The History of Radio — Part III: Internet Enabled the Radio Star

Today, radio has become even more attractive to users around the world than it was in its “Golden Age” because of its availability, convenience and ease-of-use.

This is the third post in a 3-part blog series that briefly examines the history of radio, from its inception in the early 19th century, to its powerful impact as the analogue and digital force it is today.

Today, radio has become even more attractive to users around the world than it was in its “Golden Age” because of its availability, convenience and ease-of-use. Worldwide, there are a total of 4 billion radio receivers in approximately 1.43 billion households, the audience of which is estimated at around 4.2 billion people. That’s more than half of earth’s total population. Take that in for a minute.

Even today, radio shows no signs of slowing down. With the invention of the Internet — a technology many thought would be the death of the radio broadcast — it’s become even more prolific. Now, due to the ease of setting up an Internet radio station, and the potential for it to reach far-flung locations around the world, there is wider reach and more potential for unique content than ever before.

While Internet radio utilises a different medium for broadcast, it shares its base technologies with its older brother, the FM radio. And of course, the end game is one and the same: to communicate important information, breaking news and inspiring entertainment in a rapid-paced, ever-changing, information-hungry world, while meeting the needs of our collective short attention span.

Radio today: for the person and the people

The birth of Internet radio and the revolution of radio has done two things that were never possible before.

Firstly, we know that humans cannot simply be seen as a faceless number in a crowd. Each person holds their own, unique interests and passions. Before, segmentation was limited. You’d hear what was popular, you’d be exposed to discussions on topics that were assumed interesting to you, and you’d be forced to listen to the same voices in various timeslots over the period of a week. Now, almost every unique interest can be catered for by a like-minded broadcaster: voices can be chosen and music channels can be selected based on your preferences. We have more control over what we consume than ever before, and more way to find what we love listening to.

Secondly, the radio star is no longer a stereotype or an elite minority because the Internet has helped us democratise the medium — giving any talented individual the opportunity to express themselves and create something great. And so, we find ourselves in an age where podcasts and online audio production allow us to create our own content and share it with the world, in a symbiotic network of sounds that connect us as a human force. We see this illustrated in popular musical streaming platforms such as Deezer and 8tracks. Everybody is sitting up and taking notice. In the US, for example, online streaming consumption rose by 32% in 2013 and has continued to do so since. But now, something even more personal and incredible is taking shape. The Internet is becoming a place for online radio and audio clips beyond music, and more in touch with human ideas almost completing a full circle within a new technological environment.

In a way, it’s spectacularly daunting. No one can say for sure what’s coming next, but the future of new wave radio sure looks extremely bright. So, find your platform online and make sure you’re tuned into the matrix.

Read previous posts in this series:

A Century of Radio (Part I)

Radio and the War (Part II)

Photo credited to Gisela Arevalos

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