Just like online video, internet radio is growing in leaps and bounds.
In fact, the latest study from Arbitron and Edison Research, shows that around 42 million Americans now tune to online radio on a weekly basis. This is more than twice the number from 2005. And it's up by nearly one-third since 2008.
Podcasts continue to grow in popularity, with their listeners declaring “variety” and “control” as main reasons for listening to online radio.
In fact, one in five Americans aged 25 to 54 now listen to online radio on a weekly basis – and that's an all-time record.
Around 42% of Americans over 12 years of age also have some kind of MP3 player, most owning an Apple iPod or iPhone. And we're not just talking teenagers. The interesting thing to note here is that the growth in MP3 player ownership is now being led by adults.
One woman who knows her stuff about internet radio has made some interesting observations.
Award-winning radio producer Patricia Raskin, who has interviewed and reached thousands of people through her media programs on Fox, PBS and NPR affiliates and WTKF, and 107.3FM, was recently quoted explaining some key differences between traditional radio listening behavior, and that of internet radio.
“On terrestrial radio, a host can pick up listeners because they are listeners of the station in general. I compare the internet to destination travel. Listeners are listening to internet shows because they have found the program, and they want the information. Surfing, common on terrestrial radio, is not as prevalent on internet radio.”
So hopefully, if we create a “destination” affiliate site with juicy radio content about our niche, we've got a better chance of capturing this audience online than if we were doing this through traditional radio.
Given this dynamic, and the fact that there are now tools that make online radio within everyone's reach (we'll look at these in a minute), going the online route sounds good!
Having your own online radio show has never been easier.
So how do you get into internet radio? Well, as a listener, you'll normally need either Windows Media Player or RealNetworks RealPlayer to hear live shows.
The great news is that putting radio on your site doesn't necessarily have to be a drain on your pocket. In fact, there are now free open source MP3 players and online radio streaming platforms available.
Here's one for you to check out:
iRadeo is a free open source MP3 player and online radio streaming platform that customizes to fit your site. The good news here is that it:
- Streams both MP3 and WAV formats
- Auto-detects and displays MP3 file information
- Customizes through a single CSS file
- Embeds onto your site with a few lines of code
- Will shuffle files to stream randomly
- Starts steaming as soon as the page is loaded if you want it to
All this means that it's easy to start streaming both your podcast and MP3 files. In fact, if you're really keen, you could launch your online radio station today.
Seriously! Even just a few years ago, this might have been an incredibly hard thing to do. However, today the technology's there to support you doing just that. The question is – are you up for the challenge?
There are some real benefits of having radio on your site. Here are some to consider:
- Enthusiasm sells: On radio, your passion for your niche will come across naturally through your voice. While you can write enthusiastically as well, it's hard to beat an actual voice for conveying this emotion authentically and effectively.
- You create engagement naturally: By talking and answering questions directly and having listeners call in to discuss their point of view on a topic, people find it easy to relate to this sort of conversational dialogue. Some people will just listen to what you have to say, while others will actively engage through contact with a question or comment on the topic at hand.
- You learn more about your target audience: By talking regularly with your website viewers, you'll learn first hand what things do and don't do for them. Tone of voice and the way people speak can tell you much more than a static web form ever can. You can use radio to gauge where people are at on certain subjects, what they are interested in, what skill levels they have in certain areas, etc. In fact, you have a first-class survey tool at your fingertips!
- Your site becomes more inclusive to those who are visually or physically impaired: With radio, reading to understand info is no longer an issue, or the physical dexterity of someone's hands. They can simply listen.
- You can paint pictures in people's minds: Radio fires up the imagination. Because we have nothing to see in front of us, our brain has to create its own pictures.
- You can position yourself as a knowledge center: By inviting experts in your niche and other guests to be part of your radio show, you can attract a whole heap of people to your site who otherwise might not have known about you. Providing this “hub” enables your readers to listen to you and others and learn from them. Done well, you can develop your site into a “destination” for people with an interest in a certain topic by providing insights and knowledge on this.
- You don't have to be a great writer to have a great blog: By choosing an interactive medium like radio, you don't have to worry about being a great wordsmith. Some people are more naturally suited to one medium, and if writing's not your thing, radio can be a fantastic way to go. There's no need to worry about spelling mistakes or typos, or all the messy little formatting issues details that go with uploading written posts.
- Your own radio show can help position you in your market, and establish expertise. As a radio talk show host, you're likely to be perceived as specialist in your area, and therefore a credible source of info.
- A talk show not only helps establish a relationship with your listeners. It also leads to increased awareness and exposure with the public worldwide. In fact, you can develop an international audience at the same time as you increase your customer base.
An online radio show can increase the number of ears tuned to your website.
- Having a show can increase your own inbound interview requests for traditional broadcast radio, television and print. Then you've got free publicity and promotion!
- Increased respect and standing among your peers. And if you manage to get someone well-known on your show, you may even find you achieve a level of celebrity yourself through association with them.
- A show can create fantastic networking opportunities for you with guests, which can also lead to business opportunities as well, including advertising and sponsorship sales. Each of these sorts of opportunities might be much more challenging to achieve otherwise.
- You can use email campaigns and other marketing avenues, such as RSS feeds, to extend the reach of your show.
WsRadio.com is another well-known broadcaster which gives you the opportunity to host your own radio show – check them out!
BlogTalk Radio also gives you the ability to host a free live internet talk radio show anywhere, simply by using a telephone and a computer.
If you want to upgrade for more features, with more widget promotions, ads etc, you've also got the option of a premium version, and a premium plus version if you want all their whizzy bits as well.
Their integration with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Ning, means you can share your content and voice with a public worldwide forum.
There's no software to download with this – so that makes things easy.
Plus there's also:
- An optional revenue sharing program you can choose to take part in as a participating host
- A live chat facility that lets you chat with listeners during and after a live show
- A “multiple participants feature” in which you can have up to 5 guests/listeners on your show at the same time
- A promotional tools package so that you can copy and paste the Flash player and buttons to any blog or web site
- A show archive – this automatically saves moments of your on-air glory so that they're available as MP3, an RSS subscription, or iTunes
- A reminders feature so that your listeners can have customized alerts via email or phone of your upcoming shows
- A customizable profile – you can add video, your blog, and links to your other sites or widgets
So now you have some good reasons why getting involved with radio can help get people more engaged on your site, and the real benefits you can gain from this.
With millions of listeners joining conversations each month, you can use one of the platforms we've discussed in this post as a tool to market yourself on the web.
As we've seen, listener numbers are growing all the time. Technology is expanding the reach of internet radio through increased internet access to now include wireless applications, in-car IP radio, ipods, mp3 players, and cell phones. It all adds up to a potentially huge global audience for you.
Look forward to hearing how you go with this exciting new way of reaching your audience!