We’re thrilled to announce the shiny NEW Streaming Audio Player has finally arrived in Radio Station!
I think you’ll agree, once you’ve read about the details and given it a go, we’ve done a great job with it. We really wanted our new streaming audio player to stick out head and shoulder above other available audio players. To get it right, we’ve combined some pretty high-level technical requirements with “mastering the basics” of an audio player interface, taking our time with it to make it awesome.
Setting up the Streaming Audio Player
The new Radio Station Streaming Audiio Player is available in our recent 2.4.0 release as both a widget or a shortcode. After updating your plugin to the latest version in your WordPress admin dashboard, head to your Radio Station => Settings page to get started.
If you haven’t set your streaming URL, take a moment to do so, along with your stream’s audio format. You can also set your Station Title and Logo while there, which can both be displayed in the Streaming Audio Player.
You’ll see the new Streaming Audio Player tab on the Settings page. Click on that and you’ll find where to set all the new Streaming Player defaults. These settings will be used by Streaming Audio Player widgets or shortcodes if they aren’t overridden by those. Finally, you can go to your Appearance -> Widgets page to add the Radio Player widget to a sidebar widget area. Alternatively, you can use the [radio-player] shortcode in a page or post, or echo do_shortcode('[radio-player]'); in a template.
Now navigate to your frontend page and click PLAY! Upgrade complete – stream activated – level up! Groovy beyond words.
Maybe you’re still wondering what we meant by “high-level technical requirements”… it’s just a standard web streaming audio player, right? Well, internet browsers are a little more complex these days and we also want to lay the groundwork to be able to add some additional awesomeness later on. With all that in mind, here are the main requirements we’ve sought to fulfill in this initial version:
Support multiple audio scripts for widest data format support.
Auto-detect data format and match to the appropriate script.
Fallback to an alternative audio script on playback failure.
Support multiple instances of the player on the same page.
Prevent more than one player from playing on the same page.
Enable auto-resuming of playback when returning to a site.
Have a stylish and completely stylable player control interface.
As you might imagine, the technical challenges involved in each of these individual pieces and bringing them all together are quite immense. A lot of work has gone into getting all the audio scripts to work in a similar way while maintaining the possibility of multiple player instances throughout development. Fortunately, all of these challenges were able to be resolved over many development hours!
Mastering the Basics
When it comes to a streaming audio player, the basics are having a stylish and working user interface that can be customized to your needs. Many players have taken the approach of providing specifically designed skins to choose from, but this tends to provide a rather limited choice that might not work with your chosen style and branding. Instead, we’ve made available some simple options to match up with your theme. Light or dark? Circular, rounded, or square buttons? Vertical or horizontal layout? We thought of almost everything!
This approach gets you a working streaming audio player instantly that looks good from the very outset. You can tweak it with more styles as you need to, to really make it reflective of your station’s brand style guide. Of course, if you want to develop it further, under the hood there are filters for every aspect of the player, so you can change whatever you need to without ever losing your work after a plugin update.
What this player isn’t…
To reduce confusion with what it is, we’d like to mention what this player isn’t…
It’s not a “jukebox” for a list of audio files. There really are plenty of those around already if you need them – but not many players specifically for live streaming. Of course, we may add more features in the future for better handling of files and playlists, but it’s certainly not our starting focus – live streaming is, as that’s what many stations really need.
While all this is a great beginning for our new Radio Station Stream Player, we know it is still a beginning! There is more work to be done, more options to be added, more features to develop, more innovations to explore, and more services to integrate with… We’d like to thank all our users for being part of this new beginning! For the now, we hope you enjoy the new Player and stay tuned for the next installment of the Radio Station story!
Until next time, Tony Hayes, Lead Developer
Radio Station PRO – Just Around The Corner!
We are thrilled to announce the upcoming launch of Radio Station PRO next week!!! Jam-packed with new features to “level up” your Station’s online presence. During the launch, we are offering a 30% discount to Radio Station users for your first yearsubscription! Click on the huge red button below to sign up to the exclusive Launch List to receive your discount code by email when we go LIVE.
For those who don’t know me already, I’m Tony Zeoli, CEO of netmix®, a company I relaunched last year to support the development of the free and open-source WordPress plugin, Radio Station, which you know as the best plugin for radio stations, streamers, and drop-in audio moderators to build, manage, and display your show schedule on a WordPress website.
Since being passed the baton In June of 2019 by Radio Station’s original creator, Nikki Blight, we’ve worked to update and improve Radio Station considerably. That effort has resulted in doubling our installed user base in 16 months. With such an extraordinary uptick in usage, we learned from stations like yours what would make Radio Station the best WordPress solution for creators of live radio and other forms of scheduled audio content.
That being said, I’m excited to fill you in on what’s happening here at netmix® with Radio Station. I’ve got some fantastic news for you!
But first, let’s dive into a bit of background, shall we?
Yes, you read that right! Back when online streaming audio first started and there were no DJ sets to be found (unless you count those terrible modem connection handshakes as techno!), netmix® was a pioneering online music service deemed the “innovation and advancement of dance music online” by former Billboard Dance Trax columnist, Larry Flick.
Here’s how netmix® got started…
In 1993, I was working the Boston nightclub circuit as a DJ by night. By day, I served as both A&R Coordinator and Worldwide Sales Director for X-Mix Remix and Management, which managed world-renowned producers, Armand Van Helden and DJ Sneak among others. Around the same time, a woman I was dating introduced me to a friend who worked in Harvard University’s IT department. One night, she took me to meet him at his apartment in Cambridge, which coincidentally was just a mile or so from Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, the company that created the ARPANET network for the U.S. military, in partnership with MIT, from which the Internet we know today was derived. He showed me web technologies like Telnet and Compuserve, all of which got me thinking about the future of information technology. But I didn’t quite yet see how that would lead to DJIng online. That revelation would come later that year.
Shortly thereafter, AOL (aka America Online, an early Internet service provider) allowed anyone with a computer modem to dial up and get on the web. I signed up and began connecting with other DJs in chatrooms and newsgroups. I began to see the true potential of the web and how DJs and radio stations might one day benefit from the Internet. However, AOL didn’t stream much audio and there was no video to speak of, so it wasn’t until I learned about the cutting edge of audio streaming at the time, RealAudio by Real Networks, I finally made the connection that one day we would broadcast DJ sets, radio shows, and other audio programs online.
In 1994, the World Wide Web was taking off. Early adopters were touting the benefits of Internet connectivity. The Internet World seminar and conference would become the place to be to learn about new web technologies. I attended the Boston edition with the goal of meeting the Real Audio team who had announced their plans to set up a booth where they would demonstrate the live streaming of a major league baseball game on the web. I stopped by the table and after asking some questions and experiencing what Real Audio was truly capable of, a light bulb in my head flicked on and confirmed my idea to build netmix® and showcase DJ mixes on the web. [See the first version of netmix® in the Internet Archives.]
But let’s step back for a minute from the early 90s to the mid-80s. Before I pursued my major Boston and New York City nightclub DJ career and launched X-Mix as a member of its founding team, I made early inroads at radio. First, as a high school intern at a local Boston-area Urban format radio station, WCAS (now WJIB), and then as a college student studying Radio and Television broadcasting in New York City. I had always been interested in broadcasting in some way, shape, or form. I never imagined I would be at the crossroads of the Internet at its inception.
Over the next 6-years, my life-long interest in Radio and DJ culture, combined with what I had learned about the Internet and streaming audio, drove the development of netmix®. In 1996, I partnered with an NYC-based dance music promotion company and moved netmix® operations from Boston to their office in New York City’s Soho district. To go from local Boston nightclub DJ to an innovative Internet music pioneer was one of the hardest, but most rewarding accomplishments of my life. While it sounds awesome, it was fraught with the trials and tribulations of a startup. I would experience incredible highs and very depressing lows throughout the journey, but I persisted as best I could, armed only with a vision and the energy to see it through, which is similar to Radio Station today.
So, how did it all end up…?
In many ways, netmix® was successful. We reached 1 million unique visitors in 1999 – a major milestone at the time for a small Internet company – and were subsequently acquired on June 1, 2000, by Polyverse, an aggregator of youth culture websites, for $3.1652 million.
…and then the dot com bubble burst!
If it weren’t for that tumultuous event, netmix® might be a household name today (like Netflix.) When Polyverse ceased operations, all netmix® assets reverted back to me. I’d love to fill you in on the details of that experience, but I’ll save it for a future blog post.
By now, you must be wondering, “well, what’s this all got to do with Radio Station today?”
That’s a great question. Let me make the connection for you.
In 2019, I’d hosted the Asheville House Music Society mix show with WPVM 103.7-FM LP, a small LPFM (low power FM) here in Asheville, NC. As a volunteer at the station, I helped with their WordPress website, which is how I first stumbled across the Radio Station plugin. But I noticed the plugin hadn’t been updated in some time and it was not working properly with Divi and other page builders. Because the station needed a working version that wouldn’t break their site in a new theme, I felt the urge to fix it myself or find a way to get it fixed for the station and for others using the plugin.
As a WordPress veteran (I started working with WordPress in 2005), I knew to contact the plugin developer through the WordPress.org plugin page, so I could learn if the plugin was under active development or if it had been orphaned. After tracking down Nikki Blight through Facebook, she let me know she had gotten a full-time job and was no longer actively developing the plugin. We chatted a bit and she asked if I wanted to take it over.
Given my background with WordPress, my media industry experience, and my work in product development and project management, I knew I could take it over and make something out of what was already established, but sorely in need of an update. Understanding that there was a theme marketplace for radio themes and opensource automation systems like LibreTime and Azuracast, I could see Radio Station’s amazing potential and wanted to take it to the next level, which we’ve now done and done well. But I had to figure out how to find a qualified developer with WordPress plugin experience who could help me with it since I’m not a WordPress developer.
So, this time around, it really is “netmix® 3.0”. While the comeback of netmix® started with picking up the ongoing development of Radio Station, I understood the WordPress plugin marketplace and recognized the need for a more comprehensive version to extend Radio Station and present it as the top plugin for radio stations, Internet streamers, and maybe even Clubhouse moderators who need to post and manage show schedules on their WordPress websites.
But I needed help.
Here’s what I did to solve that problem. I posted an announcement on the WordPress Jobs site and was very lucky to get a response from Tony Hayes, who has since joined on as Lead Developer. A freelance web developer and solopreneur based one hour outside of Brisbane, Australia, Tony initially stepped in to bring Radio Station up to speed with current best practices, bug fixes, and a few new features. In doing so, he also realized the potential of Radio Station and was on board with my vision for the plugin. Like me, he was also ready to move from the agency model of building individual sites for clients to building software that serves a purpose.
And that’s why today, Tony and I want to make this incredible announcement!
Finally…just get to the point!
Well, it’s been a major effort over 18-months of active development while also navigating the Covid crisis and our own personal affairs for us to iterate and present Radio Station Pro as a stable, innovative product that aims to be a leader in its field. We’re also building a new website at https://radiostation.pro (launching soon). And, we’re integrating everything with our radio station directory at https://netmix.com, which will soon be relaunched solely as a directory to showcase stations using our plugin and provide a high-quality backlink to participating stations.
We are very excited to announce Radio Station PRO launch start date has been set for… next week (so close now)! We are confident this is going to be an incredible and transformative WordPress plugin for your radio station website in many respects. From our visual schedule editor to a new, persistent audio player, and more cool schedule layouts, we’re building the future of radio on WordPress. We have more exciting plans ahead, but none of this would be possible without your support in helping us help you by purchasing the PRO version next week. Your purchase of Radio Station PRO will fund ongoing plugin development and potentially save you thousands of dollars on developer costs!
If you haven’t yet signed up for our launch list discount – 30% off the launch week price of your first year’s subscription to Radio Station PRO, just click on the huge button below to sign up to get your launch discount code at the start of launch week. So, keep checking your email for the code, as it’s coming soon!