Launching Upload Radio

Radio and audio has never been more successful. More radio is listened to than ever before and podcasts and audio streaming services have meant there’s more sound than ever to stuff in your ears.

In the UK lots of this success has come from the growth of new stations available on DAB Digital Radio and the expansion of what used to be London only stations – 6Music, Absolute 80s, Fun Kids as well as LBC, Magic and Radio X. Great content combined with platforms – particularly DAB – has resulted in happier listeners consuming more radio. This new choice has meant that 44% of the country now listen to DAB radio each week and 18% listen to digital radio through the internet.

At the same time the podcast explosion has seen a wide variety of companies and individuals create brilliant content – but quite a bit of which is trapped in the bowels of iTunes, never being able to be found.

Our company, Folder Media, has always been a big believer in getting people onto the radio. With our multiplex network MuxCo, we’ve got the most diverse bunch of stations on-air, broadcasting on DAB to the ten local areas that we look after.

Nicky, Greg and I have been doing local DAB for a long time. From 2001 we ran GWR’s local digital multiplex network (it’s now owned by Arqiva). When we were there we came up with the idea of Access Channels – shared access services where smaller radio stations could dial in and out broadcast for a few hours a day. We started the project, but it was a little early in digital radio’s development for it to work. The concept though, that’s stayed with us.

We re-visited the idea when started bidding for our MuxCo local multiplexes in 2007, but wondered whether we could make those slots smaller? Could we create a radio station where every hour was up for sale? But then we weren’t sure how we’d be able to build it and how we’d cope with Ofcom’s then rules on advertising and sponsorship.

The idea kept rattling around in our heads though, so as technology advanced and Ofcom’s rules changed, we thought we’d have a go and in 2013 we started working on a system that would let people do just that and buy an hour at a time. I even announced we working on it an Next Radio! Our developer at the time Dean started working with me on the prototype. What we realised pretty quickly was that it was a bloody hard. We’d be building an eCommerce website, a radio station website and a play out system. As well as the code, we’d also really have to work out the logic of all of the different transactions.

Dean then left and Andy Buckingham joined to work on the project. We took what we’d learned from the prototype and then re-built a second version which went through a number of iterations. Andy left in the middle of 2016 and David Madelin joined to finish the work Andy started, taking the platform he had created and finishing many of the elements and finally getting it ready for launch. And today we did just that.

On our Surrey and South London, Wrexham/Chester/Liverpool and our Gloucestershire multiplexes we put Upload Radio live at just gone midnight this morning.

Upload Radio allows anyone to buy an hour of airtime, upload a show, and have it be broadcast on DAB, simulcast online and then be available for 30 days as catchup, it’ll also be on all of the Radioplayer platforms. It’s just £20 a slot. You can include music, advertising, promote other stations and platforms – we don’t mind. We want you to be successful, so as long as you follow Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, we’re fine with it.

Speaking of Ofcom, our team will be moderating all material submitted to confirm it follows the rules.

This project has been quite the slog. We probably would have done it slightly differently if we knew it would have taken this long! It’s also just the start of the project, and product, and we’re very open to suggestions.

Dean, Andy and particularly Dave have all done a great job building it and the wider Folder team, particularly Gregory have been very good at humouring me whilst we’ve been getting this to launch. We’ve also worked closely with RCS for the final playout and distribution, Sharpstream and Radioplayer for streaming and Arqiva and Radioscape for DAB distribution. The Fun Kids and Create teams have also helped seed some programming on the service.

Like all new projects part of this is a bit of a punt. But sometimes you just have to build it to see what happens. What’s your show going to be?