Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day two: another personal conclusion

Exciting two days, a fascinating round of devoted radio makers, thrilling discussions. But questions remain.

Everybody has been talking about multimedia for the past ten years. That was just the wrong discussion. It never was about multimedia. It's about media instead. About stories, thoroughly researched and artfully crafted. Stories told on all channels there are today: radio, TV, the web, games, audio guides, pods and pads, mobiles, virtually any device capable of reproducing sound.

Of course: Radio documentaries are expensive, and budgets are cut down. Yet, the audience will always be in need of good stories, and public radio managers will always be in need of good content. And: There are a number of options.
  • There's inventive and participatory projects, there's user-generated content.
  • There's viral marketing, social media communication, crowdfunding.
  • There's radio events engaging young listeners as well as producers.
  • There's new multimedia platforms minimizing the distribution costs.
  • There are different backgrounds for radio docs, like classical or rock and pop channels.
  • There's collaboration with other feature makers, cross-company, cross-country.
  • There's cooperations with other broadcasters, with newspapers, telecom and mobile companies, universities, museums.
  • There's new forms and formats, fascinating combinations of radio doc and other art forms.
And above all: There's all those original, weird, fantastic ideas making original, weird, fantastic pieces of audio art. This is what it's all about.

Paths in the legal jungle

"Copyright is very complicated", says Peter Goethals from the legal department of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). International treaties, EU-wide harmonisation attempts, national copyright laws (defining subject matter, originality, authorship, ownership, moral richts, and contract aspects) are a legal jungle. There are reproduction rights. there is the right to broadcast. There are authors, performers, CD producers, film producers, broadcasters, ISPs, and they all claim their rights. A way out might be a more efficient licensing model, Goethals says: Today's complex licensing processes lead to wasting money on administration instead of spending it on creativity. Simplified licensing is also important in the fight against online piracy.

In 2010 the EBU made a proposal ("Modern copyright for digital media") in order to achieve a modern, coherent rights clearance system for both traditional radio and TV services and proadcasting-related online services. "Its basis", Goethals says, "is to apply the law of only one country, being the law of the member state in which the broadcaster sits". The EBU also proposes a broader use of the "Extended Collective Licensising Systems", a rights clearance system successful in northern Europe that is more flexible, technologically neutral and future-proof. Another EBU proposal: a simplified music licensing for online services. "What we need is a one stop shop", as Goethals puts it: Public service broadcasters are mass-users of music (a major broadcaster uses up to 200.000 music pieces per year), and EBU members pay over 1 billion Euros every year. Today's individual licensing system does not make sense any more.

Radio from the printing press

Audio used to be the property of radio. But these times are gone. Newspapers are crossing the borders. Francesca Panetta (The Guardian), head of audio, has been a radio maker for a long time, before she went to the Guardian five years ago. Today she and her team produce 30 minutes podcasts ("intelligent high quality audio") of all kinds, including documentaries. Successfully: The Guardian website counts 375.000 listeners a week.

Usually the print journalists come up with the ideas and topics, whereas the radio journalists do the audio and video programmes. Multimedia is a growing part of the company (costs: £ 3M/year), Panetta says, and their task is to implement the Guardian's "Digital First" strategy. Multimedia projects, audio slides, an IP TV channel, long format TV - "the Guardian, 190 years old, is a very agile company", as Panetta puts it. "They are not afraid of failures. When I came there was just a newspaper website. 'Launch something else', they said to me. And we do. It's a really exciting place to be."

Nutshell: John Theocharis

What a nice coincidence that your ‘digital’ discussion in Leipzig takes place exactly 75 years since a British scientist, Alec Reeves, filed the first patent describing Pulse-Code Modulation in 1937. Within five years, in 1943, his invention had led to the first Digital Scrambled Speech Tx System, and by 1985 to the first 12-track mixer-recorder. And the rest, as they say, is History, and very exciting too!

I am pleased to say that by and large I agree with the views, the challenges and the reservations already expressed. I was lucky enough to experience the great advantages of digital recording and editing in the early nineties, and I certainly taste the offers of the likes of Radio Player, BBC iplayer etc...

Nothing perfect under the sun, and, like any other relatively new departure, the spread of Digital offers excitements along with some worries as has already been noted. I see no need to go over known ground, but I certainly hope that the marvellous facilities in recording, editing and compiling Radio Features, for instance, of exceptional sound quality won’t compromise the essential quality of content and production. I’m sure none of us would be interested in the radio equivalent of ‘fast food’, thank you very much! The customer we serve, the good, serious radio listener, deserves better.

I firmly believe that ideally in radio drama and Features 1+1=3; that, if you like, 2+2=5, or even 6! The structure, the juxtaposition of elements can create fleeting yet almost solid entities on the listener’s inner screen, and give him or her a rare insight or satisfaction. So, let’s be positive, try to solve practical questions of Rights, of length of time allotted to recording, production, editing etc. And, above all, let’s always do our personal best for the sake of our fellow-worker, the listener.

Sorry about the size of this Coconut, but do allow me to conclude with a few lines from something I wrote for another radio occasion.

The listener’s Computer-Brain,
- The world’s most wonderful machine -,
Enables him to bring to life
What’s only heard and never seen.
At its most brilliant, Radio is
A perfect form of Television;
It gives us sounds, silence and words,
And we ourselves supply our Vision.
Yes! Genuine Radio is at heart
A Visual Craft that’s life-enhancing.
A crafted piece of Radio
Can take a man or woman
To the essence, to the very heart
Of being alive, human."

John Theocharis, freelancer, United Kingdom

Nutshell: Andrey Allakhverdov

As my colleague Elena Uporova noted, before asking whether there's future for the radio (we mean documentary radio) in my country, one has to ask whether it had the past and the present. A very short answer for Russia is no, it didn't. It was a very short period in the post-Soviet radio history when journalists got enthusiastic about making documentaries but in a very short time it became clear that the stations which can broadcast such formats would not do it for political reasons, and commercial stations would not do it for commercial reasons. And there is no culture of listening to such programmes in my country. But we regard radio documentary not only as a product but as a process, the process of making it. And strange as it may seem, in my view the new formats where video, audio, photo, graphics are mixed up can (not necessarily will, but can) give a new life for the radio documentary, at least here in Russia. All the serious documentary-makers say that a new documentary is based on an audio narration, on a story told in sound. It is radio journalists who are the core of a team which would make new documentaries. So the process has a chance to stay. It definitely won't be the good old radio which you only listen to. But its power, its palette, the deepness of a radio story will remain. At least in my country I see no other way. I understand that what I say is a bit simplified view, but I had to keep it short."

Andrey Allakhverdov, FNR, Russia

Go web young man

Gisela Krone (ARD online) presents the ARD radiofeature, the central platform of Germany's seven feature departments built in 2010. The site provides an easy-to-use feature gallery providing information on the piece, the author, a preview audio teaser as well as the full broadcast for downloading together with the manuscript. The documentary player provides a large timeline and additional material such as photos, illustrations, charts, texts, or links. The site focuses on a small number of elaborate and investigative radio pieces.

Dokublog is the web 2.0 platform of the SWR feature department built in 2008. Dokublog is a platform "for sound hunters and feature makers", as Dokublog maker Wolfram Wessels puts it, inviting them to submit their pieces as well as all the sounds they recorded. Selected productions are broadcast in SWR's feature broadcast "Mehrspur". The site can be browsed not only by features, broadcasts, recording locations or authors but also by sounds. Any feature or sound may be re-used for new productions. 1800 recordings and features have been submitted so far.

Wikileaks made in Sweden

"SR Radioleaks" is radio closing in on Wikileaks. The idea was a really quick starter: In December 2010 the idea was presented to the SR director, and the day after (!) the press releases were out. "Radioleaks" is a website allowing whistleblowers to securely transmit their information. Once submitted to the SR, the information will be evaluated, checked, researched, and finally the stories are made. "Many people know about the abuse of power, about corruption and misconduct, but they have no connections to the media", says Rolf Stengard, editor in charge and former head of the Swedish radio news department.

"Radioleaks" started in March 2011. 600 hints have been submitted so far, leading to 50 news stories (corruption, tax fraud, careless construction). "Radioleaks" is about to go local, Stengard says: All of the 25 local radio stations will have their own whistleblower platform.

The paintbrush microphone

In 2002, Silvain Gire founded Arte radio ("reportages, témoignages et bruits pas sages"), a radio on demand website produced by a small team. "Arte radio", Silvain Gire says, "is a box of chocolate" - no music, no format, no photos, but a dedicated web-based feature channel. Every week there are three to five new productions, either to be podcast or downloaded.

Producers (from beginners to professionals) are paid for the productions, but Arte radio basically being a website there are no distribution costs. Young authors are being trained until their ideas have turned into feature projects. In the end the pieces are free for education use, as well as for non-commercial broadcasting. Gire: "We believe in radio as an art form, and we use the microphone as a paintbrush to do a painting of the world".

Gire else presents the award-winning project "Á l'abri de rien" (nowhere safe) having won the Prix Europa 2011. "À l'abri de rien" is a web documentary on shockingly poor housing conditions in France which 3.6 million people are suffering from. Samuel Bollendorff and Mehdi Ahoudig did the deep research, careful to keep the respect for the men and women who opened their doors to the cameras. "À l'abri de rien": 15 three-minute stories told in breathtaking photos and monologues.

Radio feature assembly line

Lisbeth Jessen (head of a TV master school), formerly working for the DK feature group (see below), presents Denmark's new urban FM channel Radio 24seven established to be a competitor to Denmark's DK P1. Radio 24seven, among many other (old-fashioned) formats, has started producing radio features according to a new concept called "Raw Tapes": Young producers do recordings, seven hours long, which then will be broadcast, one hour each night. Meanwhile the feature producer grabs the material and turns it into a full-blown radio feature which, in the end, will be broadcast at daytime. "Raw Tapes" brought Radio 24seven into contact with a whole lot of unknown, young, and promising producers.

Denmark's third ear

2007 the danish public broadcaster DK closed down the radio documentary department. Tim Hinman, eager to add a bright chapter to a sad story, founded "The Third Ear" in 2009 (overall cost: € ~250.000) - a project not only meant to be about art, but to be art itself. "The Third Ear" is a multimedia art magazine. 20 issues have been produced so far, issued monthly, and providing long audio features and art videos: Artists are filmed doodling and drawing while the user listens to the audio documentary on that artist. "Audio on the internet is growing, and it's here to stay", Hinman says.

Hinman's team startet with literally no users at all. There was no PR at all, but there were personal connections, there was Facebook, and in the end there were the press and TV. Du to a lack of further funding, the project had to close down.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day one: a personal conclusion

What a relief: The audience still is faithful to crafted radio. Yet, radio doc makers must look for new ways of telling their stories in the multimedia world. Mind the power of the archives: So many documentaries have been buried there to be forgotten - the Irish RTE project of daily publishing archived radio docs online is highly promising.

The web provides what radio doc makers have been dreaming of for decades: the ability of telling stories when, where and how the audience wants. "Whe have not chosen the internet", Silvain Gire (head of Arte radio, Paris) says, "the internet has chosen us". Yet knowing that the business of radio doc being sound, and knowing the internet being a powerful new means of distribution, new media can be more: an open space from which new formats can arise - thrilling new combinations of media (audio, text, photo) that have been separate so far.

Radio is special. Radio is a home rather than media; no other media eventually is as close to its audience. But linear radio consumption is in decline, and multimedia distribution is meant to compensate. On the other hand, the web is becoming more and more personal; nowadays our web browser knows more about ourselves than we do, and narrows our horizon. (Social media platforms may widen it again, allowing discoveries on the basis of our friends' preferences.)

Media making is telling stories. And nobody tells stories better than radio features do. Linear broadcasting, that fantastic discovery machine, is unreplaceable, and yet is has to be reinvented. I believe that virtually nobody can do this better than the best storytellers there are: radio doc makers.

Makers quest 2.0

In 1988 10 freelance radio producers met at a kitchen table on Murray Street, New York city, and founded the association of independents in radio (AIR). AIR, counting more than 800 members today, aims at identifying and attracting talents. AIR provides mentorship programs, scholarships, media awards, publications - and a so-called "inner sanctum", a high traffic web forum.

Public media in the U.S. were established not until 1970, and till 1988 there was a phase of experimentation. By about 1980 the public radio audience started to grow significantly. By 1998, the percentage of listening to nationally produced programmes grew from 49% to 62%. In 2000, half of all listening to public radio was generated by 53 programs; in 2005 by 19. Now, Schardt points out, public radio in the U.S. is in a phase of paradox: "The stations have been so successful and are so busy doing their 24/7 programmes that they hardly find the time to experiment with new forms and formats the future demands."

The MQ2 (Makers Quest 2.0) project aimed at diversifying public radio content, of new participatory ways of telling stories. Eight talented producers, five months, $ 40.000 each - in the end there were seven catching stories, told on innovative websites, in sound, text, photos, videos, interactive maps. There are five ingredients for successful media innovation, Schardt says:
  • Leadership
  • Entrepreneurial talent
  • Building on a legacy (infrastructure, mission)
  • The right assignment
  • Tracking and expressing the impact

Radio feature on top

"It's nice to be part of the future", Kari Hesthamar and Berit Hedemann (Norway's NRK, radio feature department) say. The future is this: Three years ago NRK started publishing their radio features on top of the NRK front page, the second biggest website of the country. A win-win situation: The radio documentaries are being featured on top, and the NRK front page gets the most precious of all contents: well researched and carefully told stories.

These stories are packaged, so that the front page articles (including the radio piece) can be updated on a daily basis, by side stories, extra material, photo galleries, interactive maps, even by news on the topic. Take the topic first, then expand it by additional stories and news: This makes it kind of news journalism in reverse. "It's great for us to be useful for the NRK website", Hesthamar and Hedemann say. (And above all it's great for a national media website to be useful for the radio documentary.)

NRK's radio doc editors made experiments trying to combine photos with the audio, "but they didn't really work together", Hesthamar and Hedemann admit. Which does not mean it cannot work: Radio features combined with stills will not make any video nor a film. At the core it will remain radio documentary, but in a new, innovative form requiring new talents and skills.

Is the screen a space for features?

Radio feature makers are storytellers. The recent death of Kodak is a great story, Simon Elmes (BBC, radio documentary/creative director) says. Kodak has been obliterated by the "creative destruction" of the digital age. In short: Kodak was slow, conservative, and became obsolete. How about the radio documentary?

The good news first, according to Simon Elmes:

  • Classic radio doc is in good health.
  • Features and feature-type programmes are still plentiful.
  • Craft standards have risen.
  • In recent cuts, speech radio largely escaped unscathed.
  • Production time has been protected.
  • Audiences are rising.

But as to the audiences, there are challenges.
  • shortening attention-span
  • permanent multi-tasking
  • impatience with programmes that "don't deliver quickly"
  • loss of "radio culture" amongst key future demographics (15-35 year-olds)
  • many of this group don't own a radio, or even a DAB set
  • absence of radio devices smartphones
In a noisy marketplace and in times of poor funding, the quiet seriousness of sustained feature-making of up to one hour in length is necessarily going to be a luxury that fewer people will consume. The responses: short forms, packages, magazine programmes. The dangers: a loss of culture, de-skilling.

As a possible response Elmes presents an experiment called "Don't log off", a BBC project meant to be a source for feature material. Fans of the "Don't log off" Facebook page were interviewed via Skype and told their personal, touching stories which were recorded, combined to narratives of life and loss, and broadcast. The "Don't log off" Facebook community lives on, its members keep communicating with one another. "A kind of real life reality soap", Elmes says.

"The web throws the basic parameters of professional feature-making into question", Elmes concludes. "Anyone can assemble and disseminate. Everyone talks about personalisation - what form does a personalised feature take?" The big questions remain: Is the screen an art space? How do we fill it for features? visualisation? slide shows? complementary feature content? do-it-yourself content?

Audiences on the move

"No media ever dies", says Gunnar Garfors, president of the International DMB Advancement Group (IDAG), Norway. TV, web, papers and radio are still going strong. We spend 7,5 hours on the media daily, and according to the audience listening to the radio is still very important. Today FM car radio usage is even stronger than normal FM radio usage.

A couple of years ago telecom companies aimed at offering any kind of data services in order to earn more money. Today, broadcasting networks are overloaded, and the whole industry is waiting for the new Long Term Evolution (LTE, 4G) technology which is hoped to solve all the problems. It won't, nor will the internet, Garfors points out, for 16 reasons:
  1. Heavy usage can take down the internet.
  2. The internet is a playground for gatekeepers (access providers, Apple, governments, IT companies).
  3. Broadcasting networks are hard to hack.
  4. Wifi/3G/4G chipsets consume a lot more energy.
  5. Radio and TV provide too much data for the internet, and costly too. If Norway's public broadcaster NRK would distribute their TV and radio programmes on the internet costs would increase by € 150.000.000/year.
  6. Internet access is not free of charge.
  7. There is not enough bandwidth available.
  8. Broadcasting works at high speeds.
  9. Rural areas are not well covered by high speed internet.
  10. Broadcasting is not onl for live radio and TV (also map informations, bus stops etc.).
  11. Net neutrality is threatened (media, ISP, users).
  12. Broadcasting covers big areas effectively.
  13. Only one distribution channel means no backup (transactions, electricity, phone, radio, TV, traffic information, filecasting, broadband, emergency communication).
  14. Anonymous media consumption is only available via broadcasting thanks to the data retention act that has been passed across Europe.
  15. Double distribution is not effective, economical nor wanted.
  16. Ordinary web traffic is already increasing extremely fast (by 2015 15 billion devices will be connected).
And now? Broadcasting and internet - the combination is king, Garfors says. Combining DAB/DAB+/DMB broadcasting with data layers allows
  • new formats, services, and revenues
  • an increasing dialogue with listeners/viewers
  • a cost-efficient combination of live and on-demand content
  • touch screen shopping (smartphones, pads, even GPS devices)
Radio must go digital, Garfors concludes. The technology (DAB/DAB+/DMB) is available, cost-efficient and mature.

"Radio feature is paying its way"

RTE Ireland (documentary on one) produces 50 documentaries a year, aired quite irregularly. So "documentary on one" was in need of other ways of publishing, as Liam O’Brian (head of features) points out. Platform coordinator David Timpson presents RTE's "platform agnostic" new media concept:

• mpeg-4-on-TV broadcasting
• desktop on-demand player
• iOS/Android mobile apps

In 2011 the RTE radio docs accounted for a total of 14% of all the RTE radio podcasts (all channels) - a much larger audience than they would have reached on FM.

Timpson presents the "loswal" (listened on same week as live), a post broadcast aggregate of all new media platforms (radio player online, mobile, doc site streams, podcasts, windows media streams, real audio streams etc.) RTE metrics show that a radio doc aired at 18:00 on Dec 3 2011 reached 29k listeners. The aggregated multimedia platforms reached another 29k; this parity of loswal and FM was a huge surprise.

RTE also started publishing documentaries from their archives, one every day (O'Brian mentions an astonishing fact: A piece published before 10am will be downloaded twice as much compared to publishing at 4pm). "The radio feature is paying its way, both on traditional and on newer platforms", the RTE makers conclude.

Since radio documentaries do not only need an audience but also money, O'Brian and Timpson think about adding radio advertising to their features - not very appealing, Timpson admits, but probably RTE's next step.

The multi-platform future

Let's talk about technology: It is new technology that changes radio. In March 2005 the headline of the  "Wired" magazine read "The end of radio". Nothing could be more wrong. Radio appears to be at pretty good health: 90% of the audiences in the UK listen to the radio at least once a week. "Radio is massive", James Cridland (Media UK, managing director radio futurologist) says. People still discover music mainly through radio, either on AM/FM or on the web. Why could "Wired" be so wrong?

The radio world is highly fragmented; there are very few real radio brands. Broadcasting technology is fragmented as well - FM/AM, Internet, mobile phones, DAB/DAB+, DTV... "The world is getting multi-platform", Cridland says, "and radio is going multi-platform as well." Still 2/3 of the radio consumtion is by FM/AM, yet there is DAB (BBC radio 6 music), or even TV (BBC radio 1xtra).

The most important radio platform, Cridland says, is the internet. Yet, every station has got its own player and distribution technology - the only exception being the UK radio player replacing all the different players the stations had built before. (Its usage is exactly the same as it always was: When people are getting up they tune in, either on AM/FM or on the web, and they keep using the radio player the whole day long, until late at night.)

The second most important platform is the mobile, especially the iPhone, a device that has done so much better than any other mobile device. Accordingly the question should be: How can we do the same with radio? By means of crowdsourcing and user-generated content. An remarkable tool for getting the audiences' voice on air is, a mobile app that lets people record and hand in their recordings with a single tap. The industrial revolution called internet can also change the process of radio making. Instead of of costly radio studios you just need a free software like Audacity or an iPhone/iPad/Android app to create high quality audio pieces.

Publishing programmes on the web, Cridland says, will let much more people listen to them than just by broadcasting. Cridland's conclusions:
  • The future of radio is multiplatform.
  • Radio needs to concentrate on the user interface and discovery.
  • Media is changing from consumption to creation.
  • Recognise the power of the brand.

Public service radio: Still going strong but declining

"In terms of reach and market share, public service radio broadcasting is still going strong, but on the long run it is declining", says Alexander Shulzycki, head of research, European Broadcasting Union. Even though the reach still is remarkably strong across Europe, a long term erosion has become obvious. On the other hand, Facebook, Twitter and video-sharing sites are increasing fast. On average public service Media are present on three social media platforms. Services like dominates the online listening with younger generations. Yet, 71% do not make their broadcasts available online due to copyright problems.

Media surveys in the U.S. shows a slow but steady growth of online radio consumption over the past eight years (, an algorithm-driven online music service not available in Europe, dominating online listening). U.S. audiences listen to radio via mobile phones (mostly downloaded music, also podcasts and simulcasts) and iPads.

Knowing that traditional market research can hardly predict what is ahead of us, Shulzycki's 10 to-dos for public service broadcasters are:
  1. Use storytelling and dramatury in order to enhance audience interaction.
  2. Split your content on different platforms.
  3. Enhance on-air, online and on-site cross-media interaction.
  4. Ensure your presence on the platforms where your listeners are.
  5. Protect your channel brand and bring your listeners back home (to your website).
  6. Personalise and create narrative content.
  7. Take advantage of user-generated content (UGC) and the "collective mind" of the listeners.
  8. Pay attention to on-topic posts published by listeners and fans.
  9. Pay attention to the social media manager (a key success factor).
  10. Make creative and experimental use of social media.

But change you must

Andy Parfitt (formerly head of BBC 1, now Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon, executive director of talent EMEA) starts by looking back to the times when radio feature making basically meant cutting audio tapes. Sitting there with all the material, the core of the editing process was exactly the same as it is today: to bring clarity and simplicity to the stories to be told.

"Public broadcasters tend to be afraid of young audiences. They fear not to understand them", Parfitt says. Yet, catching young audiences are the true challenge. How bridge the gap? "Brand thinking is very relevant to feature making in the Facebook age", Parfitt says. A brand is a promise, an experience, and a memory. So if a radio station thinks about using other ways of distribution such as the web or social media, brand values become even more important. Parfitt's lessons learnt:
  • Consistent values and content
  • Success makes change hard, but change you must.
  • Producers are very often very unlike audiences.
  • Radio people mostly have humility. Which is wrong.
  • Whatever you do, make it more than broadcasting - make it as much as it can credibly be. "BBC Radio 1", Parfitt says, "is an idea, an idea about youth, about music - and everything done on air, on the web, on mobiles, is congruent."

Parfitt's "new creative agenda": event-driven participation and playfulness. The world has changed:
  • Young radio listening hours (audiences younger than 35) in the UK are in decline.
  • Mobile web on hi-definition screens sees exponential growth.
  • Social Networks in the UK increase bei 400% in 4 years.
  • Try asking for a radio in a Tokyo electronic store...
  • Public radio continue continue to commission thousands of audio features.
  • There's more "listening" than ever.
  • Speech radio audiences commute by car (journeys are getting longer).
  • Apple has sold its one-hundred millionth iPod in 2007.

There are only 13 years between the first Netscape browser and the iPhone 4 - an industrial revolution beyond imagination. Today, Parfitt concludes, the opportunities for innovation are plenty.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Welcome to the Think Tank Leipzig!

Welcome to the Think Tank Leipzig! Here, surrounded by the astounding architecture of the Mediencampus Leipzig and hosted by the Medienstiftung der Sparkasse Leipzig we will start our discussions on the radio feature, on cultural radio and its audience, on old and new media. We will look for new ways to go, and we will spend the next two days drawing the outlines of a better future. (And I, Thomas Weibel, will be drawing with and blogging* for you.)

* The Think Tank Leipzig blog is meant to be a kind of memorandum in the Latin sense of the word. Yet, I need your help: Join in the discussions, feel free to agree, disagree, correct, comment, and add whatever you like. The "comment" button - this blog! - is yours.

Nutshell: Silvia Lahner

What has the feature community achieved?

A medium called radio, which seems to be a little beyond its technical zenith: whether this impression seems to be right or wrong. But his has to be discussed.

What do we need?

We should hold on to content, which has been with us for some 40 years. But we should face other challenges – like the need to adapt to a younger audience, more familiar with new technologies of communication.

What will be our goal for the future?

Without accepting compromise on content, remain close to state of the art and be as flexible in using communication techniques as our form of art permits.

Thus radio features have to remain as close to their themes as they always were."

Silvia Lahner, ORF, head of the feature department, Austria

Nutshell: Kaye Mortley

But there are several other things, as well as all the rest.

because these nutshells are all talking about so many different things, all at the same time.

first there is broadcast, or rebroadcast.

rebroadcast on the web is all for the good for the listener.

perhaps for the author there is the problem, evoked by others, of letting one's work "go"...

but it is a lovely and very proper idea for this sort of airy work.

in a sense I have always thought that this was what radio was about.

however, in some countries rebroadcasts do help to supplement the author's (small) earnings: web rights are really very small, if at all.

perhaps some authors will fall by the road financially because of this.

perhaps that's the way the cookie crumbles.

perhaps it doesn't matter.

or does it?


broadcast on the web... making for the web... this is where I really begin to wonder...

on internet, we can re & /or broadcast the same things as a radio station.

or the same sort of thing.

only shorter or faster or more amusing or funnier or "younger" or ...

this is not really internet specific, it has nothing to do with the aesthetics of "writing in sound" on internet... or the deontology of the problem to hand.

it is exactly the same sort of issue as broadcasting an electronic music composition (already a recording in concert form) on the air waves: it is only the support changes which changes.

no, the real question is not there.

anyway this has already been done on a lot of radio stations.

the real question is:

is there an internet specific type of product(ion)?

a product to be found?


and why?


and which will be made in what conditions?

and who is going to pay for these internet specific productions (except for Arte Radio and and a few others I don't know about)?

and what are the public broadcasting services who still (even though we sometimes choose to see them as shortly to be dead and buried) going to be doing while all the (frustrated, and possibly impoverished and isolated) radio creators are trying to produce "something"- in conditions as yet undetermined, their own digitally equipped garrets and garages- to make a feature in the digital age."

Kaye Mortley, freelancer, France

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nutshell: Kasia Michalak

Why is the radio so close to us?

Because many of us have been growing up by the radio.

The today’s young generation is growing up in front of a screen and is not interested in listening to audio stories, perceiving this way of depicting reality as unattractive, lacking vividness.

I frequently meet young people who have never heard of a radio feature. Or they have heard the term but never the feature itself. Although there are millions of radio feature podcasts available on the Internet...

Hence, I see the need for doing the most basic things.

Promoting the art of listening.

In our regional radio station features are presented regularly from Monday to Thursday at 10 p.m. After broadcast we have live discussions with our listeners.

Once a month we give an award to the most interesting commentary sent to us by internet users.

Also once a month we organise in Lublin meetings with the most renowned feature makers.

Each time we are promoting the event wherever we can - on radio, TV, press, the internet (the internet is a means not the aim!). We meet in a cult cafe in the Lublin Old City, first listen to the feature and then talk for a long time. Lots of young people come. They say they prefer listening together than via facebook (after all, the very process of listening is always solitary experience). They seek and they find something new.

Our another project (currently at the preparatory stage) is an audiobus. We want to travel from one town to another (around whole Poland), set out loudspeakers and chairs at squares or backyards and invite the residents to join us in listening to local stories conveying a universal message. A kind of travelling audio theater.

Because it is the MEETING that a radio feature is about. A meeting with a character, with a listener. A first hand live experience. It takes three things to make this meeting possible: silence, a moment of standstill, and eagerness to find out what others think or feel.

What we can do is ensure at least the first two..."

Kasia Michalak, PR, head of radio feature, Poland

Nutshell: Daniela Manolova

Here is my humble opinion too. A year ago I visited the 100-and-a-half-year old listener Rebecca at her place in Sofia and made an interview with her. She was blind since months, but in very good condition. Her memories about radio start with the fact that a relative of her brought some techncal pieces from Germany in the 20-s and constructed her first radio receiver by himself. During the Second War the use of radio receivers was banned in Sofia and the government officially closed each of them with a special stamp. War was somehow silent for Rebecca. Talking about radio in her life she used a special phrase: Radioto mi e priyatelche - Radio is my little friend. There is something amazing in the use of the bg word 'priyatelche' - 'little friend' here. The word for 'a friend' is 'priyatel', for 'a woman friend' is 'priyatelka' and it has a meaning of a friend and a lover as well. 'Priyatelche' is of neutral gender and sounds already asexual, small, vulnerable, sincere, fragile. Rebecca used that word to express her tenderness, loyalty, carefulness and deep deep long long dependence from it. Radio is as old as Rebecca, actually. 'Priyatelche' was the simplest and the most precise word for the phenomenon in my eyes. Maybe this is the code for the future. Objective or completely subjective, if radio (feature) remains our priyatelche there will be a reserved place in our heart for him. Maybe the question is about the tone, to find the tone or keep the tone with the help of all new tools and instruments - the tone of communication in the digital age."

Daniela Manolova, BNR, head of radio feature, Bulgaria

Nutshell: Sue Schardt

What do we take with us of our old culture when we have to go to a new country? What becomes more important, what is forgotten, what is diluted or strengthened, what is new in the old or old in the new?

Filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger speaks of the past and thre present and, indeed, public media makers in the US find ourselves at a crossroads that is affecting the political, economic, and artistic landscape relative to the role of the maker. With very few exceptions, the traditional approach to long form, sound rich documentary-making is at a low point, with little funding and few opportunities of significance in the United States to reach a meaningful audience. This situation has not come by accident, but is the culmination of a 24-year trajectory that began with the first comprehensive national report on the public radio audience. “Audience (19)88” and the well-funded, widely supported evolution of public radio’s research-driven, news journalism franchise has led the industry to great success in terms of building a significant constituency of core listeners (11% of the American public) and a diverse revenue model drawing from government, foundation, corporations, and average citizens. This evolution as resulted, too, in the virtual elimination of experimental work, and minimized opportunity for producers working in any area outside of news reportage.

At this time of greatest success, the industry is being threatened as never before by the challenges posed by digital media and the explosion of new channels that draw the attention of its traditional audience. There is, at this time of tremendous consolidation, a creative renaissance underway. AIR has, over the last 4-years and with two new initiatives – MQ2 and Localore – begun to exploit this opportunity to develop a new strategy that turns to producers – those who are most adaptive, entrepreneurial…those not constrained by institutional boundaries – to lead new invention that blends traditional, public mission-oriented storytelling, with new digital tools and platforms. Our vision is one that joins together a new creative vanguard of inspired producers with the traditional infrastructure represented by the interconnected network of 1200 public radio and television stations across the U.S. I look forward to hearing, and sharing more in the days ahead."

Sue Schardt, association of independents in radio (AIR), executive director, USA

Nutshell: Ulf Köhler

It is time for documentary makers to come out of the niche of cultural radio.

The time for documentaries in the range of analogue radio is fading out. Making documentaries is so expensive that it's no longer viable to broadcast solely through the traditional airwaves, only to be listened to once - we must be looking for multiple platforms for our pieces.

Let's use the internet (podcast, download, streaming) in order to provide the pieces to more listeners.

But it is not helpful to use the worldwide web only as an additional distributer of our labour of love.

In these times the paradigm has to be changed.

Let's move over to a certain production of documentaries and sound scapes as well as for the worldwide web. In this harsh time of coping with different opinions and burning issues it is necessary to offer the user trustful information, more additional facts, more stuff coming from the background. I also mean biography of the author, slideshows, facsimiles, etc.

Nothing increases the circulation figures more than a good offer of burning issues, good sound and good stories. That's our business!

The user wants to share the author's experiences as well.

Many ARD-Broadcasting stations are using the digital radio recorder and they are having there own platforms for documentaries. In many cases an upload is also available or the user will get the piece via podcast.

The MDR Broadcasting station accompanied a lot of documentaries and essays with texts, photos, slideshows, sometimes with blogs as well.

To take part in public discussion as a documentary maker it is necessary to change our own customs and habits.

Let's create a feature community!

We can go this way because we believe in our skills and the craftsmanship of making documentaries.

Now the ship is lying in the roads."

Ulf Köhler, MDR, head of radio feature, Germany

Nutshell: Ljubo Pauzin

When I have joined a so-called “social network” (namely “fb” – inspired by “Prix Europa” – as I have been inspired there so many times in the couple of past decades) first what I have noticed at the home page was their motto – “It is free, and it will always be free.” Radio has been “on air” since it has been invented and “air” is free. In my humble opinion so should the Internet be – free. Of course there is always a certain danger of piracy, but hasn’t that been a danger in the “space of air”? Since almost from the very beginning someone could have recorded music or speech from the radio, but it has proved not to be a real “big time” danger to the authors or companies whatsoever. Why couldn’t Internet be free as air? We were recently facing a wish to limit the space of Internet (what have caused Wikipedia to close the access for 24 hours just to warn us to the danger of censorship). I see the Think Tank Leipzig as the opportunity to invite our governments to bring laws, which will make Internet a free zone instead of a limited one. We are not entering the digital era, we are deeply in it."

Ljubo Pauzin, HRT, feature executive producer, Croatia

Nutshell: Silvain Gire

My nutshell is at ease with most other nutshells: yes, Internet has successfully created new audiences and new paths for radio documentaries (or crafted radio in general). The audience is listening deeply, in a way that is for me similar to the act of reading: alone, concentrated, breeding mental images. And they can now listen to our stuff other and other. This creates an understanding of the art of editing, of how sound narratives work. This allows us to build an access to a library of features, which encourages a new generation to learn and practice. This is why, for me, audioblogs, festivals and the teaching of radio are very important.

Problem is: there is no money! In France, only France Culture and ARTE Radio do actually pay for radio creations. I personally receive three to five demands every day, and can only produce about 120 sound pieces a year… So yes, webdoc is an important gateway for crafted sound (and I agree with Thomas Weibel, "Nowhere Safe" which we helped to produce is a pefect example:

Because we must be true and straightforward: not a lot of people do actually care for crafted radio ! I know my bosses don't... It is a long process, expensive, requires craftmanship and is not very flashy or glamorous. Facebook may be cool for promotion, but you don't listen to a 50 minutes-long radio feature on it. So, here are a few personal thoughts:
  • public events like listening sessions are cheap to organize, fun and successfull in the long run. It is a slow but guaranted way to promote our art.
  • time is essential: you can have the craft and ethics of a documentary in a three-minutes piece, and THAT goes well on Facebook. Formats don't work on the web. Traditional radio formats are killing creation, and they are killing us.
  • the audience is king, not the author: down with the boring, self-serving, 70's avant-garde höspiel, narcissistic monologues ! We have to be challenging, interesting, funny, provocative through the course of a short or a long piece. Not selling our soul : that can mean time, silences, beautiful voices, strong characters BUT ALSO noises, brutal editing, changes of rythms, multitracks mixing, etc.
  • we have to learn from new tools: I now agree with hidden microphones, which were against my ethics at first. We can blend well-crafted"classic" recordings and impure, brutal sounds from telephones or personal devices. We have to find new ways of telling stories. And we can only hope that a new generation will shock us with a "crafted radio" that is not the one we grew up with, or the one we actually produce."
Silvain Gire, Head of Arte Radio, France

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nutshell: Neil Sandell

A central question: how does digital and the internet change radio features?

Abundance. It means listeners now have access to a tidal wave of features online. In the old era of terrestrial broadcasting, features competed with every other genre of radio for precious airtime on the schedule. In the old era, these limits were barriers to producers getting their work heard.

Now, features can be made and heard without a broadcast platform. Anyone can create content and make it available through a podcast whether or not they have the approval of a commissioning producer at a state broadcaster. Server space is low cost, and traditional broadcasting companies can now make hours and hours of content available for streaming or download. I am over simplifying, of course. But we are no longer constrained by a certain kind of scarcity...the scarcity of airtime.

The internet means that broadcasting companies are no longer the only gatekeepers for content. Secondly, listeners are presented with an overwhelming choice. Thirdly, though independent producers can put their work online, it is a challenge to get them listened to. How will anybody ever discover it’s there? The mainstream media can shout louder than the individual.

What does this mean? For broadcasting organizations, there is a need to help listeners choose. Curators of content and arbiters of taste become critically important. There is a need for reviews, whether they are professional or unpaid user generated. See for an example of this. Independent websites like Third Coast Festival which curate themes, reviews, interviews with radio makers are much needed. We must encourage sites that aggregate radio features.

Scarcity. There is an irony of course. Despite this abundance of bandwidth and opportunity to be heard, feature makers live in a world of scarce financial resources. Increasingly, big broadcasters are devoting less money to feature making. In house production is declining. Independent producers compete for fewer commissions. Aggregating sites like PRX in the U.S. don’t pay enough to sustain production costs. Yes, if you are an independent producer, there are fewer gatekeepers to getting your feature heard. But who wants to work for free? Making a feature should not be a privilege reserved for the independently wealthy.

In Canada, the CBC devotes fewer financial resources to radio features and documentaries than it did two or three years ago. One reason is that there is less money in the system. But I think the more significant reason is management’s reallocating budgets to other types of information radio: local live news programs, field news reporters, and programs that favour less expensive formats such as interviews and panel discussions. Radio features are deemed an expensive form of presentation. That’s expensive as in, cost per minute.

So, my friends, here a couple of questions I think you should tackle:
  1. How do we persuade decision makers that the feature is worth spending money on, even if it is expensive?
  2. How do we generate more money for the radio feature within broadcasting organizations, and from outside?
  3. What other financing models can we use to pay for features (with a particular view to the internet)?
Persuasion. Here are some strategies already in use to persuade the powers that be (politicians, policy makers, broadcasting management) that features are worth funding:
  • demonstrating audience growth
  • arguing that features serve a special mandate or objective of a broadcaster (e.g. Outfront, the show that I produced, was created to bring more diverse voices onto the airwaves of CBC. Diversity was part of the show’s mandate.)
  • position feature units as fulfilling a training function. Berit Hedeman was successful in winning support for radio features in at NRK by offering training and mentoring to others in the company.
  • find an advocate – a decision maker who is persuasive and influential -- who will make the case for the feature. Court these people with purpose and a plan.
  • Understand how the decision makers measure success. I think it’s difficult to persuade the powers that be that the feature is worthy, in and of itself. They just don’t care. They don’t see the world that way. To succeed, we need to understand the rules of the game they play by. That means, how do they measure success, and how do they reach their decisions? What’s in their self-interest?
Money. Some of you may know that I’m spending the year on a journalism. I’ve had the luxury of time this year. I have grazed in the field of ideas not directly related to radio making.

For example, I have met a new breed of business people, so called “social entrepreneurs”. Typically, these men and women have already made their fortunes. Now they’re turning their business acumen towards solving social problems. They are creating businesses with a “double bottom line”, that is, making money and doing social good. These people are bringing enormous creative energy to solving social problems, and are a genuine force in developing public policy today.

I wonder, how would they solve the money problems of the radio feature? What would they say if they were at the table in Leipzig? I think they would ask, how do we make the radio feature generate income? They would probably say, we need to abandon the artist’s aversion to commerce. They would say, think of funding radio features as a business proposition, that is, something of value. The question then follows, what is that value? To whom? What models already exist for selling content? (iTunes comes to mind.) Should downloads be free? What if they weren’t?

I know this is an alien way of thinking for creative types like us. But radio needs a business lens. I recommend we approach the philanthropic organizations (e.g. the Ashoka Foundation or the Schwab Foundation) that fund social entrepreneurship, and ask for their expertise in rethinking our financial model. In approaching these foundations, the trick would be to convince them that there is a social good from radio features. That would require some stellar examples of where radio features have made a difference in bettering people’s lives.

I understand that this suggestion may find lots of opposition. But I do think we need new revenue, as our traditional sources dry up. We need expertise to figure that out. It’s a matter of survival.

Process. Your discussions will range far and wide. They may even spill over to a venue where amber liquids are spilling over. Free range discussion is great. But I also urge you to budget your time so that, at some point, you focus on doing something. I urge you to come up with a set of actions to be taken (next steps) and deadlines for taking those actions. What’s the goal? What’s the action to get there?

I also suggest someone set up an online community to continue these discussions. (LinkedIn can be used this way, for example.)

Good luck."

Neil Sandell, CBC, Toronto, Canada

Nutshell: Edwin Bries

Breakfast saves radio.

Our mornings are madness. Can you imagine the bathroom and breakfast rush being turned into chaos due to pyjama multi media use? Those who jump from bed to facebook and from toilet to twitter will enjoy the results: ketchup on the toothbrush, toothpaste on the toast, the corn flakes flushed away and the baby in the dishwasher. Sunny side up. Only radio withstands the hectic morning jam session. Discrete and sovereign."

Edwin Bries, EBU, head of EBU master school, Belgium

Nutshell: Richard Goll

Last weekend I saw in TV a report on an exhibition of David Hockney – celebrating his 75th birthday. One major topic was that Hockney had painted 51 pictures on his iPad. BUT the product - the paintings – or rather printings could have been produced in conventional technique in same quality.

Is there an analogy to our subjects – new ways of finding and shaping things – new ways of production or even more of distribution, leading to products – very similar to the known formats?

I do believe strongly that the possibilities of the internet for distribution outside the walls of publishers and companies is a really great achievement for authors. What I'm missing till now are the platforms for this type of productions (you get lost in the social networks) to build up communities of users.

But is this all, is this enough? I'm pretty interested what I will hear from younger producers that is more than distribution."

Richard Goll, freelancer, Austria

Nutshell: Richard Goll

I base my doubts on the old fashioned thought that the radio feature is an audio-phonic art form which requires an impeccable understanding of the different facets of acoustic composition and creativity and the perfect knowledge of the implementation of the different audio-phonic forms of radio. This is based on the fact that if I think of the multimedia development, I do not want to think of a new form of film or television because neither the visual nor the audio medium may be degraded to an accompanying medium. This would mean that additionally to the acoustical creativity the author of a radio feature should also have some form of optical competence, or at least be part of a team where these deficits can be mended.

It is a fact that additional or complementary information can be shared via the Internet as a medium (pictures, bibliography, further information etc.) – but this is not what we are talking about. That would be banal. Just like the fact that new distribution forms that are not bound to broadcasters is a possibility that the Internet has brought us, but these facts do not belong to the theme of artistic development of the radio feature.

The question at hand is the creative composition and the core remark I have - which for me is that the radio feature has created spaces or realms in the audience – realms of thought and feelings where the recipient is active in the occurrences created by the authors. (I use the metaphor of “creative realms” instead of “pictures in the mind” as I find that the metaphor of “pictures in the mind” passivies the audience). What is the result if visual requisites are added to the feature making process? I deterred a film maker to add visual colour to our radio features once – simply because I find that it minimises the need for the audience to use its imagination.

The enjoyment of using the Internet for its participatory character ends in the moment where it becomes important to compose, or shape the product. Of course, the chaos, untidy or “dirty” feeling is charming to a certain degree – but the charm wears off relatively easily. Of course, this is also not a new development, but through the Internet, this has become easier. Novels that were written in the Internet could find their analogue partner in the acoustic medium – features; authors from around the world could send the product around for editing, re-editing etc. but the idea loses it’s charm quickly once it has been done.

Maybe the Internet is rather a place to build up communities of joint interests; not in the sense of Facebook trivial talk – but more in the sense of art galleries where themes are set and the products then “published” and swapped etc."

Richard Goll, freelancer, Austria

Nutshell: Else Barrat-Due

In Norway we now often call radiodrama “sounddrama” because radio is only one of several means of distribution. And probably not even the best one, because it is authoritarian. We tell the listeners: We decide when and for how long you must listen. Not very tempting for a young audience. Streaming and podcast with apps – that’s the future, or rather the present, right now. Technological innovation is happening so fast these days that yesterday’s truth is obsolete tomorrow. What we can observe is that more and more people walk and travel with a white cable from their pockets to their ears. Our ambition must be to fill that cable with as much sounddrama as possible. So there are at least three primary challenges: Content and distribution – and the connection between them. And production. In our horizons we don’t think budgets for sounddrama will increase. So we need to find ways to produce smarter, quicker, cheaper.

The challenge is to find the younger audience, our future audience. We have tried to find them through a project called “Horron on the net.” An interactive deal where the audience write the scripts. These small sounddramas has been free to be podcasted due to special rights for this project. So far more than 100 000 have podcasted them which is considered to be very good.

We have also a dramatic writing community, a laboratory for developing new texts with both established and younger writers. The challenges for the future are among others linked to rights, formats, leaders understanding of the necessity for means, and most of all awarenesbulding in the audience."

Else Barrat-Due, NRK, director/producer, Norway

Nutshell: Connor Walsh

Radio features are pure humanity, yet are grounded in technology. That foundation has evolved – field recording, to stereo, to digital broadcast and now on-demand.

Evolution, to us non-scientists, means survival of the fittest, and extinction of the laggards.

There's a feature producer at Radio New Zealand who had the choice of retiring along with the tape machines, or of facing up to learning a digital editing system. He chose to stay working, and a few years later his cubical wall was adorned with love poems to someone called "Sadie".

He chose not to retire, because of financial necessity.

This may ring familiar: the human fight amidst the machines.

Radio features makers are curious and egotistical people, so we should enjoy digging into new ways of being heard, no?"

Connor Walsh, In The Dark Radio, manager, United Kingdom

Nutshell: Thomas Weibel

Radio documentaries are the gems in the gravel of news and entertainment. The earplug culture spoils our ability to listen to the probably best radio can offer: atmosphere, sounds, and voices telling thrilling stories.

Radio makers tend to hang their head. New media kill cultural radio they say. Nothing could be more wrong. New Media provide an ocean of content, of knowledge and of social experience. They are not the danger they are said to be. In the beginning of the 20th century newspapers were said to push aside books, later radio was going to kill the papers, TV was killing radio. None of it came true. New media, I believe, are above all a huge opportunity. New forms and formats arise. One of them is the web documentary. Web docs can be based on photography, on video, or on audio. Last year's Prix Europa winner, an amazing French web doc called "À l'abri de rien" ("Nowhere Safe",, is deep resarch and a piece of art at the same time, a shattering story about people living unter painfully poor conditions, told in their own words. "À l'abri de rien" is photography and, at the core, radio doc at its best.

New media are a new stage for the best storytellers there are: for radio doc makers."

Thomas Weibel, freelancer, associate professor for multimedia production, University of Applied Sciences, Chur, Switzerland

Nutshell: Katrin Moll

I belong to the generation compact cassette. I grew up with the Sony Walkman, which changed the listening habit of a whole generation. Take what you want to hear with you, make it your soundtrack while you are on the move – analog and linear.

Now there is a big revival of this mobile listening habit with all these mobile devices popping up everywhere– digital and non-linear.

I have the feeling, that my generation (and younger) is constantly moving. I am thinking of canceling my landline, because I don’t use it anymore. I watch TV on my smart phone and listen to radio on the Internet. People invest in really good headphones – the mobile listening quality is often much better than if they’d listen to the stuff at home on their mono kitchen radio. And I think that’s wonderful! There are so many opportunities lying ahead. For sure every new medium offers new tools and new techniques and therefore demands new forms. And that is what I am interested in as an editor – and actually I do not worry about these new forms, I see them coming.

As an author and director I am not afraid about these new possibilities – on the contrary – but I am much concerned about how I get paid (properly) for content that is distributed via Internet. Besides finding new forms for the digital distribution platforms, I feel that is one of the big challenges for the radio stations in the digital age."

Katrin Moll, Deutschlandradio Kultur, radio drama/radio feature, Germany

Nutshell: Kaye Mortley

These eclectic pieces (woven of sound, silence, music and words) which we call "radio features" (possibly for want of a better name, so diverse are they in form, content and intention) are finding a new place in the world in the age of the web. No longer will they pass in a moment- "the real time" of their actual duration- leaving no other trace than the imprint left on the ear (and the sensibilities) of the listener who happened to have tuned in when they were floated out onto the airwaves before disappearing, perhaps forever, into some cupboard or other, more sophisticated and official archival system. Still fleeting by their very essence, they are yet becoming immanent in terms of the accessibility which internet offers...

And one wonders just what this implies... for the author, for the piece, and for the listener.

And this is one of the things I hope to reflect upon during the time of the think tank."

Kaye Mortley, freelancer, France

Nutshell: Udo Noll

Aside from many others, an important quality of radio is its connectivity, the ability to create an almost spatial presence, among a virtual community of listeners, and of the media itself. The broad scales of old receivers tell a a story about this relation between space and the self, they are maps of a sonic landscape centered around an open ear.

The Internet shares some of these qualities, it's closer to radio than we may think. Today's most successful platforms are mainly text-based, which is surprising, given the audio-visual power of the system. And it's hard to imagine that this is because of the great depth and quality of the exchanged content. But it has to do with a state of beeing_connected, with contiguity in an vitually endless digital space, and with the presence of an audience. It's the broadcast nature of it, though transformed into a different media and different social practises.

When thinking about its own future, the feature as one of the most intriguing radio forms, should sense this connectivity, related technologies and practises. stations should have interest and budgets for experimental projects, since new fictions and narratives increasingly develop within these digital spheres."

Udo Noll, Radio Aporee, director, Germany

Nutshell: Laurent Marceau

This is my "view from the bridge"…

Listening habits have changed drastically and very quickly over the past few years. And this new kind of "media consumption" keeps on movin' on… The digital natives are growing up as platform-agnostics and it would be crazy to ignore this. This is the reason why Broadcasters have had/have to change and adapt…

Shall we mention the question of rights? Yes, we should!

What about the Radio Feature in all that?

I suppose there are two ways to look at it: the digital world offers new opportunities, new platforms and democratizes access to content. That can only be good for Documentary makers. For those who want to tell stories, and those who want to listen to them… apps, podcasts, on-demand platforms offer new opportunities. This is the positive way to look at it.

But, what if these Feature productions are gradually phased out of the "normal/linear" slots and end up being found only on these new platforms?

Then one can smell danger…

Not a Nutshell this, more a Bombshell like…"

Laurent Marceau, EBU, head of Eurosonic/radio plus, radio fiction and radio feature, Switzerland

Nutshell: Francesca Panetta

I moved from traditional broadcasting to the world of online audio five years ago and it has been a joy. The constraints of fixed broadcast durations were removed along with the expected treatments and formats. Suddenly I could play! And I believe that our audiences are listening differently - with heightened attention, downloading works to listen to consciously at the time that suits them and usually on headphones in true stero rather than the mono kitchen speakers that most radio programmes are head through.

Online audio has proved it doesn't have to be second rate audio but it does need two things: 1) a financial model which sustains the kind of serious journalism and craft that goes in to many of the radio documentaries that are being produced in Europe and 2) an easy way of consuming the pieces so listening is as easy as turning on your fm radio. Technology will in time take care of the second but unlike the music industry, speech radio still has to find a way of funding itself in the world of the internet. That is our challenge."

Francesca Panetta, The Guardian, head of audio, United Kingdom

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nutshell: Edwin Bries

(pumpkin sized nutshell)

Some remarks:
  • On the internet you find a lot of literature about the position and challenges of radio within the digital universe and multimedia environment.
  • Radio seems to remain a device that still defends itself well and the number of web radio’s is overwhelming.
  • This interest in radio might be based basically on commercial grounds, on the social and cultural mission of public broadcasting organizations and on the mission of community radios.
  • In the debate about radio in the multimedia context radio feature does not to seem a frequent topic.
Basic assets of the traditional radio feature :
  • oral history
  • the voice of the citizen
  • reports on changes in people and society (social relevance)
  • marriage between information and aesthetics
  • using the stylistics and grammar of the medium radio
New possibilities since multimedia applications:
  • increased access to programmes ( when and where you want)
  • worldwide distribution
  • on a lot of different devices (Arte-radio)
  • meta information about topic, people, place via endless amount of links.
  • adding visuals, now-playing information, latest news-headlines, etc
  • creation “communities” around broadcasters, programmes and programme makers
  • interactivity / active input and feedback from media users
  • reaching new audiences for audio through the other media ( Le Monde –website presents the highlights of the main morning radio news shows)
  • radio could invest more time and energy to catch extra audiences through other devices
  • radio feature makers could offer more formats adapted to other channels and slots than the traditional ones ( many already do but do not present this shorter and more humble part of their work to international competitions such as Prix Europa)
  • there seems to be a lack of reflection and initiative on these new challenges from the part of the broadcasting managers , and therefore,
  • radio feature makers do not feel the urge to explore new ways of production, programming and distributing, as their managers do not ask them for
  • one consolation : the best programmes or formats have been invented by creative people, not waiting for demands from the management, but with a great feeling for innovation, originality and the often not outspoken wishes and interests of the public.
  • We could more often offer excerpts of our features to other media
  • Via the web, your radio documentary isn’t any more a stand alone programme, but is linked to a lot of other media production on the same topic, target group, etc.
  • Features from the past can be updated anytime via links on internet
  • Producing a radio series ( like VPRO Radio in 7 parts on new China), feedback from listeners can influence the next episodes.but:
  • immense choice and freedom for media use versus media user who expects professionals to offer well ready made, relevant, pleasant programmes (propose me, inform me, seduce me). “I cannot seduce myself”. - internet is a chaotic jungle. Please guide me.
  • the aim is not re-inventing existing media ( ex. radio on the web, with some pictures video’s = re-inventing television, at its worst)
  • any merge of media into a new multi-media production should be based on the professional qualities of the makers. Don’t expect a talented radio maker to get the same excellent results as a television maker. At least , this is not obvious.- quotation from ? : “broadcast radio delivers mass audiences. Do the small niche stuff on the internet”
  • aren’t there any limits to the capacity of consumption for the media user?
  • we should take care not to move from a personal story , told by the programme maker, to a a jungle of links and feeds (Wikipedia)
  • one medium might be more suitable to tell a story, another to facilitate collective gathering of information.
  • radio is excellent for storytelling, but too linear and too instant consuming for dee contextualization. The encyclopedia function fits much better to internet.
  • radio over the television is more popular than over the internet
  • another quote: “ there is no time for nostalgia”, “there’s always a step backward”
Edwin Bries, EBU, head of EBU master school, Belgium

Nutshell: Simon Elmes

First the good news. Classic radio documentary is in generally good health in the BBC. Features and feature-type programmes are still plentiful and craft standards have risen in recent years. In the severe cuts announced in October 2011, serious speech radio (including documentaries and drama) escaped significant reductions. Time for producers to make programmes has traditionally been less than in other countries (especially Scandinavia) but is being protected and not reduced. Audiences are rising.

The big challenge stems from the audience: shortening attention span, multi-tasking, impatience with programmes that 'don't deliver quickly' and the loss of 'radio culture' amongst key future demographics (15-35 year-olds) threaten future health. Many of this group simply don't own a radio, even a DAB set. The absence of radio devices on certain platforms (especially smartphones) is a serious threat. Despite the advantages of podcasts - and they are in the ascendant - in a noisy marketplace, the quiet seriousness of sustained feature-making of up to one hour in length is necessarily going to be a luxury that fewer people will wish to enjoy. We need to find forms and approaches to both editorial and technological challenges that respond to those needs."

Simon Elmes, BBC, radio documentary/creative director, United Kingdom

Nutshell: Irène Omelianenko

Some mini-nutshell from Paris.

All these words related to crafted radio: documentaries, features, horspiel, creation...

This feeling in prizes as Europa, Italia, URTI, Longueur d'ondes (in Brest) than we are a small team in the whole world on the same road made of voices, sounds, humanity, composition... 

When we broadcast it is also to reveal to someone ear the secrets lying under the sounds, there is a topic, perhaps a story but also a mystery. "Thunderclap and sound of wings " to quote René Farabet.

It's a place where soul is beating, where the path is elaborated to share a creation.

Today documentaries may have a life outside of FM broadcast, in Radio France we offer podcast during seven days and listening in streaming on our site during 500 days.

These documentaries are making for some of our listeners a sound library. And we try to make it by adapting author's right with the french society called SCAM.

At the same time we feel that we are hurried up to make fresh proposals, to marry ourselves with internet, with i phones, with or without pictures?, with or without interactivity?, to change our formats, to go faster as is supposed going the world. We feel somme mutation is waited.

There is also 5.1 and binaural diffusion.

I just comme back from a presentation by our multimedia department of a piece of sounds made in Tlemcen , registered in 5.1 and diffused with drawings.

Are we ready and do we want this metamorphosis.

Sorry for my bad english."

Irène Omelianenko, Radio France, France Culture, conseiller de programme au documentaire à la création radiophonique, France

Nutshell: Else Barrat-Due

Our audience, especially the younger generation, is leaving the good old radio. When they listen, they find what they want on the net and most of all: on smartphones and iPods. The listening experience is liberated in time and room. This gives another kind of freedom to the listeners. Just like in the music industry it is important that our sound expressions can be found on itunes, spotify, youtube, etc.

What challenges does this fact give us?

That distribution on new platforms is important. We need to find new ways of reaching people where they actually are.

The problems of meeting this development is tied to getting the rights from the artist’s organizations.

Another question: Will distribution on new platforms demand other kinds of production, other types of genre, other types of drama? The media is the form? That we do not know yet.

What the net can offer and which might be of interest is the interactive possibilities with the listeners, which again can affect the form.

Also, all the affectionados now have access to equipment to record and edit radiodrama. And they have the means to distribute it. This might lead to competition, but also to a renaissance for the radiodrama."

Else Barrat-Due, NRK, director/producer, Norway

Nutshell: Willem Davids

The Author have the last word!

Since the existence of internet in the digital age -now about 20 years-, I've talks with international (feature) authors about the limitless possibilities of the Internet.

In all those years -until yesterday- is there still a huge fear of many authors to submit their work digitally.

I've heard: "Do not, because anyone can do with it what he wants, ..." or: "No, I do not want to, because I have the rights ..." or: "I lost control over MY work ...".Fortunately there are exceptions. Authors who think ahead, without fear!

But if it continues with a few exceptions, as for years, then we have serious problem.

Developments (2012 and further) are not hopefull.

In recent months are important international worldwide and local websites, with (legal) access for sharing creative work, prohibited because complaints from authors!

I think a fruitful discussion have purposes, only if authors are willing to set aside their whining, their childish fear and (latest) prefer to close digital share- platforms and -websites.

Call: Authors (feature makers included) come on!

Be careful, before you make a 'museum piece only' of yourself."

Willem Davids, NTR, Netherlands

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nutshell: Helmut Kopetzky

In most of my 40 years of radio-making feature has been a wide, solid, well-bordered road – coming from the past and (with necessary repairs and improvements now and then) leading into a mere endless future. For myself, "feature" and "future" have been synonymous words. The highway called Feature had a variety of different lanes, but in general the direction was rather common sense. Since a couple of years feature-people, more or less confused, are gathering at a crossroad with road signs in many directions. Inscriptions say: "Programs On Demand", "Interactive Formats", "User Generated Contents", "Back to the good old Factional Documentary", "Investigative Concepts", "Faction" or "Docu-Fiction", "Interactivity", "High End for Audio Freaks" etc. - lots of Stairways to Heaven - and all of them fading away in a distance, swallowed by the mist of our unknown medial future.

As an AUTHOR with a singular voice, own points of view and certain aesthetic preferences I'm asking myself : Which of those diversions will offer the best chances for my professional survival and for what I understand as "radio feature" or "extended journalism" in general ? My personal aim is to rescue the CORE of all that. Those essentials are: Single voices (First person singular) amongst the medial cacophony; the fantasy stimulating strength of sound in it's own rights - no multi-medial applications and distractions for example; radical debate–provoking positions; personal languages and elaborated text & sound-compositions.

I'm excited by new possibilities and helpful tools in the process of radio-making (which I use excessively, "being digital" since 1995). But: The medium is NOT the message. And I refuse to consider myself as an appendix of industry-steered "social" trends of communication.

Where to find a shelter for my individualistic, selfish, zeitgeist-ignoring concept?"

Helmut Kopetzky, freelancer, Germany

Nutshell: James Cridland

When I started in radio, the only way to record audio was a large bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder, which I lugged from the studios to interviews in factories, pubs and hotels. The only way to edit audio was to deftly use a razor-blade, a chinagraph pencil and some splicing tape in large, purpose-built studios. The only way for listeners to hear to that audio was through a carefully-edited AM or FM broadcast; and the only way to listen was live. And for a listener who wished to take part, they could do so by writing a postcard, or calling from their home telephone. In 2012, I can record audio, edit it and make it available directly from my mobile phone. On their computer or phone, listeners can listen whenever they like, wherever they are; and share audio every bit as technically good as our own. Radio - and the media - has changed. Are we changing with it?"

James Cridland, Media UK, managing director, radio futurologist, United Kingdom

Nutshell: Kari Hesthamar

There is a big hunger for radio journalists at NRK to do crafted radio and to have the tools for this, both in every day production and in longer formats. Our impression is that the focus on this has become stronger the past years. The radio feature group at NRK have a yearly course that runs over one and a half weeks where we train people in the basics of storytelling on radio; interviewing techniques, dramaturgy, narration and sound. We also do a lot of teaching both in house and at the institutes of journalism. This results in crafted radio documentaries and in better radio also in shorter formats aired daily. Our strength and challenge is our long format of 45 minutes, which has a build up that demands concentration. We are today not allowed to podcast documentaries that contains more than 3 minutes of music, which is a great problem for us. We discuss our future in the web world a lot. Our documentaries are in general published on the front page of, which is the second largest website in Norway, because they see what we make as exclusive stories told in a way that the public want and that newspapers and other websites can’t offer. We also publish all our features on facebook and twitter. We have an increasing number of listeners, but see the opportunity to listening on demand as crucial for our future. Our experience is that the radio documentaries are popular among all ages, but for the young to listen we are especially dependant on podcast and online listening. In short - the way of distributing the stories is in rapid change, but the interest for good stories and important topics never change."

Kari Hesthamar, NRK, editor, Norway

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nutshell: Simon Elmes

The radio feature is the highest form of art-concealing-art the medium proposes. Programme makers construct their reversion of reality that artfully finds compelling stories in the banal, the everyday, the 'normal'. The people are the story and the tellers of the story, and the artistry of the maker conspires to offer articulacy to the inarticulate, to discover beauty in the trashcan, to build a story that will stir hearts and challenge minds. It's making Hamlet from Tower Hamlets, The Seagull from Southampton docks… Yet now it finds its artistry challenged by a medium whose day-to-day idiom is the readymade, the transient, the baggy, the brief, the haphazard… Does the feature-maker undo his / her artistry, unmake the perfection? …create the Artfully Artless? Ponder on."

Simon Elmes, BBC, radio documentary, creative director, United Kingdom

Nutshell: Liam O'Brien

Radio is the best medium in the world. It's very simple premise is to broadcast sound messages and it's been doing this for over 100 years. As time has progressed, radio has too - but it is a very slow beast. Today's radio - in general terms - is not hugely different from what you might have heard 30 years ago. Of course techniques have improved but the 'job' is still the same. However, when you look at how dramatically other broadcast mediums have changed - we must understand that radio struggles with change. Now, with the digital age - we have the opportunity to imagine a new future - and a rapidly changing one. There are huge worldwide audiences out there and with that comes a huge freedom. We need to understand that 100 years of development can now happen in months! And radio needs to keep pace. So what are we to do? We must think, imagine and look outside our boundaries - this is a whole new universe that we stare into. We must provide solutions."

Liam O'Brien, RTE, documentary on one, head of features, Ireland

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The radio documentary in the digital age

You are keen on learning about the future of radio documentaries. You believe in the power of the web, and you do know that multimedia, crossmedia and transmedia are no buzzwords but the place where future will take old media to. So welcome to the Think Tank Leipzig!

The Think Tank Leipzig will
  • focus on existing strategies from across Europe,
  • talk about the needed means and skills,
  • look at the legal obstacles,
  • analyse today's radio usage, and
  • concentrate on innovative radio feature forms.
Our discussions will take place at the Leipzig Media Campus, and our host will be the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig. Its
commitment is the fostering of the training and continuing education of young people in the media field. This involves the presentation of scholarships (such as in the context of the Leipzig Media Award), targeted project support, and the organization of events furthering political education. The projects of the Foundation are financed by the income of the Foundation’s treasury as well as the contributions and donations of third parties."