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Our Live Radio MVP Experiment: What did we learn?

On Tuesday at SydStart 2014, Startup Daily decided to run a bit of an experiment.

We decided to run a live audio broadcast via the website for the whole day. I have been wanting to do some live broadcasting activities on the site for a long time. I am a huge fan of podcasts and radio style interviews. I think they create a different level of depth to the conversation that you sometimes lose with the written word.

I am also very focused on making sure that Startup Daily becomes a place where we have an even display of different forms of media – written news, long form journalism, audio content and live as well as pre-recorded video content. As such, we wanted to make sure that we start doing something that is a little bit different. For some time I have gravitated towards radio – I am more relaxed behind a microphone than in front of a camera, where I seem to spend 20 percent of my focus on sucking in my stomach and not being fully invested in the interview.

The Background

My introduction to radio came in 2012, when a good friend of mine Angela Vithoulkas, founder of Eagle Waves Radio launched her station. One of the first shows we put to air was called Eagle Startups. At the time, I was still working full time and had just started Shoe String Media, so we were broadcasting this show at 7.00am in the morning. Our first location was in a small padded room in Ultimo in an old building that had a “Massage Parlour” operating on the floor beneath us – true startup style.

In 2013 we moved location as Vithoulkas built a studio within VIVO Cafe, and we ran the show from 5.00pm to 6.00pm. It was always super fun and it was valuable catching the reactions to questions on air in real time – stuff that you can’t quite communicate when relaying an interview in a written piece.

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Eagle Startups 2013 Live from VIVO Cafe

At the beginning of this year when we moved into an office, I relinquished the Eagle Startups show in order to concentrate on building the Shoe String Media business. It was important for us to concentrate for a good six months on building a solid daily following and building a reputation in the local startup ecosystem as a place to consume startup and tech-related content.

The Experiment

We had been talking for weeks about how we could evolve our STARTUP CAST podcasts. The general consensus of the team was that if we could do something live that would be ideal, especially something that moved at a fast pace, where we could interview multiple people.

We decided that we would trial SydStart as the ground in which we would trial this. It required very little co-ordination in regards to acquiring a line up of guests. From experience, I knew that the coordination of interview talent would be by far the hardest thing to organise and this was a day where we literally had one thousand potential guests all in the one room.

For the technology, we used Mixlr Pro, a startup out of London that is a competitor of the well-funded Turntable.fm. The technology allows us to embed a live player on the site that broadcasts automatically. In the case of Tuesday, we had it playing directly from the home page and also from a post that we created for those that may have been tuning in via a smartphone or tablet.

The set up was simple for this first run. I purchased cheap equipment from Target and JB HiFi.

  • 2 x Headsets with Microphones $32.00
  • Multi-input connector $23.00

I also had existing equipment that I needed such as Macbooks, Google Doc for run sheets, etc

Going Live and Bandwidth Issues

We ran the broadcast from 10am ’til 4pm. Sure, we could have ran this over an hour or even two, but a longer broadcast allows more time for problems to arise and that’s the only way to really see how robust the broadcasting software was.

We originally had things set up in the main hall. However, things were pretty noisy there, and decided to pack up and move to a pair of big red couches we found on the level above where things were much quieter.

Lesson One: We needed to spend more time planning exactly what our needs would be on the day in terms of space and background noise.

The second area of trouble we ran into was as the conference heated up, the internet became bottlenecked. I believe that although we were broadcasting we lost signal for a period of time. Luckily we bought our own source of wireless internet and were able to remedy the issue as soon as we noticed it.

Music Licenses

In preparation I had taken a whole heap of songs from my own purchased music, and loaded them into the software a few days before the event. Until it was bought to my attention that given we are a business, and experiment or not this trial would be benefiting our website and company so playing Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ was a no go zone. Damn!

Lesson Two: Form a strategic partnership with a company such as Pandora or Spotify – or perhaps build a library of direct unsigned artists and work out a revenue share arrangement for when we do commercial broadcasts via the site in the future.

As it was, we ended up using creative commons tracks from Jamendo. It wasn’t that bad, but there is obviously a reason many of them ARE creative commons tracks. It also wasn’t good for consistency we were playing a spanish song, then a french hip hop track and then something with a hipster and a banjo. Reaching a congruent sound and voice for future broadcasts is a priority.

Support Crew

We decided that only myself and one other member of the team would attend. In a normal setting, from our office for example, we would normally only need about three people to bring a one hour broadcast to life. From a live event though we could have easily had a 3 or 4 person crew – perhaps tag teaming and attending all sessions so that we could have given listeners a breakdown on what happened in every single one rather than the sporadic coverage we did have on that part of the conference.

Lesson Three: Live events need more ‘news’ based content – that’s what people are actually tuning in to listen to.

Stats and what they mean for the future

During the broadcast, the stats report from Mixlr showed that we had 1,291 listeners. Given a fair amount of our daily readers were actually at the conference, this was a solid number – though if we promoted the event more aggressively via other channels I am sure that we would have been able to get that number higher.

Listenership peaked when people who were about to come on air tweeted to their followers they were doing so and the guests that had received media coverage and were ‘known’ within the ecosystem maintained a constant listenership throughout their entire segments.

From this, I have learnt a couple of key things:

1. Promotion and Leverage are key to drawing in listener numbers.

2. Radio is a fun medium, everyone enjoys it and has a great time.

3. We need to look at how we can use the software to have dial in conversations, so we can tap into our global network of entrepreneurs we have built.

This was a pretty fun experience, and stay tuned because a little birdie tells me that Startup Daily Radio may be coming very soon.





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