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Monday, August 8, 2011
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Internet Radio - A No Hit Wonder


There are many shrills with the ongoing debate about internet radio and whether or not it poses a threat to the radio industry at large.

One cannot assess the true "universe" of online stations if you count broadcasters' streams, independent professional online stations, or the "enthusiastic amateurs" who subscribe to the dozens of radio web sites, such as "MyRadio.com," "Listen2MyRadio," and "Live365," which aggregate stations.

Having been involved with the internet radio industry since its inception, I've been witness to many absurd allegations that this industry would replace broadcast radio, that advertisers would leap at the chance to abandon broadcasters because of the accountability offered online, or how unfair royalty rates would crush all internet radio stations into submission. At one time, or another, articles have appeared here which downplay all of these assumptions while defending aspects of each as holding merit.

"Unless we're talking about those very large companies whose names we already know, I envision a sea of wishful thinking." Today let's tackle something that's not addressed often, that seems to be on nobody's mind, and which has been ignored by nearly all who are involved with running a radio station online. Let's dive into the possibility that the radio industry - as it exists on the internet - will not jell into anything meaningful except to fragmentise the listening base.

There's a simple reason for this. Within the independent online radio industry there's no cooperation, no lead organization, no single entity that indie station operators are following.

On the broadcast side we have Triton Digital, Abacast, and a couple of minor players with the whole of the terrestrial radio industry following them like rats followed the Pied Piper. Broadcasters "herding" themselves has been happening since Broadcast.com was introduced and then went belly-up. We'll leave them out of what follows because of this "herd" instinct. Lacking this is the "why" behind internet radio's foibles.

The single reason I'm thinking internet radio will be more successful at shredding the existing online audience than congealing hoards of people, advertisers, or musicians is: Internet radio will not amount to a dynamic media until it produces a hit song on its own. If it were to go one step farther and create a bona fide "star" musician or group, the boost given to internet radio would be tremendous. However, if the business continues to operate as it has over the past 15 years, I don't see either of these scenarios playing out.

To date, internet radio is a "no hit wonder." The reason? There's no centralized web site supported by a large number of independent online radio station owners, a place where they go to hear common-ground thoughts, to share response to new music, or that can aggregate their audiences for sale to advertisers.

I've tried to put something like these ideas together over the years but failed each time, either through my lack of convincing the owners of this need, my poor execution, or their apathy towards building a relationship with such services.

I am convinced that until we have a central place that reports to independent webcasters what indie songs receive response, which advertisers are looking to buy which formats, and where they (the webcasters) can share ideas and find solutions), the radio industry online will continue as a catch-as-catch-can hodgepodge of audio web sites resembling more of a quilt than a sustainable business model.

Will internet radio pull listeners from the broadcast radio industry? There's no doubt that as mobile delivery becomes even more ubiquitous, the answer is yes! But will those online radio stations outside of the normal terrestrial arena threaten the livelihood of a stream furnished by a broadcaster? Unless we're talking about those very large companies whose names we already know, I envision a sea of wishful thinking.

Independent internet radio, even after 15 years, is a no hit wonder; and we're not just talking about making a music star, selling a hot song, or boasting about a successful advertising campaign.

The true problem is too many different angles are being presented. Thousands of radio station owners each think their idea is the definition of radio online, but not one is large enough to have a lasting affect on enough people to matter - and few are willing to change even part of their programming strategy.

Being a "hit" means convincing more people than yourself that you are worth their time.















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