Saturday, May 10, 2008

Is TUN3R the perfect tuner? / S&P 500 of Radio / Sponsor a City Dial

Hi folks,

As you now know we've made some big changes to how the stations are organized and presented. We've also made it possible to browse the live streams by switching to "Live Mode" (you can toggle modes just below The Dial).

Is TUN3R the perfect tuner?
Is TUN3R perfect now? I would say yes and no. It's not perfect because the controls aren't intuitive to new users (especially the dual audio modes), and the thumbnails themselves do not explicitly show what the station plays. Furthermore, "Live Mode" directs sound to either Winamp or a pop-up browser window, and may be confusing to some. While I could go into the reasons for this, it all comes down to the fact that we were not willing to compromise on quality of stations, and quality of audio. We refuse to be beholden to a streaming format, and therefore had to make a trade-off between quality and user-friendliness. This could very well be our death knell, but for now we're hoping there are people out there who value quality, and are willing to reach for it. If you are a novice user, struggling with TUN3R, and are frustrated even after reading the updated FAQ, please e-mail me (, or even call me on my cell (+1-416-315-5514). I am confident I can get TUN3R working for you to your delight.

However, for Power Users (i.e. nerds) and City Dial residents, TUN3R is pretty darn close to being perfect because once you've taken the time to orient yourself around the Dial, there is simply no faster way to zoom around within and between genres, and actually find music or talk that grabs you. I would say the one big shortcoming, is that you can't yet add your own stations. If TUN3R ever gets off the ground, this will come.

If you're willing to give TUN3R a chance, and you've got the right software (i.e. IE on XP or Firefox, and Winamp ), you will quickly develop a sense of control and power over The Dial that is akin to driving a car, or playing a video game like Audiosurf. Which leads to my next point.

The S&P 500 of Radio
One of our objectives with the new TUN3R is to present a definitive index of Featured stations. For now, we're deliberately biased towards English based content - especially talk. We do have quite a few non-English music stations, but admittedly the talk portion (with the exception of the national media bureaus) is all English. This bugs me, but there are so many trade-offs we've had to make to get this far, and this is one of them (another is the fact that we're optimized for broadband users - sorry dial-up guys). It's on our to-do list to have national versions of Featured stations.

So, with that said I'd like to put out a challenge for anyone reading. Namely, what would an S&P 500 of Radio look like? For those that don't know the Standard and Poors 500 is an index of [American] publicly traded companies which represent leaders in their respective industry. The S&P 500 is used as a baseline for comparison, and is a bellwether for the US stock market's overall performance. What I like about the S&P 500 versus other indexes, is that the companies are all hand selected by a committee of human experts, and is not strictly rules based.

So getting back to radio. We've tried to select stations which are leaders in what they do with respect to the various genres and formats. The selections have largely been informed by popularity. But I prefer to look at as many factors as I possibly can. Take for example a station that we recently added to the featured list, KPFA ( The reason I upgraded it to Featured status, was that a TUN3R visitor (Barry Brooks) put forth a compelling argument (based on the station's history) as to why it should be featured. After reading through KPFA's history, and learning about the Pacifica Foundation I became convinced that KPFA was deserving of a spot alongside the NPR Internet stream. This is not to say that there aren't other similar stations out there which deserve to be highlighted. I fully suspect there are, but I would first like to understand why, before including them. So, if you know of a station that is deserving inclusion on the TUN3R Featured short-list (or can point to a station which should not be featured), please contact me at: as I'd love to hear about it. As far as I'm concerned, debate and discussion is still one of the best tools we have to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Sponsor a City Dial
On a slightly different note, we have effectively stopped selling Dial Space. Originally when starting TUN3R, we thought we had this great idea that the "invisible hand" of the free market would self-select the best stations. Alas, this never happened (I won't go into all the reasons for this now, but if you're curious e-mail me, and maybe I'll blog it). So, we decided to organize the Dial ourselves. We soon realized that so many of the radio stations people love and know are strictly local. I may love CBC Radio 1 Toronto, but I'm less interested in hearing CBC Radio 1 Winnipeg. I don't have anything against Winnipeg, it's just that I have no frame of reference for its local affairs and personalities. So, we figured that anchoring the S&P 500 of stations to the local AM/FM stations is the way to go. I still feel it's the way to go, since I regularly use the Toronto Dial as it has everything I need. If I was to change one thing, it would be to allow the addition of peronal stations, and as I've already mentioned.

However, as you may have gathered, putting together a City Dial requires some effort. Namely, we must do the following for each new city:

  • Gather and cleanse all the station data.
  • Properly classify the stations' various attributes.
  • Prepare and touch-up thumbnails for each station.
Once that is all said and done, we then need to capture audio samples, and maintain the station streaming and pop-up URLs on an ongoing basis, as they tend to drift over time.

The end result however, is something you can actually use, so I genuinely see a sponsored city as something more than just a vanity license plate, or pixelboard advertising. Furthermore, since we currently don't have banner advertising (and I like to keep it that way), a colour sponsorship logo is likely to receive a distinguished amount of attention, not to mention association with the city in question.

If this is something that interests you, or someone you know, you can indicate your interest here, or you can just call me on my cell at: +1-416-315-5514. I suspect local stations, ISPs, and community portals may find that there is a lot of value in having their logo and link branded into their respective city.

Stay TUN3D,

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