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Project 9-6-1 experiments with technology to give listeners more control

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When it comes to interaction with the listeners, radio hasn’t changed much over the years. You can call in requests that are seldom heeded. Or you get a busy signal or no answer at all. Nowadays, you can email in requests, too. Again, probably to no avail.

Project 9-6-1 this week began using Jelli technology, dubbing it “Remote Control Radio” from 7 to midnight weekdays. Users online can see what possible songs are coming up (18 songs are listed at a time buy you can scan the entire playlist). You can give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down, like many personalized Web radio stations such as Pandora and Accuradio. If you love a song, you can launch a “rocket’ that propels a song to the top much faster. If you hate a song, you can unleash a “bomb” that can drop it down the list significantly. You can only bomb to a very limited degree but can rocket more. A listener’s user name is announced on air when they “rocket” a specific song.

You can track and listen to songs via your computer or iPhone. (A Droid app is forthcoming.)

Song are rated and voted on until just a few seconds before the most popular song gets played next.

If a song is bombed enough times, it could be pulled in mid-song. Since the playlist is pre-selected by the program director and voted on by listeners, an active rock station like this won’t suddenly start playing Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. The first three nights, only one song, “Animal” by Nickelback was bombed before the song ended, according to new jock Jordin Silver on air last night. She specifically said in a YouTube video you can see below that she’s not a fan of the band. She played another Nickelback song last night “How You Remind Me” but it (barely) survived to the end.

Even though it’s on the FM airwaves only 25 hours a week, you can see how it works 24/7 at www.jelli.com/wkls/.

Mike Dougherty, 39-year-old co-founder of the San Mateo-based startup and a Microsoft alum, has no radio background but he felt since more than 90 percent of people still listen to AM/FM (though less often), he wanted to improve the experience. “This creates a feedback loop in real time,” he said. “The audience could create something together.” He says 30 radio stations are now using it at least part of the time. Most are pop, some are rock like Project.

He is impressed by how Project’s program director Chris Williams (also the afternoon jock and a former PD at 99X) uses social media. The station’s Facebook page has more than 44,000 friends. “He’s a smart guy,” Dougherty said. “He has a lot of passion.”

Williams, in an email interview, touted the technology thusly:

Music is a social experience, from the old fashion mix tape to 65,000 packing into a sold out stadium, we crave the chance to share our favorite bands and our exciting new finds and to hang with fans who share similar tastes. That’s always been a part of being a music fan, but the technology for radio to participate on an individual level like this hasn’t existed. Using the Jelli platform, Remote Control Radio will allow the audience to share their musical passions on a large scale with the entire Project 9-6-1 audience. We aren’t inventing something new, we are just using a new technology to participate in something that has been happening among music fans forever….

He feels this will enhance the listening experience by creating “suspense.” “Nothing that plays is preordained,” he wrote. “Project 9-6-1 is certainly more unpredictable with the audience in control!”

Kurt Hanson, who runs Accuradio and has been following Internet radio for more than a decade, calls it “an interesting hybrid between broadcast radio and personalized Internet-delivered radio such as Pandora.” On Pandora, you can skip songs but in the case of Project, the song isn’t skipped unless multiple people say so (though you can use your occasional “bomb” option to push a song further down the list).

“It’s a cool marketing approach,” Hanson said, though it isn’t necessarily a “game changer” for consumers.

Here is Jordin’s YouTube interview:

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

16 comments Add your comment

lt

January 20th, 2011
2:55 pm

Nice of you to use a quote from Chris that includes a spelling error… and to not correct it or even add a [sic]. Classy.

Rodney Ho

January 20th, 2011
3:02 pm

That was actually just me spelling “suspense’ wrong. My bad.

lt

January 20th, 2011
3:09 pm

Larry Wachs

January 20th, 2011
3:28 pm

Project 96-1 sux

Mike

January 20th, 2011
11:17 pm

real remote control radio would let me turn off the ditz dj at night.

TheLazyComic

January 21st, 2011
12:12 am

Zzzzz…. Zzzzz….. Zzzzzz. Oops, sorry, I fell asleep on this one.

Backwoods Hick

January 21st, 2011
8:08 am

Now if we can have technology to choose the DJ…

1911A1

January 21st, 2011
8:30 am

It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a Clear Channel station; therefore I will never listen.

Atlanta Needs The Kimmer

January 21st, 2011
9:54 am

If Project 9-6-1 hires “THE KIMMER & WAYNE (NO OFFENSE)” to do the afternoon drive-time show, my disposable income & I, who are so attractive to advertisers, will start listening to this station and listen loyally.

Otherwise, my disposable income & I will continue to listen to XM.

Hint.

Hint.

HINT.

MsManda76

January 21st, 2011
7:42 pm

Sorry, I think it’s a great idea….gives the listeners and chance to shake things up!! And I LOVE Jordin!!

Wikk3d

January 21st, 2011
8:14 pm

This is the best thing to hit the internet! We have a blast selecting the songs and chatting with other music lovers. The DJ’s come on and chat as well. Jordin and Chris are awesome! If you love rock music, give it a chance before you trash it. Project 961 is the best radio station there is!

Bobby

January 23rd, 2011
1:34 am

Thank God this is radio! Who is this dude/chick? And what’s up with those damn ears? What poor zebra died so that this dude could get this shirt?

Woody Allen called and wants his glasses back! Geez . . .

Vanessa N

January 24th, 2011
12:36 am

This is a great idea. I’ve played with it, it’s fun. I love the ignorant hick’s ignorant comments above. It’s 2011, people don’t all look the same. This girl has done radio in Los Angeles at the most famous rock station in the world, and Seattle at the most famous alternative station in the world. Were lucky to have her out here. Tune in , she’s funny and smart. I’m sure those glasses cost more than ‘bobby’ makes in two weeks. Not that that means anything… But just saying. Jordin, I apologize for all the ignorant hicks who are so sad with their lives that they come to anonymous message boards and make fun of you because you put yourself out there. There are a lot of us that love you. Remote control radio rocks!!

Brent

January 24th, 2011
1:40 pm

Remote Control Radio is awesome. I can’t believe I can pick what songs play from my phone! Crazy. The DJ is awesome too!

Jim H.

January 25th, 2011
9:46 am

Do they have a switch where we could turn it back into 96Rock? ……if they did I might actually listen to it again.

Scott

January 25th, 2011
7:17 pm

Radioio.com! Bubba The Love Sponge!