Success From Data

I spend more and more of my time with data. And I love it.

Being clever and efficient is much easier if your content and any inputs/outputs of your business are structured and well described.

What does that mean? Well, I think anything that you create should be able to be used multiple times for lots of different things. If you’re a radio station you want an action, say the playing a song, to kick off a load of other things. Maybe update the website, show a link to buy tickets, show a picture of the artist, reconfigure the most played list, update an iPhone app, tell an engineer that your playout machine is still up, add a line of detail to your PRS report etc etc. This can only happen if your data is in a fit state so that other systems know what to do with it AND that it doesn’t randomly change.

I was reminded of data partly because of a new innovation in the BBC’s iPlayer. They’re now linking out to the on-demand sections of ITV, C4, C5 and other broadcasters when you do a search in iPlayer it now shows programmes from ‘other providers’.  This can only happen because the broadcasters have made their libraries of content available so iPlayer can ingest them and make searches like that work.

At the moment we’re knee-deep in UK Radio Player bits and pieces. We’re going to be providing pop-up players and power the search for a number of radio stations. But to do this we need stations to get their data in a fit state. This means good now playing information, an up to date schedule, content about on-demand items (like an interview) as well as detailed data about listen again. For many stations it’s going to be a massive change to how they work.

Why bother? Well, the benefits are potentially huge. If you’ve got Robbie Williams coming on your radio station and RadioPlayer knows about it, then a search for Robbie will highlight that. After he’s been on, make sure you’re Listen Again mentions that he popped in and that will show up as well. Chop up the interview into an on-demand piece of content, describe what he talks about and then up he’ll appear in searches for Robbie Williams, Take That and Portvale FC. This could mean more awareness for your radio station, more reach and maybe additional revenue from pre-rolls. But it only works if your data is in a fit state.

We’re spending our time building tools to make all of this easier and help you along the way. Already RadioBase takes Now Playing information and ‘harmonises’ it for spellings or odd station-specific information eg Destiny’s Child (Breakfast Edit) all gets ‘fixed’. We’ll be deploying further tools to cope with schedules and on-demand audio as well as linking your data to other interesting things – artist imagery etc that you can use all over the place.

In the meantime, have you thought about tiding up your data to get ready for these changes? What state is Selector in? Are all the artists correctly coded, is the CapITAlisatioN right? Is your playout configured so that internal data isn’t published? Is your schedule in a database that can power lots of systems? Is there anything that keeps track of where that interview is? What can you start fixing tomorrow?

In the new world, being competitive is going to mean more than just playing the right songs, it’s going to mean making sure that you’re extracting every bit of value out of every little thing that you do. It also means making sure that everyone at your station knows the value of all of this too and how they can adapt what they do to make their work even more valuable.