It’s almost two years since I argued here that online radio is the model for listening to music in the future. I know there aren’t many who mark this anniversary as a national holiday, but to me it felt like a point where several things clicked into place in my mind.
There’s a fascinating article in today’s Guardian, about the rise of digital and online radio, and how this changes the listening experience. While radio listening as a whole (analogue and digital) has not changed much, within that total the amount of listening accounted for by digital (DAB) radio has doubled in a year to just over 10%, and internet radio’s share has increased from 1.1% to 1.8%. (Figures in the US show a nearly three-fold increase in online radio listeners over a year.)
Victor Keegan, the article’s author, then goes on to explain how aggregation of internet radio provides the potential for listening to the radio to be a database experience rather than a serial one.
Instead of navigating between radio stations on the basis of just their brand, their DJs or their programme titles, why not just type in the music you want to hear (artist, genre or whatever) and find what radio streams are playing that music right now? I followed Keegan’s advice and typed Coldplay into the Shoutcast search field, and the first stream I clicked on seemed to have stopped playing Coldplay by the time my iTunes had fired up — so, a close escape, but you get the idea.
At the moment the aggregation is limited to radio stations within a particular online radio service provider (such as Shoutcast or Live365.com). But if Web 2.0 and structured data delivers its promise, you’d hope that there might be scope to search through a much wider range of net radio stations (there are over 10,000 at the time of writing).
As the article puts it, “who needs peer-to-peer sites if the odds are that what you want to hear is being played somewhere in the world”.
The article in today’s Guardian also has some interesting observations on Wi-Fi web radio.