Just a few short in years past it might happen to be inconceivable that there could be as many radio listening options as there are today. It isn’t just the integration with the computer into our lives, as well as the logical extension of employing those computers being 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, it comes with an internet radio station that provides that taste. Today no matter whether your musical development stopped in the Grateful Dead, or that you simply “live’ for talk implies that discuss UFOs, you will likely not choose one, but some online stations that program that 24/7.
Several years ago the futurist Faith popcorn talked about the trend toward “cocooning” — building someone, comfortable space around every person. She may as well have already been referring to internet radio as that is precisely what this art form is becoming.
The holy grail of internet radio is profitability, and incredibly few stations or station clusters have achieved it. To some large degree it’s helped online radio gain a stronger foothold than it could have otherwise, as it helps define that medium. That is, internet radio is virtually commercial-free. That means that those stations carrying it out which are not connected with a commercial broadcast station are going to do it for ego, and the love of creating a program that is distinct from what exactly is available through AM and FM stations.
It will be interesting to see how these stations and the greater online radio industry develops over the next few years. The subsequent most critical development is going to be the elevated accessibility to internet access in cars. This can seriously challenge traditional broadcasters who have always held that in-car listening was their domain. In the long run, 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 actually irrelevant as the battle lines have been clearly drawn. I think that long term viability of AM and FM stations will hinge more about how rapid they retrench as purveyors of personality in their great shape, and then leave the wall-to-wall music formats to iPods and marginally profitable internet stations.
At these times since it must, due to the economics and strengths of broadcast over internet-delivered formats, the winner is going to be easily be the listener, which is exactly what it must have been about all along!