The Radio Search Engine: A New Twist to Old Media

Written by Russ Johnson

Russ Johnson reviews the first radio search engine — for finding music, talk shows and podcasts anywhere in the world.

aNewDomain.net — “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” That statement, from Mark Twain, could be the story of radio. Remember radio, that pre-Pandora, pre-iTunes technology that comes out of a hole in your dashboard? Michael Robertson, the guy who created MP3.com, which brought the music industry down on him like a flaming asteroid, may force us to rethink radio.

And this time the industry may like it.

This week Robertson announced radiosearchengine.com, radio’s first search engine. It indexes some 40,000 worldwide stations every three seconds to determine what they are playing. Search for a song or even a talk show, and it will find a station somewhere that is playing it right now. Click on the station and listen with a built-in player, which does not engage the player on your computer. Click on the song title and a pop-up appears that shows a playlist of the last few songs. If the search engine can’t find the exact song, it will locate stations that play similar music.

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Photo credit: DAR.fm

Broadcast stations and Internet-only stations are included as are more than 10,000 talk shows and podcasts. To test Radio Search Engine, I typed in TWIT and got Leo Laporte and Conway Twitty.

Unfortunately, as it is already playing, you will not hear the song or program from the beginning. Robertson calls it a “near demand” audio service.

If you are as clueless about the modern pop scene as I am, popular and trending music is tracked on a live chart and you can sample what is hot with the Justin Bieber set. When I looked, Miley Cyrus and Lady Antebellum led the list. I typed in classical music and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart topped the charts.

Why would the industry like this?  Forget about the maddening scan button on a standard radio, searching by call letter or going to the web site silo of some big media chain. Radio stations and programs can now be found … easily. Robertson told me that some people in the fusty, traditional radio business are welcoming it. “They see Pandora gobbling up their business and they know they must embrace new technology or experience continued deterioration.”

But, what if you simply can’t live without spinning that old radio dial? Robertson has an answer to that, too.

I consider myself a cult “radio guy” who once lived and breathed radio. As a child I spent hours in my room tuning through pops and whistles listening for distant voices, smelling the dust burning off the vacuum tubes of my old Emerson Bakelite radio as it heated up. I was a radio Ham. Radio was my first career. Nostalgia hit me like a bolt of lightning striking the tip of a radio tower when I typed the zip code of my childhood home into Robertson’s uberstations.com. Magically my childhood radio dial, AM and FM, showed up. Just like old times … almost. Stations I remember leaped from my laptop … some of them.  But, although the sound was crystal clear, I can’t say that radio programming, as a whole, has changed for the better.

Radiosearchengine.com and uberstations.com are not mobile compatible … yet. Robertson has published his API, which he links to the site, and says that several third parties are working on apps for Apple iOS and Android, including integrating both web sites. I could see this as the ultimate radio app, the 21st century version of the transistor radio. How many of you remember the transistor radio?

Based in Sonoma, California, Russ Johnson is the founder of Travelmedia and a senior editor at aNewDomain.net covering travel. Email him at Russ@aNewDomain.net and follow him @connectedtravlr.

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