The first sign-ups
The 1Radio beta site was launched in May 2008 with only minimal publicity.
The site was switched on one Monday morning and a few days later, the first person registered. Somewhere, I’d read about the early days of Amazon when its founder Jeff Bezos had a bell stuck on the office wall that would ring every time a book was ordered. I did the same with 1Radio, having various sounds go off in my office when people visited the site, when they connected to the audio stream or when they registered. I don’t know how many months the Amazon folk left their bell connected to their stock system, but I switched off mine after about a fortnight. People started arriving at the site fairly often. Not necessarily to sign up, or even listen. Many just came to sniff around.
Much of the time, there was nothing to listen to. Otto was yet to be conceived. I would occasionally set up a playlist from my SAM Broadcaster, selecting random tunes and then leaving it connected throughout the day or night. This would keep the station alive intermittently. But in reality, it offered very little and so I patiently waited for presenters to roll in who would present their own shows and delight the masses.
Some long time 1’sters may remember a presenter called Les Walker - also known as MonkeyHanger. Les was first through the 1Radio door. He’s been on 1Radio on and off over the years. The second person to join was Smoak, who remained with 1Radio to the bitter end. I can't remember who signed up next but Mac and Rhodders appeared not long after Les and Smoak. Another early arrival was vintage pirate Ricky Rodgers. Les, Smoak and Ricky all came via my spamming of the Freecast member list.
The station software that powered 1Radio was by no means complete. I was coding new aspects of the site as it was being used, watching how people used the tools and navigated the site and tweaking things as we went along. It was an incredibly dynamic period of development and refinement. In fact, I never really stopped tweaking 1Radio over its entire online life. I don’t believe you’re ever completely done with a website.
Smoak was an almost permanent fixture during the early days. In fact, for most of his time on 1Radio he was on for the most hours each week. Although located in the US, he would often be on during the morning hours of UK time. His playlist was a relentless mix of industrial, hardcore music that made the perfect accompaniment to coding. His aggressive music and my own well-stocked coffee pot saw me through those early days of coding and hacking to get the site functioning just how I wanted it. All this was going on whilst I juggled my regular, paid work.
I was probably the only consistent listener in those early weeks and would chat to each new person who showed up. In the early days, I had a subscription to LiveChat and could force open a pop up window on the presenter (or listeners) browser. I could have a 1-to-1 text chat with new presenters, post “canned answers” to common questions and link to screenshots or, if necessary, take control of their computer if they installed a simple plug in. It was incredibly powerful and let me diagnose some of the early usability issues.
Many people who signed up knew what they were doing already and had broadcast elsewhere. It was a simple task for them to change their shoutcast settings and get on air. Others needed help to get connected. Some people never seemed to get it at all despite the help and I’d often have abusive emails from them when they thought they were broadcasting but hadn’t actually connected and were heard by no one. The good experiences outweighed the bad and people appeared to be having fun and a small band of broadcasters was being assembled.
At first, the homepage of 1Radio only showed messages extolling the virtues of joining the station and having your own radio show. The USP was signing up and broadcasting your own show in the very next hour. No other station offered such immediacy. Later, as more people signed up, I started promoting shows and giving each presenter their own cover image and caption that would appear whenever they were due on. Later still, I turned this into a carousel displaying multiple shows and presenters coming up in the next few hours.
I clearly had too much time on my hands. Excitedly, I would create a custom cover pic and caption for each new person as they joined and did their first show. It must have been quite a novelty and somewhat exciting for someone to see a personalised graphic and description appear on the homepage as they broadcast their first few shows. Imagine today if your show or podcast appears at the top of iTunes or Podomatic. Quite a buzz, no? And all those encountering the 1Radio site back then had no idea it was a lone individual running the website from his loft. I was often told that the site had all the hallmarks of a professionally run broadcast outfit. Anyone arriving at our fairly decent looking homepage could be mistaken for thinking they were on a vibrant, authentic and soon to be massive radio start up.
As time went on, I realised the custom homepage pic was unsustainable, particularly as some people never returned after their first broadcast. Or indeed, for their first broadcast. Thereafter, I would wait until someone had a few shows under their belt before I would create a custom banner for them.
Posted by Tim on Fri 18 Feb at 23:23 and viewed 285 times.