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Everything Kills the Radio Star
Lance Ulanoff
  Total posts: 10

By Lance Ulanoff

It's a familiar scenario: A communications medium is under assault by a raft of new technology choices and finds itself scrambling to expand, keep up, and hold on to its dwindling audience. I'm not talking about movies or broadcast (or even cable) television. Instead, this tale is being played out in the terrestrial radio industry.


The attack is arriving in the form of satellite radio and its portable receivers, online niche and genre "broadcasts" from music services (MSN, Real, Launch), and even homegrown podcasts. Now the radio industry is preparing its counterattack, and it's twofold: One part is forward-leaning, the other completely retro. The forward-leaning part is the growing availability of podcasts from commercial and nonprofit radio stations. The latter have made the best use of these time-shifting portable audio packages. NPR, for example, offers most of its popular programs as podcasts. It's a great way to let your audience listen when and where they want. But, as far as I can tell, podcasts are of little use to commercial, news, and Top 40 music stations. For them, the retro approach is taking hold. Station after station is reintroducing Internet radio. Perhaps you remember the first Internet-radio boom.

In the early days of the Internet, radio stations were among the first media outlets to try putting their content on the Web. Station after station around the country added a little link to its rather amateurish Web sites, offering live, streaming audio of their broadcasts. The quality was, as I recall, always a bit subpar (bandwidth issues resulted in warbling even in songs where the notes were crystal clear), but it was passable and an excellent way around jury-rigging antennas to work in high-rise buildings. It was especially welcome for sports and news radio fans who could not listen to AM radio on the 11th floor of a midtown Manhattan office but could get an Internet radio feed for, say, the broadcast of a favorite baseball team's game. (Go Mets!) There was also the benefit of being able to listen to your local radio station whether you were in town or on the other side of the globe.

NickNielsen: Internet radio is useless to me...
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rphunt2002: If the dinosaurs can't adapt...they become extinct
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It was not particularly well organized, but businesses did start springing up to help manage and access the growing number of feeds—and improve their overall quality. Mark Cuban, now owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, built his fortune by launching Audionet (which later become Broadcast.com) in the mid-nineties. He then sold it to Yahoo! for billions. Still, by the time he sold it, there were already signs that the party was over. My favorite stations started pulling their streaming audio links.—Continue Reading

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