Contingency Planning

Submitted by StephenK on Tue, 05/12/2009 - 03:28
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One of the problems in podcasting is that it is inherently more complicated than broadcasting. In broadcasting, you create your program and then feed it to a transmitter. Radio waves are generated by the transmitter which can then be picked up by a receiver properly tuned and within appropriate reception range. Podcasting definitely does not work that way. With such being files of pre-recorded material traversing the Internet, there are many potential points of failure. Podcasting is slightly more resistant than streaming multimedia to failure but neither is as easily understood by the consumer as broadcasts are.

To receive content, you should not have to be a specialist to receive it. Turning on a transistor radio to tune in your local NPR affiliate requires knowing how to turn a radio on, tune it to the station you want, and set your volume appropriately. Podcasting adds weightier layers of complexity when you have to have hardware that can process the received file, have to know how to subscribe to the feed, have to ensure that the files are in formats you can actually use, and more. These are major barriers to be surmounted.

Librarians face this conundrum every day. While librarians might like patrons to understand the joyful intricacies of Library of Congress Subject Headings or even Sears Subject Headings, that is the creation of an expectation that users could become specialists. The reference desk serves as the mediating layer that keeps the peace and otherwise makes things work.

The biggest drive as of late is to help push LISNews Netcast Network content over to radio. In case there are errors or bottlenecks preventing people from accessing podcasts, alternative access means would be appropriate. Whether it is low bandwidth availability, filtering, throttling, or worse there are possible cases where the Internet is not a wide open vista for some users. This is partly why the LNN Experimental Feed was inaugurated Sunday night to see if that could get around some of those problems.

How can the network get on radio? That is tricky if you have no money. The current kitty of funds for network operations is made up more of moths than hard currency. That precludes us utilizing "brokered airtime" arrangements at present.

The most viable step we can take is the Public Radio Exchange. This is a way NPR affiliates can license content. This also allows the network a tiny amount of revenue. Most pieces we have posted cost a station five dollars to license. This is a competitive marketplace for us to operate in but, according to the stats PRX has given us, nobody knows we exist.

For those worried about any talk of money changing hands in this, let me put your fears to rest. Trips to Cancun are not being planned. The battery in the audio editing laptop bit the dust Saturday after a hard life of three years. The non-smartphone PDA that was used for cueing sound effects in the past may or may not be brought back from the dead where it seems to be as I write. Replacing the laptop battery alone is likely to cost around a hundred dollars while the PDA cost will be between double to triple the cost of the battery. Maintaining equipment is a larger priority than junkets.

I wish I could do a whistlestop tour of the United States to promote the network to station program directors. We do not have the resources to fund that. We do have listeners who can help with our outreach.

How can listeners help? Call your local NPR affiliate and ask for the Program Director. If they have time, tell them about the LISNews Netcast Network and how we can help serve a niche in your community. If you get their voicemail, you could leave a message like this: "Hi, I'm (insert name here) and I think you should check out the L-I-S-News Netcast Network on Public Radio Exchange. In today's knowledge economy, they have material that you might be able to license for air. Check them out!"

Podcasts are normally resident on one server alone in being served up to end-users. If that server flickers, there become problems with distribution. Radio alternatives may help in the long run with resilience. Amidst the winds of hope and change, utterances by appointees leading the FCC and the FTC relative to Internet regulation tend towards this being a prudent course of action to start pursuing.

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Contingency Planning by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at