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Son of the Revenge of Visual Radio

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Guy Strelitz | 07:00 UK time, Thursday, 4 June 2009

Since I published this post I've learnt that some elements of the trial haven't been finalised yet so I've edited the post to remove some names and dates. I'll come back with full details once they're all confirmed.

In January, Visual Radio came to your PC screen. This Summer It's Phase II. It's bigger. It's better. It's still a trial but it's here for longer.

What hasn't changed is the basic architecture. It's still driven from a Ruby on Rails application in the studio. It still publishes updates with a push model via our distribution partners at Monterosa (though more on that below) and it's still rendered at your end on a Flash client. But...

It's Bigger
In January Visual Radio was available for one week Chris Moyles and Switch on Radio1 only. Phase II includes Simon Mayo on 5Live for three weeks (though not on Wednesdays), followed by 6 weeks for Moyles and Switch on Radio1, Material World on Radio 4, and the 6Music Hub Sessions. And the CPS can manage multiple programmes simultaneously.

vis_radio_screenshots.jpg

This might sound like a simple administrative decision, but it's meant serious re-engineering of almost all the components in the software chain, and a range of new designs for the console.

More than this though, these shows could hardly be more different from each other. We've seen what Moyles does with music and chat on Visual Radio. Material World is a science and technology magazine and it'll be fascinating to see what Quentin Cooper and the production team do with the new platform.

It's in Widescreen
In Phase 1, producers were often unable to keep the right-hand-side of the console fresh - the bit that shows votes, SMS and the studio blog. Producers had compliance concerns around voting and graphs, and maintaining a blog or approving SMSes for publication turns out to be a lot of extra work in a busy studio. In Phase II, the studio can expand the left-hand-side to take over the entire Visual Radio client. This favours pretty pictures (images, studio cam and the NowPlaying feed) over the more involving reading-and-writing stuff - not our original aspiration, but this is what you find out in a trial.

We've also put screen size in the hands of the visual listener. In Phase II you can expand the Visual Radio client to fill your entire screen.

It's Mobile
Because watching the radio on your laptop just is so last-month, in Phase II you can watch the radio on your mobile! So now we've added a push feed through our new mobile distribution partner - wecomm - who are also building the mobile client for us. We'll publish more details when this becomes available next week.

It's Listening to You
Sending text messages to the studio remains incredibly popular. In Phase II you can do it for free, through the console.

We had decided that you weren't going to be able to vote through the console. Then wecomm pointed out that on mobiles this would mean having to leave the Visual Radio application to send an SMS to vote, then open the app again. Not cool. So now there's a separate feature to participate in votes directly from the mobile or the desktop client.

It Wants to Feed...
The studio team can put BBC News, Sports and Weather feeds on the right-hand-side of the console, or across the bottom of the screen.

...and It's Heeerre!
Visual Radio Phase II launched with Simon Mayo, 5Live at lunchtime on Monday. It'll be running for three weeks (but not on Wednesdays). Find it on the 5live homepage during Simon's show: 13.00 - 16.00

From mid-June we'll be visualising more programmes - from Radio 1, Radio 4 and 6Music.

We've made a monster. We think it's pretty cool.
We hope you enjoy it!

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