We develop integrated, intelligent tools for the creative industry to boost radio-making into 21st-century experiences.
Establishing conversation between radio producers and their listeners has been part of radio broadcasting for a long time: first via telephone, then via text messages, email and social media. Today, dedicated smartphone radio applications allow us to interact on a more personal level; e.g. through chatbot services. Radio producers are now able to make a real-time connection with listeners not only on-air, e.g. by reading their text messages or calling them directly, but also offline by answering them instantly and personally via their radio consumption applications. This trend introduced a new challenge: listeners expect and demand personalised feedback and radio teams need to be able to cope with this. Moreover, radio stations (often unconsciously) collect data of their listeners but do not fully exploit its potential. In the MARCONI (i.e. Multimedia and Augmented Radio Creation: Online, iNteractive and Individual) project, we have developed a platform with an integrated set of tools for radio producers to deal with these issues and prepare them for the next-generation 360° radio experience. The platform offers tools ranging from chatbots, curation systems and search engines, to the integration of user-generated content in the rundown of the actual radio show. By working together with producers in their own environment, we were able to make the workflow and user interface of the MARCONI tools as fit as possible. We also gained insights into the current technical workflow of radio systems, which allows us to seamlessly integrate the MARCONI platform. To stress the importance of the integration possibilities of the MARCONI platform, we will organise a 6-month piloting period with external radio stations, starting in September 2019. This paper focuses on our iterative design and development process, the evaluation of results, feedback and future plans to be exploited during the piloting period and beyond.
Today, the live radio experience is increasingly augmented with social and other interactive media. For instance, a radio station might organise daily polls on Instagram, or provide the possibility to chat with their DJ’s through WhatsApp or their own application, such as VRT’s dedicated Radio Apps. Instead of serving single listeners on the actual radio show, e.g. via an on-air interview, radio producers now also serve listeners off-air. The distance between radio producers and their listeners is thus decreasing, resulting in higher workload for the producers to manage these interactions. Unfortunately, the tools to enable radio-makers to capitalise on these new kinds of media and interaction opportunities are premature at best, and are in addition ill-aligned with contemporary radio production workflows. The DJ’s desk at the radio station often represents what in software design is referred to as ‘spaghetti’; a cluttered, unconnected collection of screens displaying the show rundown, phone calls, SMS, social media and so on.
In this paper, we will present the design and development of MARCONI, which aims to build a smart and unified editorial application, which at all times shows relevant information, tailored to the radio station. MARCONI also wants to offer a unified API to make it easy to integrate both studio workflows and new external services. MARCONI also includes five elements to support radio producers in listener interaction processes: (1) a conversational interface, (2) a search interface, (3) an automations interface, (4) a curation interface and (5) a poll interface. Through different iterations, MARCONI has been deployed by 3 different radio stations of VRT, which is the public broadcaster of the Flanders region in Belgium; i.e. Studio Brussel, MNM and Radio 1. We report on the iterative design and evaluation process and present the results of this study. The work described has been developed within the EUfunded H2020 ICT project MARCONI.
The paper is structured as follows: first we give a short overview of how we organised the development process. Second, we describe the different steps of this process. Then, we deepen into the actual technical construction of the five elements described above and finally, we conclude with identifying future opportunities.