Just a few short years ago it might happen to be inconceivable that there could be as numerous radio listening options with there being today. It’s not just the integration of the computer into our everyday life, and the logical extension of employing those computers as an entertainment option, but rather the sheer volume and choices in streaming radio which are currently available. Whatever your style of music or spoken word, there is an internet radio station that caters to that taste. Nowadays no matter whether your musical development stopped on the Grateful Dead, or that you “live’ for talk shows that discuss UFOs, you’ll likely not find one, but some online stations that program that 24/7.
In the past the futurist Faith popcorn discussed the popularity toward “cocooning” – building someone, comfortable small area around every person. She should have been discussing internet radio as that is exactly what this art form is now.
The ultimate goal of internet radio is profitability, and incredibly few stations or station clusters have achieved it. With a degree this has helped online radio acquire a stronger foothold than it may have otherwise, since it has helped define that medium. That’s, internet radio is virtually commercial-free. That means that those stations doing it which are not of a commercial broadcast station are doing it for ego, and also the love of producing a program which is diverse from what’s available through AM and FM stations.
It will likely be interesting to determine how these stations and the greater online radio industry develops within the next couple of years. The next most important development will probably be the elevated availability of internet access in cars. This may seriously challenge traditional broadcasters who have always held that in-car listening was their domain. In the end, preserving “their domain” may be focus on producing programming that financially strapped internet radio can’t – programs with a high personality or local content.
However slowly or quickly in-car internet listening happens is absolutely irrelevant because the battle lines happen to be clearly drawn. I believe that long term viability of AM and FM stations will hinge more about how rapid they retrench as purveyors of personality in their various forms, and then leave the wall-to-wall music formats to iPods and marginally profitable internet stations.
When this occurs since it must, due to the economics and strengths of broadcast over internet-delivered formats, the winner will probably be definitely be the listener, and this is what it should have been about all along!