Since the days when the family radio was a focal point of the home, where everyone gathered as the main source of news and entertainment to the present day of Internet, satellite and digital radio content, the basic concept of radio has not only survived, but thrived. With all of the new options in radio, however, the question of the future of Internet radio has generated many ideas, controversy and discussion over the past several years. This essay will take a balanced approach to discussing both the pros and cons of Internet versus traditional radio in an effort to ultimately answer this question in an intelligent way.
Will Internet Radio Replace Traditional Radio?The knee-jerk tendency when considering whether or not Internet radio will replace traditional radio would be to assume that this would be the case if for no other reason than due to the natural progression of technology, much like the compact disc eventually replaced the vinyl record and the like. However, a closer look at the question requires that a more thorough review of source material take place before jumping to conclusions.In less than a decade, Internet radio has gained the same status as a mass media source as radio has over approximately the last century-clearly a force with which to be reckoned (VanHorn). This begs the question of how this was able to take place so rapidly and whether it is due to the faddish nature of some new technologies or because of distinct advantages that Internet has over conventional radio.
Few would argue that the massive increase in the availability of Internet access over the past several years has added to the power of the medium- this includes not only the fact that most every workplace in America has some level of Internet access for most employees, but also that Internet access has been made available to the vast majority of households across a range of economic classes, races and cultures. With this, a new group of media consumers has evolved. Called “streamies”, these individuals are those who use the Internet for shopping, communication, work, and media/entertainment access (VanHorn).
The streamies are now beginning their second, and in some cases third generation, with children gaining access to the Internet as soon as they are able to point and click a computer mouse. So, we see a well established and growing audience for Internet radio.Internet radio producers have not been blind to the fact that they are looking at a seemingly endless supply of listeners and that the future potential is all but endless. Knowing that this audience is technologically savvy, and harnessing the power of the Internet, there have been many enhancements to the Internet radio experience that in fairness are hard for conventional radio to compete with, including interactive broadcasts that allow listeners to provide feedback to broadcasters, blogs that allow for the audience to communicate with each other, and additional Websites which could give a listener access to other materials of interest. Evidence suggests that this type of multimedia experience is very well suited to the modern person, who not only wishes to hear a media source, but also wishes to have something to watch or that will give the chance for one’s intellect to be exercised (Crisell).While Internet radio seems to have quite an assortment of options to offer to the modern audience member, traditional radio should not be counted out just yet. From the advent of Internet radio, traditional radio has attempted to slow down the proliferation of competing Internet radio, first through lawsuits which alleged that Internet broadcasters were taking unfair advantage of the broadcasting system because of the fact that they were exempt from many of the regulations which at times saddle the traditional radio broadcaster and represent a huge expense for them (Mckibben).
Failing that, the traditionalists have in recent years likewise gotten involved in Internet broadcasting, using online technology to reach a wider audience with the content that was popular with conventional listeners for years in the past (Crisell).It would appear that in the present stalemate between Internet and conventional radio, the future for both seems cloudy. However, as we will see in a later portion of this essay, there is a very viable future that remains to be seen.Should Internet Radio Pay the Same Royalties as Traditional Radio?The point was made earlier that conventional radio has long argued that Internet radio has unfair advantage in areas such as regulation, technological requirements, etc. Another consideration that has financial implications is the question of whether or not Internet radio should pay the same royalties as traditional radio if the two media sources are different but fundamentally similar.Ironically, when discussing royalties, Internet broadcasters have a disadvantage over conventional broadcasters, at least on the surface.
Conventional broadcasters pay a set royalty into order to broadcast copyrighted materials such as songs, whereas Web-based broadcasters are charged a fee per download. Therefore, given the huge size of online audiences that do not have the limitations like those who receive broadcasts on regular radios, royalty fees can quite literally be without limit (Harwood). On the other hand, the possibility of endlessly large audiences, if properly marketed, can result in substantially larger advertising revenue if advertisers can be convinced of the value of such large target audiences for their message.With the evidence that exists, it would seem that the answer would be not to arbitrarily assess higher royalty fees to Internet broadcasters, or to lower fees to traditional broadcasters to try to give them some sort of competitive edge over the massive power of online broadcasters, but to find a way to create a percentage-based royalty fee for both media sources. For example, Internet broadcasters who are mostly content-based and do not emphasize a large amount of advertising would not be held responsible for massive royalty payments since the content they are utilizing is not being used for the purposes of driving massive revenues in the first place. Conversely, when Internet content results in massive advertising revenue, it would only make sense that royalties be fairly paid for the content that made the profits possible.
Careful auditing and a process of verification for the numbers that are used to determine the royalty rates would alleviate any possible errors and disputes from the outset.What Does the Future Hold?The point was earlier made that the destruction of traditional radio in favor of Internet radio may not be what the future holds, and there are compelling reasons for making that assumption, for as cutting-edge and attractive as Internet radio may be, there is something to be said for the grass roots way that traditional radio operates, serves and entertains. In times of emergency and local interest, people will always look to the traditional, local radio station for what they crave-something that computer servers and satellites from around the globe simply cannot provide, as if they are too big and cumbersome to be as nimble and versatile as the smaller broadcasters in the traditional sense tend to be (Armstrong). Also, as was said earlier, traditional broadcasters can likewise participate in Internet broadcasting while still retaining their local ties and flavor. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to predict that the future will save a place for the traditional, and cutting edge broadcasting worlds.