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8 Responses to “a business idea – radio schedules 2.0”

  1. my friend David pointed out one site that does much of what I want, though not everything (but very close) Radiotime.com which is indeed a good resource.

    A few specific features they are missing (as best I can tell):

    – api access (though they do have some developer programs)

    – ways to add your stream or podcast/show to their database (there must be one, but it is not obvious)

    – documentation about their sources of data (though they do have show descriptions and schedules for many, though not all, of the stations they list

    – alternative ways to sort or view their search results which currently are broad but hard to look through and find what you are looking for (for example a search for BBC doesn’t show the BBC stations such as BBC-1 in the first results page

    – more accurate listing of past shows (some of my favorite shows are listed in search results many different ways – via the main show but also in the search results by some, but not all, past episodes as single shows) Other shows have a very random and odd listing of past shows (in no clear order and skipping around in time – as best I can tell, it is unclear how shows from previous years are shown)

    – no way, that I can tell, to see multiple schedules of multiple stations at the same time

    – no way to see schedules in a “real” calendar format (i.e. iCalendar which could be subscribe to by a calendaring application such as Google Calendar)

    – no help or hints to apps to play radio streams (I had assumed they would have a web based player, didn’t find one, but remembered that VLC can play streams and so I’m using that as I type this comment

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  3. another (older) project to look at: http://redjar.org/radio/rssa/ – radio schedule and stream aggregator. However it appears to have been a failed experiment in 2003 and the parent site doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2004 or so.

    also the rather good if also rather eclectic site http://www.publicradiofan.com/ is worth a look as well.

  4. more resources: iCalShare.com has http://icalshare.com/index.php?topic=radio which lists iCal’s available from a number of radio stations directly

  5. MichaeLyons said

    You of course know about publicradiofan, which lists and cross references all public radio streaming out. I’ve always wanted a stand alone internet streaming unit with this capability built in. So if you miss Car Talk on monday afternoon in Detroit? catch it streaming Tuesday morning from Topeka, or catch all those other shows our local stations don’t bother to carry.

    http://publicradiofan.com/

    Too bad most commercial radio is so homogeneous these days, pumping out the same pre-programmed genre 24/7. No schedule would be needed, just a couple of words to state the format and frequency.

    • Michael, thanks – yes I just posted about PublicRadioFan which is a nice site. My thought (I’m writing more about this in a post about to go up) is to further blur the lines between online & offline – i.e. to show over the air radio (including satellite) alongside Internet only streams. We will then make our service available via an API & will encourage a range of apps, some of which would I hope address your exact needs (i.e. find a syndicated show at an alternative time/place) etc.

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  7. […] radio into the 21st century. Here’s an extract from Shannon’s original thoughts on the subject of radios: I’m old enough, just barely, to recall a time when local radio schedules were printed in the […]

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