About the history of internet radio
If you were to set about researching the history of internet radio and began by asking Wikipedia. You would learn the world’s first internet radio station was launched by Carl Malmud way back in 1993. That his station was called Internet Talk Radio and featured interviews of public figures in the field of technology. And that very soon after a number of live concerts were broadcast over the internet, followed by the launch of the first radio station to play music over the internet.
You might also then learn about the rise of streaming protocols such as Shoutcast, Icecast, Windows Media and Real Media, and the contributions they made to the popularization of streaming audio content, making it accessible to many. The plethora of media clients that grew to accomodate them such as Real Player, Winamp and Windows Media Player. Pioneering internet radio service providers like Live365, among the first to offer a hosted community platform for internet radio stations owners and listeners. Internet radio control panel software solutions would play their part too. As would the eventual rise of steaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and Google Music. These new media platforms based as they are on the somewhat radically different paradigm of control and choice for the listener, or consumer as they might now be more appropriately named.
But wait, there’s more!
What this is really about however is the changes brought on by the portability of digital media formats started in the 1980’s by the widespread availability of personal computers in the home. The rise of early new media file formats such mpeg, mpeg2 and mp3 offering acceptable trade-offs between compression, sound quality and portability, initially championed by internet pirates but rapidly becoming mainstream.
It’s about how this portability would marry perfectly with the future ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, allowing consumers to take formerly unthinkable quantities of music with them anywhere. And the radical ways in which the internet has changed all traditional media, not least radio. Challenging consumption models such that any media can now be accessed by a consumer anywhere in the word, instantly. Changes in society so powerful that even reluctant media empires would eventually be forced to adapt and meet the new ways in which their consumers wanted to access their entertainment choices.
So where to now?
Well it seems clear that if there was a relatively long period of time when formats like radio, tv and the movies, their distribution and consumption were well established and subject to relatively little change. The period we’re in now must be characterized by the opposite notion of perpetual change. Leading to us to consider where to next? Will these new media platforms replace existing media such as internet radio altogether. Personally I think not. Consumer choices are often surprising and it’s interesting to note that a recent study by the British Phonographic Industry into the impact of these new services on more traditional media such as CD and vinyl, actually found significant sales growth in recent times as a result of their availability.