The Internet is not THE Answer

The other blog thread on this topic kind of got hijacked, so I thought I'd start up one of my own. In that blog entry, someone claimed that the Internet will take over radio's functions shortly, and that AM and FM will be dead.

Not so, I say.

As a matter of fact, the Internet, while it certainly can and does stream audio and video, was not designed for this function. It's unicast (each user needs his/her own data stream), which is certainly not the most efficient way to listen to a common audio stream. It's also pull technology (you have to request a connection, it has to be set up, etc.). My philosophy has always been to use the right tools for the job - you can attempt to dig a hole with a broom, but there are going to be significant limitations in using that particular tool. Just as in using the Internet to get to a mass audience in a radio-like manner.

Wireless internet, with all the coolness associated with it, is still the Internet, with all it's inherent limitations.

Radio is classic push technology and it's the ultimate multicast - people just need to tune in to the same radio frequency to get the same data. It's the most efficient (and cheapest) way to get an audio stream to just about anyone, and there are no bandwidth limitations (other than the range of the signal, of course).

If you're going to look for technologies to replace radio as it now exists, then you're probably going to look at digital radio using the same basic paradigm as today's analog radio. Just as digital TV has replaced the classic analog TV (and it works very well, thank you very much - with EPG's, program information etc. contained within the TV stream).

Now, I do believe that people's listening habits have changed, but the central technology behind that was the ability to carry your own music along with you, starting with cassettes and the walkman to today's digital memory cards. That's mostly what is being listened to on the ipods and iphones (and other portable devices) of today. Nothing to do with the Internet at all. I believe that that will continue, but it will not supplant radio. You get your news from radio, sports, new songs, the time, weather, etc.

There is a place for the Internet in radio broadcasting. You can use it to store program archives, elicit comments and yes, even to listen live, particularly for remote listeners. But there are significant bandwidth implications to support even a small number of listeners with a reasonable quality stream - you will never, ever be able to support anything more than a very small fraction of a radio stations total number of listeners (licensed radio station, that is, for Part 15, it may indeed be a large percentage of their listeners).

I agree . The Internet is not

I agree .

The Internet is not going to be around when a solar blast wipes out the power grid LOL.

But in truth the internet has many limits and many people over look this. XK-LNJ 1610 AM Santa Cruz CA. Indies , Oldies. And Happy Talk.

Hi again

In theory, what you say works... however, less and less of today;'s younger people are listening to their radio. you won't reach them if they aren't listening. Where you are finding more and more people is on smartphones or their connected devices.

There are new technologies every day and more and more advances in net audio. multicast has been done on the net via peer to peer for years - however, I agree that it's current, evolving form, seems difficult. truth is, it's not.

In an average medium market, the leading station might cume 20,000. My current setup can support this (depending on bandwidth of stream) and sound damn good doing it. AAC+ is becoming more and more efficient. In the 90s, wav file linear audio was all we had from computers... then mp3 cut that size down ten-fold. AAC has cut mp3 down even more. The net is very feasible... that's why huge companies are applying so much money and time working it (ever hear of iHeartRadio?).

I am not saying radio will die - it's won't. but it will evolve. And I bet the end result won't be the song to song jukeboxes that are scattered up and down the dial now. Radio will have to change to survive.

Again, I could be wrong, but after 30 years in the terrestrial radio business, I don't think I am. Radio jukebox formula is being taken over by much better services (Pandora, Spotify, iTunes...) and if that's why you go to the radio... like much of our youth... the days are numbered of being able to find it there.

AM used to play music. It had to evolve. Now it's talk and religion...

Watch FM for more local content and more talk. Neither will die, but both WILL have to redefine themselves.

Wait A Minute

wait a minute, the internet was built by the military, its supposed to survive plagues, flares, nuclear war,emp's, and so fourth, are you saying its not going to survive flares and emp's, because thats not what i heard...

and please correct me if im wrong...

Andrew Bentley; Semi-Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters Magic 1680 AM-Sherman,Texas KDSX-LPAM, Proudly Serving West Central Grayson County Since October, 13 2007!

Internet is just another distribution method

I can understand the dislike of internet "broadcasting". It hardly has the hands on technical know how that a real broadcast station has.

The internet-only model for a station is sort of like the Part 15 compliant station. Broadcasting to nowhere usually. Hello, is anyone listening out there?

Very few online stations manage to get any real listeners. Just check out:

Top station right now? Romanian station with 13924 listeners. 4 of top 10 stations are from Romania. Makes your wonder about low power broadcasting over there and the state of traditional radio there.

Sure those are lots of listeners, won't deny that.

But, according to Shoutcast there are 47,233 stations with 743,004 "people" listening now. Divided equally, that would be 15 listeners per station. But like most statistics, this is skewed heavily to the cluster of "busy" with listener stations. Many stations though struggle to get a handful if any listeners.

Sounds just like most low power stations compared to the commercial blow torchers.

When I finally get my station up and running, we will broadcast online as the obvious marketing, advertising and expanded signal opportunity it provides.

Will the internet survive an EMP? Doubt it. The power grid is what is going to fail massively. No power to operate things, means the internet isn't likely going to work even if hardened.

"..someone claimed that the

"..someone claimed that the Internet will take over radio's functions shortly, and that AM and FM will be dead..."

Doubtful that will happen anytime soon.

"..As a matter of fact, the Internet, while it certainly can and does stream audio and video, was not designed for this function..."

Some say the same thing about Part 15; while it can function as a radio station, it was never intended for this purpose.

But all that aside.. I think the main point is that new methods of media distribution have become established and are increasing in popularity.

Fewer and fewer movies are being made and distributed on film, digital production has become cheaper to produce and with special effects that could never be applied before.
The same goes for audio production, and mass distribution.
To just turn a blind eye to these facts does not make them go away.

It's not a matter of abandoning the radio wave spectrum, it's matter of expanding reach with additional resources.

By the way.. Solar flares can knock out our radio equipment just as sure as it can disable the internet.

Rich Powers Part15, Take 2..

No one has addressed some of

No one has addressed some of the technical issues with the Internet that I brought up. It's easy to wave your hands and say that the Internet will evolve and get better, but there's just no way to get around some fundamental design flaws surrounding broadcasting.

As a pull information mechanism, or distribution method, sure. But not radio broadcasting.

I happen to think that the future lies with cell phone technologies, modified to some degree of course. Imagine digital radio station streams being continuously broadcast over cellular radio frequencies, much as radio and TV is broadcast today over the AM/SW/FM bands. Imagine a cell phone or other such smart device (it may not be known as a cell phone then, it will be so multipurpose) that can tap into those common streams with no dedicated stream necessary as it is today - if the cell phone companies are worried about charging for that, they could have software on the device to notify them with the length of time you listen. You could still have those dedicated streams to your phone for other purposes.

I'm not sure what technologies the cell phone companies use to broadcast TV to your phone today, I'm sure it's multicast to some degree, but I would imagine that there's a dedicated stream that goes to your phone and your phone only (at the very least, from the local cell tower - with the relatively high cost associated with a dedicated stream, and the using up of a lot of bandwidth).

THE answer

Artisan is agreed with by me, when he says the internet is not THE answer.

Further, keeping aware of a medium's faults and limitations goes with the internet and all other forms of communication.

I would put forward a belief that THE answer is to employ an assortment of media with the centerpiece being the radio signals and our station identities. This is also Bandit's philosophy.

As I mentioned elsewhere, many of the international shortwave stations have discontinued their legacy of shortwave broadcasting and shriveled to become internet sites. Mr. Keith Perron of PCJ Media, a strong proponent of radio broadcasting, believes this is a mistake, brought about by young trendy type newcomers who miss the whole point about the importance of air signals.

For shortwave, a large area of the globe continues to depend on what their shortwave receivers can hear, not having access to the internet. To shut off their source of information is a way of dismissing millions of people as if they don't matter.

By limiting one's effort to the internet alone amounts to becoming lost in the crowd.

Carl Blare

The internet is another alternative to satellite radio material

The internet is another alternative to satellite radio material that we used to get when we had a satellite radio, FM 2 squared and FM 3 cubed sub carriers riding along cable TV channels. You can listen to continuous music, alternative talk radio, and radio station feeds like we used to get when we had those C band and Ku Band dishes. Also video feeds via the web. I might be wrong I think satellite radio on C band and Ku band has really expanded digitally via satellite.

The C Band Dish

I had a C band dish in the 80s and it was wonderful, until the local municipal neanderthals told me it was against their ordinance.

I left them in the stone age and moved to a civilized location four blocks away, but my southern view is blocked by a McMansion so there is no dish.

I often have a dish of something near the computer, anyway.

Carl Blare

I thought that most of the

I thought that most of the listeners in my area would have long ago gone to internet and their little my-pad and me-toy devices that they hypnotise themselves with,  (I am one of the few who still do not use a cellphone, never wanted one, don't need it.) but, was surprised.   Over the last decade or so, (at least in my area) I found that they actually do indeed listen to analogue terrestrial radio, and will seek it out and find it, when given a decent choice of programming.  What puts the audience off, is the bland commercial stations, at which point, they get bored, and tune out, in search of for something else.  I find that if you simply give them something better and different, they usually appreciate the quality when they can find it, and will stick with it.Been at this since the '80s, and still going strong.

The station that dares to be different!

iPhone is rapidly obsoleting most all consumer electronics

The iPhone, or generically, the smartphone, and its bigger brother, the portable tablet computers are not only replacing AM and FM radios, but are rapidly eroding the market for almost all the traditionally popular consumer electronic devices.

Even now, at this relatively early phase, new smartphone and tablet technologies are replacing radios, TVs, mp3 players, CD players, GPS receivers, satellite radios, digital camaras, video camaras, personal computers, and video game devices.

Young people clutch their iPhones like they are necessary to support life.

iPhones are effectively replacing broadcast radio with stored mp3 files and internet audio streams. The streams can be amateurish shoutcast stations, real broadcast stations that also stream, and subscription feeds from Sirius.

The technical advances and evolution of the smartphone phenomenon not only threaten broadcast radio, but also threatens the future of the entire consumer electronics industry!

Disturbing Trend

Since I also have never had the inclination to own a cellphone or other of the popular hand-held devices that people seem always to be looking at for a new text message, it has all happened while I was asleep.

But what PhilB has just described is also strongly mentioned in a PC Magazine article about the possible end of the desktop computer, as it could be replaced by the small "i" devices, which Phil said.

The desktop computer has become the heart and soul of radio and recording operations, and I don't think we could do much without it.

The future looks small.

Carl Blare

Maybe not, but

Internet may not be THE answer, but I can you that after about 14 months, WREN in Topeka is now doing about 18,000 listeners a day, are a thriving business, and showing up in the Arbitron (or whatever it's called now) ratings and really torquing off the Clear Channel and Cumulus guys.

As for listening, I plug my phone into the car stereo, hit WREN on my phone and listen to them all day, driving around here in rural northern Minnesota with no problem. They continue to program live, as if they are a regular Topeka station. 

You will not get 18,000 listeners with your Part 15, and probably not with most small to medium market stations.  Further, you can demonstrate to potential advertisers exactly how many people are actually listening, where they are, who they are, and how long they listen. 

WREN has no transmitter, and work from a small store front in the arts district.  I consider them the posterchild for how successful internet broadcasting can be done. 

AM radio will continue to die.  The costs associated with operating a commercial AM radio station are enormus and continue to climb.  I've worked in commercial AM and FM radio for almost 41 years now. Small and medium AMers are running out of ways to cut costs. The engineering and power costs, along with insane music licensing fees are nearly beyond comprehension of the typical businessman.  The politically correct hiring rules make hiring staff nearly impossible. The increasing noise on the band from all the modern gadgets in every house and building often makes AM unlistenable.  The infrastructure of the old AM's is crumbling.  I know, because I'm preparing for the installation of a new AM transmitter where I work.  The 40 year old Harris is dying.  Many parts are no longer available.  The new transmitter project is going to cost about $60,000 all totaled if nothing evil turns up in the process.  This is for a 5,000 watt, directional at night station in a town of 15,000 people. 

Should digital HD radio come along in ten years it will completely destroy what's left of AM radio, unless they find a way to get it to work a hell of a lot better than digital TV. I know NO ONE who is pleased with digital over the air TV. Most have cable or satellite now anyway. Up here in the north country, digital TV completely wiped out the ability to view over the air television in my entire region.  People who used to watch analog TV with rabbit ears now can't watch OTA TV with outdoor antennas and amplifiers.  My daughter in Minneapolis, who lives in the house I lived in in high school, cannot even get a CBS station over the air.  When I lived there all three major networks, and independent and two PBS stations came in clear as day.  Now those same stations are barely watchable.  I suspect the entire HD radio thing is simply a way to quietly destroy what's left of AM. 

As for the internet being able to handle all those streams -- look at Netflix.  Millions stream movies, many in HD at the same time around the country no problem.  As for set up to listen to internet radio -- um, what set up? I want to listen to WREN, I go to their website, hit "listen". Radios now exist for cars with 4G in them to facilitate listening to internet radio while driving.  There are table top internet radios that connect to your wifi. 

What are the limitations to internet radio? Data? Listening at home I have no data caps.  I've yet to use up my monthly allotment on my iphone listening while driving. Even up here in the sticks we have good enough internet to listen while driving with no issues.  My wife's car automatically connects her car to the phone when she gets in the car, and internet radio is easily operated with buttons on the dash just like the car radio.

FM may well survive many years. Completely controlled by the big corporations.  It's well on it's way to that now.  That and PBS/NPR radio so the government can spoonfeed the news they want us to believe to us. 

We average about 200 listeners to our AM station stream every day up here, we can support many more, but we don't really promote it nor do we try to get out of area listeners.  The numbers go up quickly if we have, say, the local high school hockey team in the state tournament.   Then the stream goes nuts.  If Netflix can stream hundreds and thousands of users with HD video every night, feeding a few thousand listeners with stereo audio isn't hard.  And it's not hard for internet audio to far surpass what you get from an AM station unless you're very close to the station and in an interference free area. Did you know most small and medium market AM stations still feed their audio to their transmitters via equalized, amplified PHONE LINE! Yup, it's true. We do. Hundreds do. Using most STL systems don't work with AM, or don't work well, and aren't cost effective.  We've looked into it.  $30,000 to get the sound to the transmitter 4 miles away isn't worth the cost. You would think there are cheaper ways, but there aren't. Yes, some do it, but not the small guys. 

We feed live sports broadcasts to the station on the internet. I run a roller derby broadcast network on the internet only. Using Spreaker we average 1,200 live stream listeners per bout.  They're listening on tablets, phones, and a few on computers. If I can feed good audio to 1,200 people on a Saturday night for three hours for $19.95 a month in fees, imagine what a broadcaster can do! Skype is used to provide audio to TV and radio, live on the scene video to TV stations, remote broadcasts to radio, and more. 

I, as you, know the advantages of local radio.  And I've been in it for many years and I would love to see it live on forever, but I don't see that happening. Especially for AM. Unless there are some DRASTIC changes in rules dramatically affecting costs for the little guys, and that won't happen because the big guys with money want them to fail so they can buy the stations cheap and force feed us mass market crap. 

One advantage part 15 has is low low operating cost. Once the gear is purchased operating costs are nil. My ongoing costs are $5 for a station phone a month, and $15 to FSN for news. I sold $240 in advertising in December without really trying. That covered my costs for the year. I broadcast to the people within my little town and I program what they won't get anywhere else including all the local stuff they want to know.  Stuff even my own commercial station 10 miles away won't even mention (unless I talk about it in my own show, but Bovey never makes the news at the bigger station).  That's where we can excel. providing a unique format and the local attention that the people who don't actually live in the towns can't do.  In a big city, you can be the neighborhood voice. 

I'm amazed you found digital TV to be any good. We used to get 2 stations over the air. now we get none.  In Minneapolis my daughter can get 2 of the 4 main stations we used to get. Over in Grand Rapids (the big town where I actually work) our news director now gets NO stations over the air - he used to get three.  He has a tower, with an antenna with an amplifier.  Once in a while on a good day he can get ONE station if he gets the antenna pointed just right.  He used to see three channels with rabbit ears. 

I believe the internet can support a lot more than you give it credit for, and it will only get better. AM radio especially will continue to age and die. 

Tim in Bovey


From experience I have discovered that the last remaining argument in favor of keeping AM is probably useless.

Power outages put most people "off-line" so they get no internet at all, but the AM stations around here make almost no effort to present emergency information. Most of them have "unattended operations," another crippling relaxation of the old FCC rules that required a man on duty.

Maybe "smart phones" and certain small doo-hickeys can obtain vital information but I don't intend getting any of the gadgets.

If a part 15er tried to fill the gap I'd be tuned in, but I'm the only part 15er for hundreds of miles.

I propose giving T.I.S. stations the authority to provide full power emergency information so the licensed stations can stick with their sponsered grade school sports and non-stop church fund raising.

The stone age is coming back. Stock up on stones.

Carl Blare

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