Website Spotlight

Website Spotlight: Radio Sausalito

Monday, December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

From hyperlocal to global -- that is a core potential of the Internet. For Radio Sausalito, a small AM station whose signal is confined mainly to southern Marin County, webcasting is less about reaching a worldwide audience than making the signal available to local listeners wherever their daily routines take them. But for anyone who tunes in, the programming is unique and deftly curated.

Listening is accomplished via a pop-out in-browser player, or with MP3 and iTunes streams. We are hearing jazz this morning, heavy on Sinatra and other American Songbook selections, with some straight-ahead ensemble work tastefully mixed in. The program lineup is heavily slanted in the jazzy direction across several eras. Stay tuned long enough and you’ll also hear tidal reports and local music event news. There is something charming about listening to a jazz station that also discusses local migrating bird patterns.

Radio Sausalito archives and podcasts three of its non-music programs, one of which (“The Field Trip”) is an arts and entertainment review program.

The station was started by Jonathan Westerling 12 years ago in his home. The station operates with a volunteer staff, accepts CD submissions, and solicits donations in the tradition of a pureplay.

Website Spotlight: NASH FM

Monday, November 18, 2013 - 11:55am

There are two main reasons for a listener to visit a radio station website:

  1. Listen to the station when a radio is not at hand, typically at work; 
  2. Engage with extra content that is related to the station’s category and personality.

From the station’s perspective, an immersive website expands ad inventory and revenue. In the longer term, keeping users involved with the station brand is vital to withstand competition from other Internet-delivered listening options.

NASH FM is a country-music broadcast cluster operating in several markets, extending onto the web with a unified website template that accomplishes basic goals more cleanly and attractively than many others. NASH FM’s site design is better organized and more pleasing to the eye than some radio group templates that are applied to dozens or hundreds of stations.

Basic listening is nicely done. It might seem surprising, but even the essential Play button is executed poorly on some station websites, sometimes throwing the user entirely off the site onto a different platform (such as iHeartMusic). That is a self-limiting error that discourages the user from engaging more deeply with the site. Another usability mistake is failing to open a pop-up control panel, so the music shuts off if the user moves to a different page of the site.

NASH FM sensibly avoids these disagreeable conflicts with a pop-up that includes the recent playlist. A short video ad precedes the radio stream. Our testing revealed glitch-free streaming of that vid -- avoiding a downfall at some station sites that start you off with teeth-rattling video stutters.

NASH FM provides the usual menu of news, weather, and traffic. We are skeptical of value here, obligatory as those sections might be. People have apps for all that. But it doesn’t hurt the experience.

The key question with radio websites is whether they furnish added value that would bring a fan into the experience even if not listening to the on-air stream. NASH FM shines in that department, with station-owned video interviews and concert footage, plus music videos culled from elsewhere.

One content category we look for in a station site is DJ blogging, or some extension of the DJ personality. NASH FM has a blog section in its menu, but it is mostly unused. Granted, the main DJ-listener relationship is concentrated in the air shift, when the DJ is behind the mic. But we long to see blog posts, or DJ tweet streams. Keeping the user attached to station personalities is another dimension of lock-in.

Bonus: Some (but not all) of the NASH FM stations have dedicated mobile apps. In some ways, they are better than the desktop websites -- for example, displaying most popular played tracks, with audio and video samples built in. As such, they serve as music discovery environments for country music.

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