An interesting five-year experiment allowing radio listeners to (slightly) program their favorite stations ended over the weekend.
The online service, called Jelli, allowed listeners to nominate and vote for/against songs on a radio station’s playlist. Though a far cry from a 2000 Flushes-style listener takeover of a radio station, Jelli did provide a unique means of melding broadcasting, smartphones, and social media—something the radio industry itself has only recently begun serious investment in.
Unfortunately, Jelli was never really embraced by radio stations (just about 30 in the entire U.S.), with "crowdsourced" programming typically sequestered to the evening hours. Most stations simply deployed it as a twenty-first century version of the all-request show (sans human interaction), or as a bolt-on widget to their online presences (i.e., more flash than practical use).
In the shutdown announcement, Jelli CEO Mike Dougherty says they’ve spent the last two years rebuilding their business model, moving completely out of the broadcaster/listener interaction game. Now, Jelli is a "cloud-based ad platform for the $40 billion global radio market," and anything "listener" or "social" is long gone.
It would seem that communal audio experiences find it a tough go when they’re wholly online as well. Turntable.fm, which Matthew Lasar calls a pioneer in "distributed deejaying", closed up shop last November (though a derivative concept still lives on). Of course, neither of these intersect with broadcasting as traditionally conceived.
I’m kind of surprised at broadcasters’ reticence to experiment in old-Jelli fashion. We’ve already seen journalism (and especially broadcast journalism) open its doors to "non-professionals" and "citizen journalists," and it has not decimated the "industry" (such as it is). Then again, it might potentially decimate the formulaic and segmentary nature of how commercial radio programming works. Heaven forbid broadcasters shift paradigms.