NATCHEZ, Miss. — First Natchez Radio Group owns five radio stations, broadcasting a diverse range of programming from our Natchez headquarters to listeners in southwest Mississippi and eastern and central Louisiana. As technical operations manager, I oversee engineering and IT for all properties, comprising four FMs and one AM station.
Early this year, we started looking for a replacement for our old, end-of-life radio automation system. We were reaching the capacity limits of the system, and it had become unreliable, with a variety of intermittent issues.
In searching for a new solution, reliability was foremost, but we were also looking for functional and workflow improvements. We wanted a system that offered easy remote access and better voice tracking capabilities. And of course, we wanted it all without breaking the bank.
ENCO DAD met all of our criteria, giving us the robustness and feature-richness we need while coming in less expensive than its closest competitors. While many automation offerings are locked into a “one station per system” model, the affordability of ENCO DAD was further magnified by its flexibility to run multiple stations on a single machine. We chose to spread our five stations across three on-air systems as the best balance of cost-effectiveness, concurrent live program control and redundancy for our needs.
In June, we went live with DAD across all five of our stations. ENCO’s stellar service helped ensure a smooth changeover for us. They converted our entire existing library for us prior to shipping the units, and tailored the configurations to tightly integrate with our other existing software systems.
ENCO also provides us with exceptional post-installation support. As easy as DAD is to use and learn, it’s still different than what our staff had used for more than 10 years, so their support team has been a tremendous asset to us in the transition. The old system required roundabout methods for many things we did, so the hardest part of learning DAD was simply “unlearning” our old habits of doing things the “hard way.”
One of our favorite features is the DAD Dropbox utility, which eliminates manual conversion and import steps when bringing audio files into the automation system. I love it, and our DJs love it. When we want to bring songs, imagery or even full shows into the system, we can just drag and drop the files into a folder, and DAD automatically ingests them and inserts them into the library.
ENCO’s remote voice-tracking tools are fantastic. We augment our local radio personalities with additional talent in Nebraska and Texas, and one of our local DJs is moving to another city. We want to keep her on the air, and ENCO voice-tracking lets us do that. The DAD system automatically sends playlist sections and 30-second clips of the songs’ outros and intros to the remote jock, who then uses the DAD Remote Tracking Client to record the voice track and sends it back to our server for automatic integration into our playlist. It couldn’t be easier.
Other remote access features of the DAD platform also make our workflow a lot simpler. We can work with the system from any office on the network, without tying up a production room. Using the iDAD app in the ENCO enCloud family, we can send remote commands to the system from a mobile device through an easy interface. For example, I can recue a station’s playlist with a single button click from my phone if a program didn’t make it through due to a satellite issue.
iDAD also enables us to have multiple live users on a single system at the same time. While our stations are deployed across three separate systems, we often air four high school football games simultaneously. One live board operator can be in front of the machine using DAD with a mouse, while another live board operator triggers hot buttons and watches countdowns in a separate DAD array panel through an iPad.
ENCO DAD has proven much easier to use than our previous system, and is tremendously configurable. Its powerful DAD Command Language lets us set it up so we can push a single hot button to execute 10 commands, from enabling or disabling mixing boards to merging playlists with logs from our RadioTraffic.com traffic and billing system. Once again, this saves us a lot of time and effort, and we don’t need specialized users to perform these tasks — whoever is in the studio at any given time can take care of them.
Three months into our DAD experience, everything has been great. It has given us the reliability we need, it’s straightforward to operate, and it saves everybody hours each day.