Whither Radio^
^including its evolved progeny and other audio media:
PODcasts, Internet streams, FM/SCA, Satellite, audio CD and MP3 CD
updated: June 13th, 2017
fast-find> why, hey, biz model, reviews, recording programs, skip commercials,
you're at: http://craigeroochi.neocities.org/radio.htm
contact: craig er oochi  a t  outlook dotty com

* Note that many smart phones, i-Phone/pads/things, as well as MP3 players (or the spendier "i-POD") --have FM tuners. If you're toting something proprietary which runs under a contract, you might have to plead with whoever you're dealing with to "jail break" that function. (They'd rather you streamed a station and paid for connect minutes.) The last MP3 player we owned (Phillips brand) was so equipped, but despite that it had a microphone and voice record function, there did not appear to be a way to record an FM station. (Downloading PODcast MP3s makes more sense anyway.)

* My understanding is that including an AM tuner in a compact device is not only difficult, due to the need of a bulky "loop stick antenna", but the extremely directional pickup (also due to the loopstick) and AM radio's inherent vulnerability to noise and hum --are simply unacceptable in a mobile device. (Car radios use a large, non-directional antenna, perhaps built into the windshield.)

* My experience has been that "talk radio" is seldom to be found on the FM band, at least outside of major urban areas. We have to suffer along with boomy, garbled and interrupted voices on the AM band. I find women's voices are particularly difficult to understand due to the limited audio spectrum of AM radio, which must fit within a double 5 kilocycle band width. That's not much better than a cradle type land-line telephone.

* We have precious resources in today's audio media: the opportunities they afford us to stay on top of current events,  commentary/editorials, political and other cultural developments, literature (old and new) as "audio books", music and poetry. When I'm doing such scut work as manually surfacing an optical component, cutting the grass (while wearing -38dB muffs plus ear plugs) and scraping paint --I can absorb a wide array of wisdom, opinion and information (mostly as downloaded MP3 PODcasts, of course).

* Keep an eye on library book sales as they bail out of audio cassettes. You'll find plenty of fiction and you might find a still current college level literature course for a dollar or two --one which would cost hundred$ to buy new on CDs. (And: you can get a deluxe cassette player at the Goodwill store for just a few dollars more.)

* The problem with that sometimes lies in getting at a particular audio program or piece of music that you're interested in, perhaps due to price and download pay walls. Day-to-day news broadcast programs and live talk shows might require you to endure mind numbing, insultingly stupid, repetitive commercials --the alternative being pay walls around commercial-free, PODcast content, the sharing of which is in turn restricted by claims of copyright (--some of which hurdles are being addressed by the Creative Commons movement --with my deep gratitude).

* The available personal tools of change are mainly the pressures of our patronage, the marketplace, and becoming more aware of what choices are already available to the listener/consumer. These tools might make little difference to the world of media, but they can make an effective and immediate difference for the individual. ("With it" young readers of this page are probably more aware of notebook/i-pad/smart phone options than I am and can run circles around barriers to and burdens upon cultural content.)

I'll itemize some of the choices and coping options we have at hand (that I'm aware of) as well as what seem like poor or non-options.

XM Satellite Radio: * I do appreciate that it avoids the vexing problem of stations fading as one drives, but I otherwise don't understand why XM/satellite radio is much of an alternative option. From reading commentaries about XM, I gather that you pay maybe $10, $15, (whatever the package) per month, but the music channels still have blabbering "DJs", the talk/cultural stations are locked into broadcast type commercial blocks of time, and maybe you end up listening to even worse commercial/break material to fill in those blocks. (It was over 17 years ago that I last used an XM radio device, so my experience is way out of date.)

    ~ Late in 2015, XM radio ran a promotional 3 week period during which some folks could get their satellite service for free --to XM equipped cars in particular. I have a 2008 Suzuki XR-4 with a fantastic and complex entertainment system built into the dash (even the steering wheel), but when I pushed the XM button, nothing happened. (There is no "Sat button".) The owner's manual says I should have paid the dealer extra for a special satellite tuner. Unfortunately, Suzuki quit the USA (thanks to a witch hunt by Consumers Union), so my car's an orphan.

Your own recordings: * All too obviously, you can trouble to make and listen to your own recordings of the live media/stations that you follow and then simply fast-forward through commercials, "fund raising", promotions, PSAs and "underwriter endorsements", but is that game worth the candle? Surely, it's far too distracting while driving.

The simplest way to record audio is to plug a digital or an analog (ie: cassette) recorder's line input jack into an earphone or other audio output jack of the receiving device. If the recorder only has a microphone input jack, then a simple 100-to-one resistive pad will help avoid distortion and interference. (No doubt Radio Shack sells such an item, or the parts to cobble your own.) (My local Radio Shack went out of business.) Obviously, you'd then need to manually start and stop the devices or find a way to program this lash-up to catch what you want to hear --if only with a simple electrical timer that powers both.

I'm aware of two programmable, recording radios which are designed for the purpose of automatically snagging and recording broadcast radio. One is at the "DAR"-something web site, seemingly an enrollment marketing enterprise which gives you any number of $20 kickbacks for getting your friends onboard. (I didn't register, so I don't know any more details.)

The other is a straight-forward product to buy from Sharper Image:
> http://www.sharperimage.com
--a programmable AM, FM, Short-wave radio/recorder for $59.99 (which sounds like a good value).

* When making analog recordings, you might even end up catching and replaying a few commercials which happen to appeal to the shopping interests of you and your family --or maybe it's just a damned good swinging commercial segment that you want to keep. There are a few talented copywriters among the vast dross we're being hammered with --or that we must trouble to fast forward over. (Let them earn our attention.)

Recording, capturing or copying digital content --as digital media, is often facilitated as an MP3 download --to your computer or MP3 player device. There are a ton of software options for doing that, including automatic applications for smart phones, i-PODs, and advanced MP3 players. After learning to reflexively operate the controls, fast forwarding such a digital device might become practical.

I manually download what interests me, then play it on a simple (think I paid $15, years ago) MP3 device, which holds a caboodle of files and remembers where I last left off. (My MP3 player's fast forward sucks, however, so be sure to check that feature before you buy your own device. A small "graphic user interface" helps a lot.)

  ~ Unfortunately, there's nothing "fast" about downloading (say) 50 megabytes of audio over public WiFi --and you want a stronger, near-by signal so the download doesn't get interrupted.
 

For live listening: * Both satellite radio (as I've read) and your local commercial stations subscribe to predictable schedules for those commercial blocks of time --but that's something I'd expect to change from network to network, weekday to weekend; day, to "drive time", to evening, to night.

I've lumped together news, weather, PSAs and sports along with commercials into program breaks. All such segments are short, clipped, and intertwined with commercials. When I timed those blocks via a local station for a short period, they ran 4, 4, 6, 8, and 4 minutes. The highest common denominator is 2 minutes, so one might employ a device which, upon pushing a button, silences either the radio or one's head phones for (say) 115 seconds at a time (allowing 5 seconds to recognize follow-on commercial content and push the button again). It would be easy for a technician to make such an electronic delay switch (based on a timer chip). Is such a utility already built into some modern listening devices --?

* Those blocks of (turned into) quiet time could be spent thinking (oh my!) or talking about the program content you were listening to, doing a fridge break, or even a smooching break :-)

"Muzak" type background music vendors long ago realized how much more pleasing and effective their content was if rather long pauses were periodically included. Those long blabbering commercial breaks might be just the ticket for an ideal program break --if they can be easily and methodically silenced.

However: my problem with simply turning off the radio during commercials is that I quickly get into some other interest and usually forget to turn it back on again. A simple "back on" timer function is exactly what's needed.

* Since the (rather weak) station I listen to tends to run program breaks for periods that are multiples of two minutes, what I once did with our car's entertainment system was to make a 1 minute and 55 second long silent track on an audio CD, which ends with a one second 440 cycle tone. I used the free "Audacity" program to create the silent "WAV" file, then Nero Express (it came with the computer) to make the CD.

    ~ That CD was in slot #6 in our Suzuki's dashboard console, so when a radio commercial came on, I pushed the #6 button. When I heard the beep, I then pushed the AM radio button. If commercials were still running, I again pushed the #6 CD button --etcetera. (Practice that while parked, such that it becomes a non-distractive, no-look reflex.) (But even if you still have to glance at the buttons, that's less distracting than taking your hands off the wheel in order to plug your ears --or to pull out your hair --when a child's voice commercial comes on for the 100th time.)

Howsabout a semi-automatic radio commercial termination and restart system --?

**I think the radio broadcast industry has long passed up on a precious opportunity by not promoting what I call a "magazine format^" for commercial content. Think about it: although newspapers and magazines charge plenty to carry ads, the reader does not have to read them --unless s/he is interested. Radio stations and programs would be far more popular (particularly with upscale demographics) if the repeat-repeat stupefying commercials could be easily silenced.

^I wanted to say: "newspaper format", but newspapers have such an array of problems of their own (including that you can get more local news off a police scanner --and in that local papers shy away from big controversial issues).

! Hey !
! The Radio of the Future !
! with Optional Radio Commercials !

How it might work: * All standard radios would be equipped with a big blab-blare silence button and/or such a button on a remote control.

* Each single commercial block of time would end with a "back on" tweet signal, such that no radio receiver timer is needed --nor any additional listener attention/distraction (so important while driving).

* No doubt TV/cable would soon get on board with something similar. (more)

Questions and comments:

PODcasts: * There are a half dozen progressive talk shows that I'd love to be downloading, but each one thinks I should be paying them $5 to $7.95 per month to do so. Since progressives are all about social motivation and co-operation, and since I can only listen to one such commentator's show at a time, why haven't the more forward thinking of them gotten together in order to sell me a single package --one that lets me download any of their PODcasts (perhaps with a data or hours cap)? It would be easy to figure out how to divide up the proceeds, per the respective numbers of downloads.

I believe the response to such an offer would be tremendous --since the kind of thinking audience they cater to would rather listen to fingernails screeching on slate than to endure even one more repeat AM radio commercial. A year's subscription might cost something like $15 --times millions of listeners.

* Such co-operation is unlikely, but I think a willingness to send a token of support for alternative media (PODcasts) is very likely. Be my guess that vastly more money would be coming in by setting the support level at (say) $10 per year (and donors would want at least an email thank-you, perhaps with a snazzy printable (PDF) citation ("I'm a card carrying dittohead for ___________'s PODcasts --through 2018"). For convenience, support donations would cover the remainder of the current year plus the whole of the following year.

But why not simply do PODcasts for free --but using commercials? * Quality commercials would sure be nice, but since a PODcast lets us easily fast forward, the quality, repetition and stupidity of each commercial would matter a lot less. Simply leave that to the advertiser's discretion. (See the business model for this idea.) An ordinary MP3 player with fast forward would work fine.

Let's hear it for FM radio! * While our car's AM radio works pretty good, our AM pocket radios are horrible, as well as horribly directional. One has to stand just so (radio in pocket, "hold that pose!") to get the station loud and the hum/buzz down to a low level of annoyance. Add to that the din of repeat repeat idiot commercials and AM radio is simply a non-starter for many of us.

Meanwhile, our FM reception is excellent and non-directional. While there's been little by way of progressive talk --just a few milquetoast NPR type shows, those tireless Bible thumpers, and music-music-music --everywhere on the dial, "low power" FM stations are beginning to make better use of the FM wasteland.

* Surely: there's a dim future for commercial AM radio (since, be my guess, most AM stations would rather die than change), and a bright one for commercial PODcasting --once media ownership (old and new) figures it out that forcing folks to absorb repeat commercials (each one of which holds no interest for 99.9% of the listenership) --is counterproductive, and that being able to skip commercials (that we already know by heart, for crisakes) would draw in new listeners like moths to a yard light.

More "Radio of the Future" business modeling:
Hey Mr. Broadcaster: this is really not a "revolutionary idea" --per the discussion above about how magazines do it (and they do very well with advertisers). Moreover (and best you sit down for this): their readers need only look at those advertisements which interest them (OMG!). You could be eating their lunch with a diversity of PODcasts. Talk shows, for which much of the (screened and edited --please) content might be freely contributed by the PODcast audience, might become listenable! (We're talking vetted/edited, called in clips and pre-show back-and-forths on announced forthcoming subjects, of course --which would be far more palatable to the listening audience than stammering, "how are you?"/"I'm fine" live calls.)

I suggest selling the tower (or quitting an expensive lease to be on it), selling the license (while the selling is still good), switching what you're paying for the transmitter's light bill into renting a bigga Internet pipe, then start cutting loose with a plethora of free (so there's no incentive to bootleg and stash them elsewhere) PODcasts --in hopes that others' links to them all "go viral".

The business model is in getting paid by advertisers to create interesting programs and talk shows --according to how many times your shows/programs get downloaded, streamed and linked to from other web sites (which is easily and independently tallied by Internet services such as Alexa).


Audio Media Reviews^
(^Well: more like comments)

* We have at least one excellent progressive talk show option, and much of its content is free to download: Peter B. Collins --at:
> https://www.peterbcollins.com/

--and be sure to catch:
> https://www.peterbcollins.com/2016/09/09/interview-special-911-fifteen-years-on/

* You'll want to archive many of the enhanced interviews offered at "To the Best Of Our Knowledge":
> http://www.ttbook.org/shows-by-year
(It would be nice to send them a donation, should you find their installments to your liking.)

* Amazon.com and maybe your public library may have audio CD versions of books written (and well read) by the author: Simon Winchester. Suggestions:
    ~ The Professor and the Madman
    ~ A Crack in the Edge of the World
    ~ The Map That Changed the World