On the Subject of the Alien Attack

On this day, 75 years ago, a radio broadcast of dance music performed by Ramon Raquello was interrupted by frantic breaking news segments, reporting meteorite impacts in New Jersey, followed by a terrifying invasion of aliens in gigantic tripod machines. They swept aside all resistance with heat rays and poison black fog, and crushed the army and depopulated New York City in minutes.

All of this came over the radio in 1938, a time when the confluence of the Great Depression, the rise of Hitler, and the multitude of upheavals that came to define the era were all reported in breaking stories over the radio. No wonder that 1 million people believed that aliens from Mars were invading.

This radio broadcast was the brainchild of Orson Welles, who succeeded in striking fear into the hearts of thousands with his extraordinarily realistic retelling of the novel The War Of The Worlds by H. G. Wells. Although disclaimers stated that the broadcast was a dramatization, many listeners tuned in late and missed the caveat, instead only hearing the breathless breaking-story style reports of aliens swatting the army aside like flies and black poisonous fog flooding the streets of New York City and killing anyone who breathed it in.

According to reports, a great many people reacted with confusion and panic, with some running from their homes holding wet cloth over their mouths. Later historians would say that about 20% of the audience, about 1 million people, believed that what they were hearing was the truth. Even as a minority, this is an incredibly large amount of people who were affected by this broadcast.

This is because of the unique power that radio had in the 1930’s. It was the most immediate mass media channel that the world had ever seen, and for many it was the first, best contact with the outside world that they had. The realistic nature of the program evoked memories of other broadcasted breaking stories, like the “Munich Meeting” which preceded the beginning of Nazi power, or the destruction of the Hindenburg. Orson Welles used this memory, and the imagination possible with radio, to write, direct, and star in a program that the listeners fully and truly believed.

What Sparks Our Fire: The power of mass media to take ahold of the imagination and create entirely believable content.

If a reputable internet news site reported an alien attack, would you believe it?

Where does music take you?


By now, iOS7 for Apple products has been released, and lots of people are talking about the benefits or detriments of the system and what it can do for you. The new system has lots of changes and improvements, but one of the most interesting is iTunes Radio. Radio is integrated directly into the music app on your iPhone or iPad, and is connected directly to the iTunes store, so you can download whatever song you’re listening to at that exact moment. It features more than 250 curated radio stations, and you can create your own as well. This new feature is married into your system, and might be a strong contender in the smartphone radio race.

What sparked our fire: Seamless integration of an established music purchasing and playing program with a radio app format.

Will this new form of iTunes supplant established radio apps like Pandora?