July 17, 1997
This week I’ve been putting in so much overtime at work that I was hard pressed to find a worthy topic. My employer radio station is moving into all digital studios and it’s been murder transferring all the stuff from tape to hard drive. Duh . . . this is the technology column isn’t it? Although most of us listen to local radio, few of us get to see what makes it tick. It may be fun to peek behind the curtain.
The announcers are still live, but in any new studio there are no more tapes. National and regional radio commercials now arrive by modem with no mess, no fuss. When a big advertiser like Mcburger buys Norfolk radio, they usually send a fax with instructions, “Look for code number xyz one and two and put them on in the morning.” Then an electronic delivery service that specializes in that sort of thing sends a few huge files to a computer in the studio. One :60 spot takes about 20 minutes to download.
It costs the advertiser far less than traditional delivery services. About three bucks will get the commercial delivered overnight, a few dollars more gets it there now. Cutting costs has finally translated to cutting edge. That same type of technology has streamlined the rest of the business as well. A master list of events like songs and commercials appears on a touch screen control monitor. Broadcasters then can set the auto-pilot, or play recordings manually by touching a selection on-screen. Today radio announcers are as much computer operators as they are entertainers. Uh, some more entertaining than others.