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Streamlining your Station: The Top Scheduling Tools for Community Radio Stations

Streamlining your Station: The Top Scheduling Tools for Community Radio Stations

July 7th, 2023

Radio may have changed significantly from the days of Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor who is credited with the creation of practical radio). But ever since there have been radio stations, there has been a need to maintain a schedule of what’s upcoming next on the broadcast. You as a station manager need this to oversee your station effectively and your listeners need a schedule to keep them informed of when they should lock in to their favourite show.

However, what is not required nor desirable is using a spreadsheet as your scheduling tool — those days are gone. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the various scheduling options your station can use to streamline your operation. We’ll begin first with an explanation of each of the broad categories of tools: dedicated and complementary, where the pros and cons of each will be explored. Next we’ll describe the tools we consider to be the best for the industry. So let’s dive into it!

I. Dedicated or complementary?

A dedicated scheduling tool is as the name suggests — an application primarily intended for creating and maintaining a schedule. The most obvious example of such a tool is Google Calendar.

The prime advantage of using a dedicated scheduling option is the event complexity these tools can handle out of the box. The online radio space is usually different from commercial radio in that an online station may have significantly more presenters associated with it than a commercial counterpart. Over a given time period, an online station will broadcast the content of significantly more artists than that of commercial one. A single presenter may host the morning slot of a commercial station daily, whilst a single presenter broadcasting on an online station may only play once a month, which recurs say on the third Wednesday of each month. A dedicated tool should be able to support both of these examples and many more.

Where dedicated scheduling tools fall short is their lack of online radio specific features. These sort of tools are meant to be generic such that nearly any sort of industry can find value from them — you can consider them the jack of all trades, but master of none. As a consequence, you won’t find any features intended for playlist management or any sort of automation capability where pre-recorded mixes can play automatically at a predetermined time.

A complementary scheduling tool is an application whose primary purpose is not scheduling. Rather the application offers scheduling as an additional feature that complements the app’s core feature, which for the purposes of this blog post is any application used to support an online radio station.

The key benefit of a complementary option is the scheduling features are first and foremost intended to further help you run your online radio station. This has many downstream advantages for your station. The first and simplest is cost. You may already use the tool and hence it makes sense to use their scheduling features as you are already paying for it. The next advantage is the scheduling tool integrates into the other core features of the application. The most obvious example of this is the ability to automatically play pre-recorded shows or mixes at their scheduled time. One further benefit is these tools have been developed knowing that any schedule you create is not meant for your eyes only. The application providers know that your schedule needs to be publicly available to your listeners. Hence a number of these apps provide solutions where you craft the schedule through their interfaces and the result is then automatically displayed on your website (i.e. an embeddable web component).

The weakness of complementary tools is that scheduling is not the only priority of the overall application. The best dedicated tools are generally developed by the titans of the software industry, think Google or Apple. They have big budgets and the expertise to develop quality scheduling solutions. As such from a purely scheduling perspective, a complementary tool is unlikely to ever be superior to a dedicated one. Even if it is, the top dedicated tools will have better customer support than their complementary alternatives. As well as being more responsive to providing more features and fixing any bugs.

Let’s know explore all the scheduling tools we consider to be best for the online radio industry.

II. Radio Cult

Radio Cult is a streaming provider designed specifically for independent and community radio stations. Our primary goal is to make running a community radio station easier. You won’t see this better reflected than in the scheduling tool we offer. Here you can plan out your station’s upcoming broadcasts with ease, whether that be a live show or pre-recorded content such as mixes or playlists.

It employs a slick and intuitive user interface which integrates nicely with our other tools. When creating any event, our schedule allows you to assign artists (created through our artist management tool) to the show, so you always know who is playing and at what time.

Further, the repeating rules we support are the designed with real life in mind. We want to provide functionality that reflects how you actually run your station. We support more repeating rules than other streaming tools out there. So if you have a presenter broadcasting at a bespoke recurrence then we’ve got you covered.

To top it all off, we allow you to embed your Radio Cult schedule onto your website. It’s as easy as copy and paste. The schedule embed keeps your listeners automatically up to date with any and all upcoming shows.

III. Radio.co

Radio.co is another commonly used streaming provider. As part of it’s offering, it allows stations to use their programming features to create and maintain a schedule. You can record a live show and then schedule the show to replay at a future date or similarly you can pre-record a show and then programme the recording to play publicly for the first time. The last feature of note, is their embeddable scheduling web component, where after completing a couple of simple steps your schedule (crafted on Radio.co) will be displayed on your own website and will automatically reflect any event updates you make going forward.

For an online community radio station, Radio.co is lacking in two key regards - the repeating options it supports and the ease of scheduling mixes. This isn’t to say Radio.co can’t cover most online station’s particular scheduling needs, but it can’t support them all. If your station has artists or presenters broadcasting say on the second Tuesday of each and every month, then you will need to find other solutions to accommodate this.

IV. Google Calendar

As mentioned previously, Google Calendar can be considered the industry standard for scheduling. It employs a clean UI, which makes it very intuitive to use. It’s real strength for an online radio station however, is it’s support for complex recurring rules when creating events. So no matter how many artists you broadcast and no matter the frequency they appear on your station, Google Calendar has you covered.

As Google Calendar is a dedicated scheduling tool, it does have some shortcomings when it comes to online radio. It lacks integration with any application outside of the Google suite. Additionally, it’s only intended to support an organisation internally, meaning you’ll need to take extra steps to display your schedule publicly should you use it.

V. Conclusion

A online radio station can’t function without some form of schedule. But need doesn’t equate to adversity — scheduling can be made easy. Your station’s particular needs will ultimately decide what tool is best for you, whether that’s dedicated or complementary. None of the solutions we’ve discussed will be the perfect fit, but at least one should further streamline your operation. If you’re no longer using Excel for your schedule after reading this blog post, then mission accomplished.

We hope you found this article helpful and informative. If you ever have any questions or need any additional services, feel free to reach out to us here at Radio Cult. We are the home of community radio and we can’t wait to help you.

As always, keep it locked.

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