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Chris Miller

You Can't Get To The Stream From Here


Let's say I open up your website on my smartphone because I want to listen to your stream. What happens? Too often, the answer is: "You can't get there from here."

Here are two big truths about radio's digital side. No matter your format, your online stream is one of the major tools you have to drive website visits. In addition, the number of people accessing our digital "stuff" through their mobile devices is growing exponentially.

When I first got my smartphone, I did what I do on my computer when I want to listen to the radio: I opened a website and clicked "Listen Live." On my smartphone, it was a trip that went nowhere. I'm sure you have listeners who have done the same thing. I've learned since to download and use apps. However, we don't want our digital strategies to rest on overblown assumptions about our fans' technical knowledge.

So how do the major radio groups stack up on this? Here's what happened when I clicked "Listen Live" on some of the major groups' stations' websites:

Clear Channel stations take you to a page where you can download the iHeartRadio app. A couple of clicks later, it's open, but then you have to start searching all over again for the station you want to listen to.

Some CBS stations are better optimized for mobile than others. All of the ones I tried had dead ends or confusing choices to try and listen online.

Cumulus stations were not all the same, either. "Listen Live" links led to the stream player trying to open, and then stopped, unfinished. The "Listen on your iPhone" link, which I saw on one station, didn't work on my Android, naturally.

The Cox stations I went to all had really good mobile websites. While there's no link to listen to the stream, there were links to open the full website. From that full site, I clicked the prominent "Listen Live" option, and it ended up in some endless loop where nothing further happened.

I wasn't feeling encouraged when I opened an Entercom station's site, but the stream window slowly opened like it should. Although I had to click the "Start" arrows. After a long pause, it began to play!

Then, the same thing happened with an Emmis station. However, it didn't play smoothly like the Entercom stream did. The Emmis stream kept halting and breaking up.

The Salem station I opened worked pretty smoothly, too. Unlike the Entercom station, it played automatically without me having to click a "Start" button.

There was no link to listen on the optimized-for-mobile site of a Radio One station I went to. There didn't seem to be a way to access the regular site, either.

You may be telling listeners on the air to download your app to listen on their mobile device. That's fine. However, many Web experts believe that in the relatively near future we'll be moving away from using apps. Instead, we'll just open a browser window on our phones or tablets, as we do on our desktop machines.

How many average folks do you suppose have gone to your website, not been able to hear your station, and thought, "To heck with it, I'll listen to Pandora, instead?"


Chris Miller has been a major-market PD in Atlanta, Portland and Cleveland. He now operates Chris Miller Digital, which he launched. Visit his website at
Contact Chris via e-mail, or 216-236-3955.

(5/16/2012 10:56:15 PM)
Yes I agree that HTML5 will consume the "app"

Here's what I did to get around this "can't get there problem": I am a web developer and engineer, my site displays a page depending on your device try it out go to from your browser, then go to from your smartphone stream works on all major devices and it's nothing more than a shoutcast mp3 stream. Server side device recognition is going to be critical as we move into the great unkown.

- Dominick Pannone
(5/15/2012 10:54:45 PM)
Abso-lootly!! All too often we make it tough, if not impossible to meet the listeners' expectation. Whatever the reason it's gotta get fixed now. The "listen" button should be the first thing they see when they hit our website-whether it be mobile or not. If there's a split feed (from the terrestrial signal) it should transfer seamlessly in both directions and not be all cruddy. The way most of the websites work these days should be embarrassing to radio owners. Thanks for the column -

- Dave Mason
(5/14/2012 8:18:49 AM)
I'm with Ken on this one. Instead of everybody getting their shorts in a knot, let's just wait this one out.
Might be an opportunity for folks to get back to considering their originating Programming. Gawd knows that has earned the labeling of: "El Reeko"!

- Ronald T. Robinson
(5/11/2012 6:29:31 AM)
Re: "...many Web experts believe that in the relatively near future we'll be moving away from using apps. Instead, we'll just open a browser window on our phones or tablets, as we do on our desktop machines."

As "HTML5" becomes more entrenched in web design, apps will move out of the spotlight. We've only just begun to explore this new coding style - another 18 months and all new sites will be using elements of HTML5 (which allows for placing a player inside a browswer's window).

- Ken Dardis

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