Something I wrote for the

Something I wrote for the business section of Monday's NYT: Turning a Digital Database Into Local Radio. It's about Carson Daly, the robo-DJ.

The story was inspired by someone who filled me in on the workings of Carson Daly's radio countdown show, "Carson Daly Most Requested," which sounds pretty straightforward to the casual listener but is actually a big digital collage. This makes it possible for Carson to sound like he cares about, say, Nelly's dominance of Miami's top 10. It also makes it possible for Carson to sound like he's still counting down songs when he's actually in Aruba (see my favorite anecdote at the end of the story). The masterminds behind this scheme work for Clear Channel Communications, which might be described as the Microsoft of the radio industry.

Want to impress friends with your ability to predict the future? Check out this Clear Channel site. It's supposed to be password-protected, but someone forgot to tell Google. The site reveals that although Carson tells listeners the countdowns are based on that day's requests, the shows are actually spliced together a day in advance. If you're in a city that gets a customized countdown (New York, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, D.C., Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit or Los Angeles), you can find the page for your local Carson-carrying station and get a preview of tonight's top 10. Go T.A.T.U.!

More on Clear Channel and the controversial robo-DJ practice known as "voice tracking:"

-- Eric Boehlert's great stuff in Salon
-- NYT: Disc Jockeys Are Resisting Taking the Local Out of Local Radio
-- WSJ: Clear Channel Uses High-Tech Gear to Perfect the Art of Sounding Local
-- Wired News: 'Good Mornin' (Your Town Here)'

And this is supposedly Carson's old personal page. "I don't know really anything when it comes to computers."