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05/26/03 Is Internet Radio Dead?
Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” — Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180)

The Sirens sang a sweet song, seductive as those of Greek myth. The opportunity was ripe: No one else with Radio experience was moving into the space. Internet Radio companies were trying to reinvent Radio, shedding the tried-and-true, powerful audience-building tools. The Sirens’ melody suggested that, if I could combine the wisdom of the past with reinvention for the future, I could become the next Bill Paley or David Sarnoff and dominate the new media space called Internet Radio.

Like the thousands who answered the call of the 1800s gold rush, I “packed the chuck wagon” and headed for California to form a new venture. We raised $18 million, built revolutionary technology that gave our stations CD-quality sound, and hired top Radio programmers and talent. We broadcast hundreds of channels of branded content for such companies as Earthlink, Lycos, About.com and others. Then the RIAA hit the industry with taxes, and planes hit the World Trade Center. We hit the rocks. When we discontinued the broadcasts, we had the second largest Internet Radio audience in the world.

Three years of my life were spent chasing the dream of Internet Radio. Does it have a future? Will it someday compete with — and possibly rule — audio listening worldwide? Should your station broadcast on the Internet?

When broadband hits critical mass, Internet Radio will be able to penetrate in-home and in-office listening and potentially compete with terrestrial Radio. If and when 802.11 (wifi) wireless signals begin to overlap, wireless listening may be possible even in your car. Penetration of the technology to the masses may take years.

Yes, Internet Radio and video have a future. That’s why I still own and am committed to Streaming magazine (www.streamingmagazine.com). The future of online Radio depends on a number of combined elements — technology that makes the online experience as easy as broadcast Radio, improved costs of distribution, as well as reasonable music-licensing fees and mass adoption of broadband.

Many people are listening online today; millions more will adopt Internet Radio. Yet the biggest Internet-station audiences are still not equal to the largest audience in the 250th market.

When Radio was introduced to the masses, it was a dismal failure, predicted to fail. Time changed everything. Internet Radio will have its time. Will I be going into it anytime soon? Not likely. I learned my lesson. Radio as it stands is an awesome, efficient and inexpensive distribution technology. Yet I’m keeping my eyes on Internet Radio, because new technologies and developments can change everything. There may come a time to embrace it so that we as an industry own it, rather than competing with it.




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