RadarCultura is an afternoon music programme broadcasting on Radio Cultura AM in Brasil. The playlist is determined collectively by the audience voting on tracks in a digg-like manner, through the RadarCultura blog and their twitter feed.
If you’re like me, your first reaction is “So what? RadarCultura is like last.fm, only on radio.” That was my first thought. And RadarCultura streams on the net, too – so why not just listen to your own custom stream on last.fm? Well, there’s a good reason. I’m a huge fan of last.fm (this and this are my favourite ways of shutting out the open-plan office I work in) but RadarCultura’s premiss is interesting.
The big difference between last.fm and RadarCultura is that RadarCultura isn’t playing your playlist – it’s the collective playlist of everyone listening (and voting) at that moment. Here’s Andre Avorio, who runs the station:
“Radar Cultura is a public radio station and we were very interested in getting closer to the audience […] Giving the audience the power to choose the music, publish content related to their main interests – so that we can explore together all the issues that concern them most.”
RadarCultura is about exploring music together, he says. That’s interesting.
The thing about individually personalizable media is that it fragments the audience. You get exactly what you want, but only you are getting exactly that experience. But part of the appeal of mass media is that you can participate in a shared collective experience. Part of the reason that it’s cool to watch the World Cup final is that you know that around the world, a billion other people are screaming, in elation or despair, when Brazil scores that goal. That’s also why people still go to the movies, decades after the invention of TV and home recording and BitTorrent. Collective experiences have appeal.
Historically, though, these collective experiences have been dictatorial – it’s been about what one editor, commissioner, or other boss deciding what you will watch. A big part of these peoples’ jobs is to gauge effectively what the audience wants. Hence all the focus groups, surveys, ratings systems, etc.
But in RadarCultura, we have a mass-media, collective experience that’s also democratic. No need for a focus group or audience survey here: this is what the audience wants to listen to.