Internet based radio stations have existed since 1990’s and streaming, the technology of online radio was rapidly assimilated in mainstream radio stations as an extension of their existing broadcasting platforms (i.e. BBC). Stations continued to exist online often with the intention to meet musical needs that were marginalized by existing broadcasters. Such stations are often more niche/specialized. This is known as narrowcasting, reaching more limited audiences by meeting specialized musical tastes, which are marginalized by the mainstream. This sounds great, anyone can literally stream audio, even from a laptop, selecting specific kinds of music. Of course on of the problems with this is there is streaming and there is streaming. Two of the main current stream providers (there are many more of coruse), Icecast and Simplecast are home to over 50,000 audio streams. Most of these have relatively low numbers in terms of audience size, anything from 2-50 people.

Radio streaming can also operate from different places at different times and this is something that has radically altered the traditional notion of what a radio station is. Simultaneous to this in many countries throughout the world there is a shift from land based stations to online radio and music streaming resulting in   changes in audience participation and usage. For instance in the USA  8 out of 10 people between the ages of 18-34 listen to radio online as opposed to a traditional land based radio station via a transmitter.[i]  According to Scarborough data, 46.76 million Americans used streaming services monthly in 2012, on average tuning in for 9 hours 46 minutes every week. Nearly 54 percent of the entire U.S. population and as much as 67.4 percent of U.S. internet users will have become online radio users by 2016.[ii]

In the UK the share of radio listeners online or via an app has almost doubled from 3.6% in 2011 to 6.4% in 2014.[iii] Further studies in the area of media, particularly Gauntlett in ‘Making Is Connecting’ (Polity Press, 2012) indicate people are more ‘creative’ and ‘connected’ in the current online social media environment. A radio stream is not just an audio source. It can be made more live through a video chat room and text based communication, giving people listening (and watching) more access and power to participate. The ‘global village’ – a concept  McLuhan predicted many decades ago  is here and….it is here to stay.

[i] “eight in ten millenials listen to internet radio” Edison Research  http://www.edisonresearch.com/eight-in-ten-millennials-listen-to-internet-radio/

[ii] Source http://www.statista.com/topics/1348/online-radio/

[iii] Source http://www.statista.com/statistics/288452/online-and-apps-radio-share-of-listening-time-uk/

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