Casting Your Net Audibly

  • by December 6, 2000
Casting Your Net Audibly

A special report to Interactive Week, posted on November 17th, provides some interesting insights into the survival of the radio as an important medium after television in the '50's, the VCR, the Walkman and the MP3.

"Broadcast radio claims 10 hours of total listening time per week, compared with one hour for the Net," says Forrester Research analyst Jeremy Schwartz in the report, The Self-serve Audio Evolution, issued in May.

Schwartz says 80 percent of stations have plans to take their signals online to compete for listeners directly with music-file-download sites and Internet-only radio stations. Market research firm The Arbitron Company estimates that in the U.S. there are about 12,000 licensed radio stations, both online and off, and another 3,000 Internet-only stations.

Arbitron and Edison Media Research reported in their biennial assessment of streaming media technologies that about 45 million Americans - or 20 percent of the population - tuned in online in 2000, up from just 6 percent in 1998,

The report describes the varieties of NetRadio that are available as a medium for advertisers:

The most basic is a simple simulcast of a commercial station… the same programming you'd hear if you tuned in in your car. Requiring no interaction and the least technological know-how, commercial simulcasting reflects the earliest efforts of broadcasters to add functionality to their Web sites and appeal to a potentially global audience.

The terrestrial broadcast signal is converted at the station and diverted to a server that forwards it to an Internet rebroadcaster where the station's audio signal is translated into streaming data, assigned a unique URL and moved online.

However, an important consideration is that traditional models aren't necessarily reliable for the Internet. Broadcast stations serve local markets; the Internet is undeniably global. As a result, the two rely on vastly different potential demographics.

A second Net radio type is also a simulcast, but of a station that benefits from an international audience. KWAB, known as Radio for Change, is a terrestrial station that also is the mouthpiece for the progressive political group, Working Assets. At its peak reach, during the national political conventions this fall, about 10,000 online listeners a week tuned in.

Walking a delicate balance between the terrestrial and the dot-com the hosts need to be acutely aware that they're addressing two distinct markets, the station management says.

A third Net radio type is the Internet-only station. Using streaming technology to create their own signal, Net-exclusive broadcasters skip the traditional airwaves and pipe their own signals directly onto the Web. For instance, Minneapolis-based NetRadio captured 7 of the 10 top slots in August on Arbitron's ratings for Web traffic.

Most net only broadcasters are commercial-free and tend to be better focused on music

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