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Five Party Animals And A Robot Dog

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Jeff Zycinski | 18:25 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009


I was at a baby's birthday party last night and there was just one candle on the cake. I had arrived slightly drookit and fashionably late having wandered around the south side of Glasgow trying to follow the directions on my Google map. The hostess - Lizzy Clark and two other guests - Matt Ludlow and Iain Hoare - were well into the first bottle of bubbly and later we were joined by the famous Annie McGuire. We clinked glasses and wished our baby - actually five babies - many happy returns.

By babies I mean our five online Zones which were launched into cyberspace exactly 12 months ago. Lizzy , Matt and Iain are the folk who keep those Zones going and Annie was there because, em, let me think, oh yes, Annie has been one of the 81 people who have presented a Zone.

Yes, we should have invited the other eighty presenters on a bring-a-bottle basis but Lizzy's flat is not really equipped for major functions. So, it was just the five of us and a little robot dog called Peggy. Lizzy talked about radio, Matt talked about music, Iain talked about philosophy, Annie talked about football and, as usual, I talked about myself.

Peggy just bleeped and flashed different colours of lights depending on the music that was playing in the background. It was a bit creepy, to be honest with you.

But the success of our Zones does pose some interesting questions about the future of radio. Take the Comedy Zone, for instance. It's a five-and-a-half hour sequence of programmes which get an overnight Medium Wave transmission on Friday nights/Saturday mornings. We now know that nineteen thousand people listen to that programme in the middle of the night. Nineteen thousand! There are some small radio stations that would be happy to have that many listeners for the Breakfast Show.

But that's only part of the story.

The Zones are also streamed online via the BBC Radio Scotland website so you can hear continuous looped output on you laptop or internet radio. The Zones are also available on the BBC iPlayer and the Comedy Zone is usually at number one spot in the Radio Scotland top ten.

Three times in the past year the Comedy Zone has also been in the top spot for all BBC radio programmes available on the iPlayer.

It's telling us a lot about the listeners' appetite for online audio and about how so many of us are prepared to abandon the linear analogue schedule and seek out the particular programmes we want at a time that suits us best.

But who knows what the future will bring? Will we have a cake with two candles or will radio's future go in a different direction?

I should have asked the dog.


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