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What is Online Radio?
Problems with broadcast radio
By Russell Kibbee
(more articles from this author)
2000-09-09
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Online Radio

One of the great contributions the Internet has made to the world is the ability to bring people together. Today, you can listen to a radio station on the other side of the world with as much ease as you can a local station. With a mouseclick, you can get the feel of the local culture, the music, and attitudes of faraway places without ever leaving your home. You will learn all there is to know about the fascinating world of Internet radio.

What is Online Radio?

To understand what online radio is, it is important to first learn the general terms before diving into the subject. In this series, you will learn about the problems with traditional radio and how Internet radio solves them. Then, you will find out how Internet radio works, as well as what tools you need to enjoy listening to it.

Step 1: Living in the past
The broadcast radio that we listen to in our cars, homes, and at work uses a format that is 40 years old. Someone else chooses the music you want to hear based on a station format created for the least common denominator. Also, listeners in rural areas without much choice in stations are forced to hear music they may not like.

Step 2: Understanding limited choices
The listener is forced to listen to the new music that the major record labels tell them is the next big thing. This results in the same type of music being heard repeatedly, which may be good for the masses, but what about you? In the past, if you liked music that was not in the local station's genre, your options were limited – how could you become exposed to the music you would enjoy?

Step 3: Enter public and college radio
The public and college radio stations tried to fill the gap by offering programming that was not standard on the commercial stations. The original playlists became popular, especially with the independent artists. However, you were still limited to the music offered by the station, the time of the radio show, and not knowing which songs would be played when.

Step 4: Interactivity missing
Outside of a few song requests (which must fit in with the station format) there is little interaction with the listeners. Slow and cumbersome ratings choose format, but little else. If you do hear a song you like, what happens when you have to shut the radio off before the name of the song is announced?

Step 5: Enter Internet radio
All of these shortcomings have been resolved in the Internet radio world, with even more additions to make the experience everything you could have imagined…and more.


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