Net radio: a goldmine of alternative information and the future of radio?
We’ve spoken to Lorin Cutts who runs a popular radio show about UFOs on US online radio network Global Radio Alliance, which he also helped to co-found. Lorin explains the strengths and weaknesess of net radio and why the internet can be great for niche topics – with a large audience.
1. How did you get involved with radio and why?
I appeared as a guest on a net radio show last year to talk about my UFO research and writing. That was the start of a great friendship with the hosts (Race Hobbs and Royce Fitzgerald of Eye Witness Radio based in Arkansas, USA) and they invited me to do a monthly slot on their show regarding ‘high strangeness’ (the para-psychological and sometimes bizarre effects attached to some UFO encounters). By episode two we had become mired in petty politics and contractual problems with their host net radio network – and so we walked and started our own network – The Global Alliance. Within three months I’d gone from guest on a show to being a partner in a network… so it all happened in the blink of an eye and very organically really.
2. How would you describe net radio as a medium, what are its strengths, weaknesses?
Net radio is in it’s infancy and it’s a very exciting time right now. As a medium – it has it’s pitfalls that need to be ironed out before it can really reach it’s full potential. The quality is often sub-standard… but that’s also it’s beauty, I guess, in that anyone with a PC can host a podcast or show. What we are trying to do is attain a quality as a network of shows and hosts, somewhat comparable to terrestrial and digital talk radio – in both content and production values. There are also bandwidth and technology issues that need to be overcome before net radio can be a viable alternative to conventional radio broadcasting… but make no mistake, no one can really call which way it’s going to go – but I think you’d have to be crazy to not think that the internet isn’t in some way going to be instrumental in radio broadcasting of the future.
I think of this time as perhaps comparable to that time in the music industry when the industry refused to acknowledge the potential of iTunes and the inevitable downloading revolution. But eventually the people decide and the industry caves to technological advances because they have to. Another downside related to this period is the apparent snobbery of some people towards net radio – which is understandable. But the way I see things is – if you have 10, 1,000, 300,000 or 3 million listeners – I don’t really care in what medium they are accessing our shows. The important thing is that they are doing and are able to do so.
3. How does radio work for you, what are the advantages for you?
With our subject matter it works really well. We knew there was a massive market for our shows because a) Ufos is one of the most searched subjects on the internet and b) the most syndicated show in US radio is ‘Coast to Coast’ – with some 20 million plus listeners. ‘Coast’ covers many of the subjects we do. In fact many of our hosts and guests have appeared on the show on many occasions. I think net radio is a goldmine for getting alternative information out there… and we are aiming to branch out into marketing the network as an ‘alternative talk radio’ network rather than simply UFOs and the paranormal – which is how we started out. We want to cover current affairs, alternative research, suppressed information, technology, hidden history, spirituality and much more.
4. Why do you think the medium works online?
I think it works because it’s easy. People also tend to be searching for our subject matter anyway and can find us easily. You have a captive market in that people are surfing anyway. There’s still some confusion as to how people will ultimately consume net radio. Do they do it whilst surfing? Do they want to listen on demand to archives rather than live and and perhaps access a live chatroom? Are they willing to pay for downloadable archives – perhaps if ad free? Do they want to download and then listen whilst driving to work or doing household chores? I guess there are no rules right now and we learn by trial and error to a certain extent. We don’t know anyone who’s really tried this before.
5. What is the future for net radio?
As I already mentioned.. I think no matter what – the internet is going to be absolutely instrumental in radio broadcasting development. Who knows what form that will eventually take. What I do know is that if you can listen on demand and plug in and play an app on your iphone or android into your car stereo – for free… and the content is professional and of high quality – then XM/digital radios days are numbered. I think the industry knows this and moves will be made to control and regulate the playing field – but maybe I’m just paranoid.
6. Finally could you talk a bit about your experiences with UFO research, how you got involved with that and what impact you think radio has had on this work.
I became fascinated by the UFO subject after a close encounter in Portugal in 1993. I never thought I’d be publicly talking about it or airing my views, but I began writing for a UFO magazine in the UK and the rest came from that really. It’s a funny subject – anyone can call themselves a ‘ufologist’ or ‘researcher’ and do little more than surf the internet. For that reason I think integrity is everything in this subject and you quickly learn whose opinions you trust and those one chooses to discard. Personally, I feel I’m walking this tightrope between UFO ‘experiencer’ and ‘researcher’ – so I’m not sure what that says about any integrity I may or may not have to other people. But as my friend Mike Clelland said ‘hey we’re ufolgist’s – we don’t have any credibility to the outside world anyway!’.
Radio has really been instrumental in getting my opinions and thoughts out. I’m actually quite taken aback by just how effective and how quickly that has happened. So much so, that I really feel my profile is way out of step with what I see as the real work – that of researching, writing and completing my books. Once they are done I’ll feel like less of a charlatan. Creating the Global Radio Alliance and doing my radio show has taken up a lot of the time I was spending on those things, so it’s a double edged sword. i don’t regret it one bit though and the Global Radio Alliance has been one hell of a learning and growing experience for us all.
Lorin hosts his ‘High Strangenss’ show on his Global Radio Alliance network at 8pm EST on the third Sunday of each month at GlobalRadioAlliance.com