BlogBeat

Immigrants Tune in to Sounds From Home Using Cell Phones

Immigrants Tune in to Sounds From Home Using Cell Phones

Feet in 2 Worlds

For many immigrants, listening to music from their home countries can be an important way to stay connected to their culture. Inspired by the plight of homesick cab drivers, entrepreneur Baruch Herzfeld created ZenoRadio — a radio program featuring 2,000 different stations from around 30 countries that people can access using a mobile phone. Rachel Bryson-Brockmann at Voices of New York reports on Herzfeld’s inspriation for this project, and why it works.

Herzfeld figured taxi drivers – and other immigrants working in solitary jobs across the country – must be yearning for news and music from their hometowns, but didn’t always have an Internet connection on the job to access it. So he founded ZenoRadio, which allows users to call U.S. phone numbers that play radio stations from around the world for free.

“These immigrants really want to hear something in their own exact accent, not just something similar,” said Herzfeld.

ZenoRadio, which was established in January 2012 and has about 1.2 million users around the U.S., follows the premise that most cell phone users have unlimited minutes, but not all have smartphones or unlimited data. An immigrant longing for a taste of home can call a number with a cheap flip-phone and listen for as long as they want with no extra charge.

ZenoRadio is among the most recent efforts to use mobile phones, which are widely used by immigrant communities, to help people stay connected to their home countries. Last year, Fi2W reporter Abdulai Bah produced a podcast for our radio partner WNYC.

In it, Bah explains how West African immigrants in the U.S. use free conference-call services — like those used in office meetings — to host radio shows that can be dialed into from anywhere in the country.

Through ZenoRadio, Herzfeld has developed a unique business model for a product that allows immigrants and international music enthusiasts alike to access thousands of radio stations virtually free of charge.

Herzfeld has liked exploring different cultures since he was a college student in the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, where he would practice merengue dancing. He carried on his love for languages and cultures with ZenoRadio. He’s also excited about connecting people to home because he knows that these radio stations are often the only way to receive news about what’s really going on in people’s countries of origin.

“Radio still has the most power in many of these countries,” said Herzfeld. “It’s the most dominant form of media.”

ZenoRadio, which has 14 employees in its small office on the fifth floor of a building across from Penn Station, makes a profit because the calls are routed through rural carriers and the company receives a few cents for each call. It also gets revenue through advertisements and investors, said Herzfeld.

Herzfeld said ZenoRadio can be uplifting for immigrants working in isolated or mundane jobs.

“This is making daily life more interesting for them,” said Herzfeld. “I think we singlehandedly made cab drivers more pleasant.”

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation and the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation.

Click to add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

BlogBeat

More in BlogBeat

img_5911_1

Voice and Power in the Music of Native American Hip Hop

Latina ListaMay 27, 2015
logo

Yondster — a platform by Latinos, for Latino youth job opportunities

Latina ListaMay 26, 2015
10540780_10152801114125081_7732696293929161425_n

Storytelling Foundation turns LA fifth graders into scriptwriters while boosting literary confidence

Latina ListaMay 21, 2015
mexcian_american_studies_protest

Suspended Mexican-Studies Program More Than a Major to Colorado Protesters

Latina ListaMay 19, 2015
boy_yellow_glasses_1170-770x460

Do bilingual homes raise better communicators?

Latina ListaMay 15, 2015
150506_blog-photo_historic-columbia

“This Place Matters” Campaign Brings Historic Preservation to Twitter, Instagram

Latina ListaMay 13, 2015
Sign in favor of immigration reform are on display outside Judson Memorial Church on West 4th Street in New York CIty on June 5th, 2010.

For more New York shots, please see my New York Collection 

© 2010 Jens Schott Knudsen | blog.pamhule.com  |  Twitter: @jensschott

Podcast: DREAMers No More – What is Happening to Young, Undocumented Immigrant Activists?

Latina ListaMay 11, 2015
boy-small-1024x683

Infographic: 11% of Latino kids face traumatic childhood events

Latina ListaMay 5, 2015
ABC_prison_born_jtm_140207_16x9_992

Children’s Book Council partners with unPrison Project to build prison-nursery libraries for jailed mothers and their babies

Latina ListaMay 1, 2015