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Template Radio Stations for Playlists

An enhancement to the iPod or other portable mp3 player's playlist concept, to hybrid the experience with the advantages of radio, when available.
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You might have a playlist, with a selection of your desired music or lectures or whatever audio you like to consume, on your iPod or other mp3 player.

This playlist will happily trundle on and on blindly and relentlessly, one song or lecture after the other, until time has gone by.

When you listen to the radio, on the other hand, there's music - not necessarily of your own choosing, and perhaps if you're the sort that likes commercial radio instead of the good old BBC, there's adverts, and then of course, there's periodic news and weather and travel. That's what I miss about a never-ending tirade of mp4s or lectures on my iPod. At least, when I used to use my phone to listen to music, I had the option of a radio on it, and frequently use it at lunch time to keep track of news and the time, while creating my art.

Wouldn't it be more accommodating and future-facing to hybrid the music player's playlist with the availability of a 'template' radio station - it plays no music, it pays no royalties, it simply supplies news, weather and travel on rotation, and perhaps might tail out with an ad spot, before returning a control signal to the music player, to continue with your own familiar set of music.

Essentially, the music player would also be a radio - or have radio capabilities (either fm or DAB - though DAB is less likely to be useful walking around the city than fm is, to be honest) and it has a synchronised clock. The clock allows it to seek a switchover signal at a predicted time slot, and upon switchover, it gently pauses your own music playlist and hands over to the news, if available, weather and travel. Then perhaps a promo of short duration and of acceptable inanity, and then hand back to your own playlist.

You could set the switchover to various rates - eg, every quarter of an hour, every half an hour, every hour. If you're out of signal range, for example, on the tube, then it would simply fail to seek and never switch over - simply continuing with your playlist uninterrupted. You could even have an option for higher switchover rates in a certain time band of the day - eg, morning on the way in and afternoon on the way out of whatever it is you do all day - you might want it every ten mins or so at that time.

So, is it radio or your own playlist of music? It's a hybrid. Will it sustain? It might make a bit of money from the ad placement on the tail-out, but on the other hand, it's very low overhead in itself, if it is supplied as an available feed from an existing broadcast news agency. Should I really be asking my own questions? Only if I have already thought of sensible answers.

Slightly more advanced TNG version:

Traditional news, weather and travel report gathering and production might be seen as expensive, especially if you're going to give it away free, or almost free, supported by only two or three ads on the tailout of each slot. What if it were speech-synthesized in the player, not broadcast, and supplied by rss to the player? The player, when in wifi range, aggregates news and compiles a synthetic report, including travel and weather, which it intersperses into your playlist on schedule?

Ian Tindale, Jun 15 2009

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       The speech synthesizer could also read the mp3 tag to give a radio feel between tracks.   

       <Steven Hawking> "That was Tony Christie with is_this_the_way_to_amarillo. Next up: Coldplay with their 2007 hit Track_06" </SH> [+]
shudderprose, Jun 15 2009
  

       As I was reading this, I was thinking of text-to-speech in the player as a great solution, and I'm glad to see you plugged that in at the end. You could select your preferred voice. I'd also like it to introduce the next song in your playlist with a bit of a talkover intro, as mentioned above.   

       Now think of a suitable web 3.0 name and make it happen.
tatterdemalion, Jun 15 2009
  

       Rather than simply not switching from music to news, when live news is unavailable, here's a better option:   

       Every hour (or whenever), the device would download the news, weather, and travel reports... but merely as much as you intended to listen to, but two or three times as much. It would play the highest priority parts, and save the rest for later.   

       If live news is unavailable, it would still switch from music to news, but it would play the old, lower priority news that was downloaded earlier, but not listened to.   

       The downside of doing this is weather reports... it becomes much more important, when the device reports the weather, for it to say what time it was, that observation or forecast was actually made.   

       It should also probably skip traffic reports, if if can't get them live.
goldbb, Jun 15 2009
  

       A multi-threaded playlist? Sounds good to me.
I'm in no way an expert of playlist software such as Last.fm (audioscrobbler) and Apple Genius - insofar as I know virtually nothing about them - however, I suspect that the links between digital content items is used to form a single set. All of the contents belong to this single set and are ranked according to some characteristic (perhaps some learned set of heuristics).
One aspect that you mention, [Ian], is to have a disjoint between songs/content. After some determined time or sequence of songs the algorithm pulls a switcho-chango and goes for a song out of left field.
  

       Throw in a news stream or an aggregator of some kind to inject new content into the interrupts and I think you're onto a winner.
Jinbish, Jun 15 2009
  
      
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