While Internet Radio Market Grows, Indie Web Stations Suffer
Ontario — Internet radio (a.k.a.
“Web radio” or “online radio”) is growing in popularity.
One of the Powerhouse ‘Music Jukeboxes’.
According to a joint study by Triton Digital and Edison
Research, 120 million Americans listened to “online radio” at least once a
month in 2013; that’s 45 percent of the total United States population aged 12
years and up. Ten years ago, only 17 percent tuned in.
Thirty-three percent of those surveyed reported tuning
in during the last week, compared to just 8 percent in 2003. Average weekly
online listening time also rose from just over six hours (6:13) in 2008 to just
under 12 hours (11:56) in 2013. This same research shows growing listener
awareness of and listening to Pandora.com, and a small percentage of people (18
percent) who listen exclusively to Internet radio (i.e. no AM/FM). The study,
entitled “The Infinite Dial,” can be seen at www.edisonresearch.com.
These are U.S. figures, of course. However, since
audience research is relatively difficult to find for Internet radio globally,
it is a useful starting point for evaluating the state of Internet radio as a
DEFINING THE MARKET
One of the U.K.’s Popular Indie Internet-Only Stations.
Credit: Soma FM
When speaking about the state of Internet radio, one
first has to define what Internet radio is. Unfortunately, the online streaming
market has yet to do this successfully, said James Cridland, managing director
of Media UK, a
portal for connecting to media resources in the United Kingdom.
“There’s terrible confusion
between a ‘radio’ station — something with a
human connection and a shared experience — and the likes of
Pandora, Slacker, iTunes Radio and music subscription services,” Cridland said.
“I find it very unhelpful that the radio industry has let folks like Pandora
and Apple steal the ‘radio’ brand, and use it to describe a poorer music
jukebox experience. They are not comparable.”
If Pandora and the other “music jukebox” services are
factored out of the equation, the remaining Internet radio market is dominated
by simulcasts of over-the-air radio stations. “Much of this listenership has
been facilitated by fewer regular radios available in the workplace,” said Fred
Jacobs, president of the radio
consultancy Jacobs Media.“Wi-Fi and better
Internet connectivity have allowed the space to grow from the days of dial-up
when buffering was about as common as listening to the stream itself.”
There are a wealth of independent Web-only radio
stations online today. But when it comes to grabbing U.S. listeners, 18 percent
of the market is the best they can achieve, said the Triton/Edison research
One of these stations is WDYN.net. Based in Rochester,
New York, WDYN.net was launched by veteran musician Dave Kaspersin. He also
owns and operates Dynamic Recording Studio, which records and promotes
“We went on the
Web in 1995 to sell our catalog, and it worked,” said Kaspersin. “Our first
sale was to Japan, and we have sold in more than 100 countries. I started
WDYN.net in September 2000 because I saw it as a way to get our artists heard.”
Friendly Home Page.
Although only heard on the Web, WDYN.net is run like
an over-the-air radio station with either live or recorded-to-sound-live DJs.
“I had someone ask me when I took time to sleep because I was on the air so
much,” Kaspersin said.
After a few years going it alone, WDYN.net signed up
with the content aggregator Live 365 to attract listeners. The strategy worked.
“Our Live 365 stats hit a high of 18,000 per month in 2010,” Kaspersin said.
But then the music jukebox services started to gain traction, and it hurt: “We
have been losing listeners since Pandora went live and are now at 1,200 per
Times are tough for WDYN.net, but at least there is an
active independent Web-only sector in the U.S. “Here in the U.K., there aren’t
any indie Internet radio stations to any extent,” said Cridland. “The market
has already been affected by the large amount of terrestrial simulcasts
available here, alongside punitive music costs and radio services.”
Of the Web stations
that do exist, the ones that “appear to do best are those with recognisable,
heritage brands (such as SomaFM or Digitally Imported); brand extensions of
existing broadcast services available on AM/FM (Absolute Radio 80s or BBC
1Xtra); or those that appear at the top of Internet portals (such as .977 and
181FM’s raft of services),” Cridland said.
As for jukebox
services? “We’ve no major Pandora
equivalent here: While Google Play Music All Access has launched, as a paid-for
subscription service, it appears to have had little effect on terrestrial radio
listening,” he said. “I await iTunes Radio with interest, but I’m not sure it’ll
have much of an effect. I could be wrong.”
In a world where
music jukebox services and “familiar” broadcaster simulcasts are dominating the
Internet radio market, the future doesn’t look promising for independent
Web-only stations. “Perhaps so because there’s just so much content out there,
it is difficult for any indie to get noticed,” said Jacobs. “Because revenue
generation may be a tough task, recruiting, hiring and nurturing a staff is a
difficult task,” he said. “Anybody can start a radio station in their basement.
But to create a great station requires time, resources and a vision.”
As a result, it
seems unlikely that the growth of Internet radio as a whole — with or without music jukebox services factored in — will be accompanied by an increase in
financially-sustainable indie Internet-only stations. Those that do remain will
likely be built upon passion, such as WDYN.net. For his part, Kaspersin feels
strongly that today’s listeners still “want to connect with real DJs,” he said.
“Therefore I am keeping our live station ‘on the air.’”
Careless reports on the industry for Radio World from Ottawa, Ontario.