Tech Talk: Radio, podcasts and audiobooks

January 29, 2013 08:59 PM
Dino Giacommazi 2012 Leopold Conservation Award winner 2

Dino Giacomazzi is the fourth genera-tion to manage his family’s dairy farm near Hanford, Calif. Contact him at

On Jan. 1, 2013, my 25-year relationship with the local news and talk station abruptly ended when Clear Channel pulled Rush, Sean and Glenn from KMJ 580 AM and moved them to a station it owns.

This crumbling of a dynasty got me thinking about the future of terrestrial radio and how technology is changing this industry. Conveniences like on-demand video and DVRs have allowed us to take control of TV; now it’s time to take control of radio.

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Smartphones have changed the way we listen to music, but in this article I am going to focus on people talking on the radio. There are three basic ways of getting news, information and entertainment through smartphones: live radio, podcasts and audiobooks.

There are three ways of getting information through smartphones: live radio, podcasts and audiobooks

Live radio is a digital feed of terrestrial, satellite or Internet-based radio stations. Listening to live radio on a mobile phone is as simple as downloading an app like TuneIn or iHeartRadio, searching for a station and tuning in. You will hear the radio broadcast just as if you were actually in the local area, commercials and all.

Sometimes my five-year-old son and I listen to radio stations from around the world together. He’s a fan of African jazz.

TuneIn Radio has a TiVo-like feature that allows you to record radio shows and listen to them later. Let’s say your local college football team just won their bowl game, the radio postgame show is about to start, but you have a heifer calving with twin bulls, backwards! Rather than miss this historic program, record it and listen when you finish. (Be sure to wipe the J-lube off your hands before using your phone.)

Podcasts are on-demand episodic radio programs, prerecorded and available for download. Podcasts are produced by a wide variety of sources on many subjects, including ag news. I listen to a lot of political talk radio, but on weekends I prefer educational material or nonpolitical stories. Some of my favorites are "The Dinner Party," "Radiolab," "Freakonomics Radio" and "MacBreak Weekly."

To find these podcasts, download a podcast player like BeyondPod or OneCast for Android or Downcast or iCatcher! for iOS. Stitcher has an app for both platforms as well as the web browser. Once they are installed, you can browse or search for shows.

Audiobooks are books read aloud by people. I set a goal every year to read 12 books. I have never achieved that book-a-month goal, but now, with Audible, I’m right on track. I listen to books while in the tractor and driving to town in my truck.

Audible is available on all devices, and you can also buy audiobooks through iTunes. I always listen to audiobooks at 1.5× speed; this knocks about two hours off an eight-hour book and it is still easy to follow.

No matter what happens in your local radio market, with live radio, podcasts and audiobooks you are in control of when and where you listen. And who knows, along the way you might actually learn something!

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