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Innovation Awards honour greater interaction with listeners

This week's Radio Academy Awards focused on programming and talent, but also highlighted technical achievement, with Absolute Radio winning Gold.

A system that allows advertisers to connect directly with radio listeners to deliver commercials and information more targeted to individual tastes won the Technical Innovation Award at the Radio Academy Awards, presented at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Monday (12 May).

Absolute Radio’s InStream system won Gold (Absolute Radio’s content director Tony Moorey and technical director Paul Brown are pictured with the Award, photo credit: Karwai Tang) for what the judges described as, “enhancements to listening… whilst also creating genuine innovation for the commercial model of the company”. The technology, designed by a team headed by lead application specialist Ben Matthew, combines “opt-in privacy data” with live online streaming. The principle is that listeners “log in” and share information about their location and interests while they are listening to Absolute Radio. As a result they receive additional services, including HQ audio streams, more music and advertisements intended to target them more directly.

The judges added, “At a time when commercial radio is challenged by online competitors [we] were particularly impressed with the data input and commercial benefits that InStream brings to advertisers whilst ensuring the listeners’ needs are enhanced and remain as the focus.”

The Silver Technical Innovation Award went to independent facilities and production company Wise Buddah for its Multi Player Competition Technology. This allows a presenter to take multiple calls from listeners taking part in a quiz as they answer text questions on their mobile phones. The presenter can see who is answering correctly and who is not, which allows him or her to let individual contestants know how they are doing. At any point the DJ is able to go to a listener and talk to them live on air.

The technology was tested at the end of last year on Magic AM, part of the Bauer network, with a control screen installed in the on-air studio. The system was developed by a Wise Buddah project team led by Simon Willis, working in conjunction with Addlow 4 and BT Agile Media. The judges commented that the technology “showed a great use of innovation in order to reinvent a staple of music radio – the phone-in competition.”

The Bronze Award went to University Radio Bath for its Responsive Radio and Unified Station Management system, which was developed by the station’s head of IT, Jonty Usborne. The judges concluded, “This was a great example of technical innovation creating listener benefit. Particularly impressive was that this innovation has been created by a student station with presumably little resource. The judges were impressed with a strong user centred approach to how the radio station could create a stronger relationship with its listeners in a world of personalisation and on-demand media. “