Have you listened to web radio lately?
A lot of folks still don't know what web radio is. Let's note first of all that it is not the same thing as podcasting, although the two are often confused. Without going into the technicalities, web radio uses streaming audio to create a “live, " ongoing broadcast such as you would hear from a regular radio station. Podcasting involves the creation of individual recordings which people can download for listening at a later time, either on their computer or on an MP3 player such as an iPod.
For a long time web radio was plagued by problems. Sound quality was usually poor. Because of the bandwidth required, many web radio stations were severely limited in the number of people they permitted to listen at any one time-in some cases, this could be as few as a half dozen! The number and variety of stations were quite limited, as well.
Happily, most of those early limitations have been resolved. The web radio scene today presents a wonderful smorgasbord of musical variety, an incredible array of genres to suit all tastes, and a quality that often matches high-end stereo for the ability to produce a satisfying listening experience.
Although web radio's primary audiences remain office workers and college students, more and more people are discovering this neat entertainment source. One study in the UK reported an 84% increase in internet radio listening hours for the most recent year. Another study said web radio attracts 52 million listeners during a typical month.
Web radio is free to listen to, for the most part, and the software one needs to take advantage of it is free as well. Player software such as WinAmp or iTunes not only sends the music to your computer speakers, it also generally includes a directory of radio channels-just click on your choice and play. The directory will almost always be arranged by genres, some of the more popular being blues, oldies, rock, psychedelia, easy listening, country, trance or electronic, country, reggae, world music and hip hop. The diversity truly is astounding: the other day I ran across a web radio station devoted exclusively to Hawaiian and polka music!
Web radio is also a good place to go for people who are homesick for their old hometown station. In addition to the web-only stations, many regular radio stations nowadays offer their audio over the Internet, too. As long as you have a computer and Internet connection (preferably a high-speed one), you can be anywhere in the world and still enjoy your favorite music-or hometown news and traffic reports, for that matter.
When it comes to web radio, the revolution truly is happening now.
Stefan Smith is a radio and music junkie who writes for the Solid Gold Info Writers Consortium . Recently, he has written an extensive review of new software anyone may use to capture music audio streams from Internet radio broadcasts and break them up into individual mp3 song files-a legal way to download free music. Read about it at: http://www.solid-gold.info/radio2mp3.html .