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Online Radio and Traditional Media

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I don't remember exactly when or why, but up until a few years ago traditional radio stations were barred from broadcasting online. I believe it had something to do with advertising rules. But then the rules were apparently relaxed and one by one the stations started broadcasting online in addition to the airwaves.

Still, internet-only broadcasters such as Pandora, Slacker or Last.fm have had a competitive edge. They have large cache of music, they play few or no commercials, and they can adapt to their listeners' tastes. But as the music industry has begun to demand royalty payments, the internet-only stations have had to adapt by playing more commercials and/or charging fees. Previously I wrote about my defection from Pandora to Slacker for that exact reason. Now I've left Slacker for traditional radio and so far have been happy.

What convinced me to make the switch? When I found a radio station that played the kind of music I like. A few weeks ago while driving to Hartford, CT to run a half-marathon, I was flipping through radio stations when I stumbled on an alternative music station (104.1 FM WMRQ, Hartford, CT) that kept me listening song after song. I thought what a shame that I couldn't get the station where I live or work.

Fortunately it wasn't long before I found that the station also broadcasts online and I've been listening ever since. Sure there are commercials and DJ interruptions and the selections are not perfectly tuned to my taste (pretty close though), but listening is as simple as clicking on a link, no logins and no fees. In fact internet-only radio isn't perfect either and they play more commercials these days anyways.

My experience speaks to a bigger issue here. To borrow a quote form Mark Twain, the reports of the traditional media's demise are greatly exaggerated. The arrival and propagation of the Internet has not necessarily just given rise to the upstarts to the detriment of the traditional companies. On the contrary, it has given the old media new means of serving their audience and also reaching new ones. The Hartford radio station is one such example whose listeners aren't necessarily within the sphere of its antenna's influence anymore.


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