Thursday, March 15, 2012

Soundtap Madness 2012

It's not exactly Thunderdome. These rules are even more simple:
1. The station which accumulates more minutes of listening during the three day period advances to the next round. 
2. Each listener can log up to 90 minutes per station per day. Listeners must be logged in to play.
Soundtap, a crowd-sourced radio app is involved in a football pool style competition between college radio stations. The relatively short time frames and login requirements reduce the possibility of cheating. I find it interesting that the panels have no regional or engineering requirements. Some of the stations don't even exist by any traditional definition. The first round runs from March 15th through March 17th. The final round ends April 1st. The included stations include: KTUH, WUTK, WLUW, KDVS, WOBC, WFMU, KSPC, KDHC, WVUM, WRLC, WZBC, WSUM, KZSC, KVRX, KBGA, WCBN, KSCU, KWVA, KUCI, KGNU, KCRW, WHCS CKUT and CJSF. More here.

What's interesting here is that while commercial radio has always existed in a competitive environment, college radio has not. There are just a few markets with multiple college stations in the same weight class so to speak, with substantial overlapping coverage. Sure it occurs, but I don't recall WRAS and WREK fighting over their slice of the Atlanta book. College radio doesn't fight over ad dollars, so that component has been entirely absent from their history. Beyond that, these stations have never competed across disparate markets. That's a nuanced situation more comparable to the early cable television stations like WGN vs. TBS. By contrast college stations operate not just independently, but often wholly unaware of each other.

The internet changes all this. Suddenly a station in Honolulu and a station in Miami are at least ostensibly competing for all the same listeners online with stations the world over. It's a shockingly powerful mode of democratization. So while this contest on Soundtap is for show, in the very near future this fight is for real. To quote the Dr. Dealgood character from Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome
"This is the truth of it! Fighting leads to killing. And killing leads to warring! And that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up and everyone talking about hard rain. But we've learned by the dust of them all, Bartertowns learned. Now when men get to fighting, it happens here... and it finishes here! Two men enter... one man leaves."