How The Internet Breathes New Life Into Radio

Online radio services have been available to the Australian public since the mid 1990s. However, they were not properly utilized as a means of media communication until the 2000s, when fluid media platforms began to be seen as ‘normal’. Since then, online radio services have added a new aspect to the radio industry, such that it is extended beyond the live broadcasts.

Spencer Howson, ABC’s Breakfast radio presenter on 612AM, spoke to QUT journalism students about the innovative alternatives online radio services offered.

  1. Radio no longer disappears after it’s been aired.


“One of the great things to have happened since I started radio in the early ’90s is that radio doesn’t just disappear,” says Mr Howson. “What we do on radio can be enjoyed, now, even after it’s been aired.”

Content is now uploaded to the radio broadcaster’s website in the form of videos, sound bites or in-depth articles. This allows listeners to receive radio-based content after, during or before it’s been aired, either as an alternative to broadcast radio programs or as a form of further research.

This is beneficial to the radio industry, which up until modern times, was the only journalism-based profession in which the content ceased to exist past its publication.

2.    Consumers can now ‘watch’ radio.

This cross-media feature is one of the most notable examples of how online radio services have expanded the confinements of the traditional radio industry.

Radio itself has always been an audio-based tool for communicating with the public, and it has wavered little from the principal throughout its historical life. However, whether through the normalization of multimedia platforms or the advancement of technologies, radio has now expanded to include ‘visual radio’ techniques online.

Examples of this occur regularly, such as on NOVA 106.9, which often provides listeners with videos and images on their website.

“We’re now using the app Periscope to post live videos of whatever we’re talking about on radio, and then people who are able to – at that time – can watch the radio,” says Mr Howson.

By publishing a visual component, radio broadcasters are: allowing their listeners to engage with radio hosts; attain more information, and; see aspects that would otherwise be difficult to verbally describe. Visual aspects also encourage click baiting, sale revenues, content sharing and online traffic, which are beneficial to the radio broadcast company.

3.   Consumers can now rewind, download and keep broadcast radio programs.

Until recently, one of the main differences between radio and other forms of media was that the consumer was unable to relearn or rehear information once it was aired. In the television industry, consumers had the option to pause and rewind media content. In the print industry, consumers could reread media content to suit their needs.

Today, radio consumers also have this luxury.

“Everything that we do on the program gets put online and can be downloaded and kept,” says Mr Howson. “You can even rewind ABC 612 Brisbane and listen back to it a week after it’s aired.”

By publishing radio programs onto the online realm, radio broadcasters are allowing listeners the freedom to select, manipulate and save radio content. This is beneficial to the radio industry as it encourages listeners to interact and consume additional radio broadcasts.

It is also notable that although this creates a relatively small form of ratings in the larger radio landscape, online publications such as these might become popular overtime, as was seen in the television industry.

4.   Online radio services might surpass FM/AM.

In 2011, the number of Australians who listened to the radio was around 54 per cent, in contrast to the 14 per cent who listened to radio content online. This gap is now closing as the percentage of Australians who listen to radio broadcasts on traditional FM/AM platforms turn to their online equivalents.

“A lot of listeners, we know, are skipping FM and AM, and going straight to online. Even the live radio is online these days – and a lot of radio listening is happening via phone apps or online browsers,” says Mr Howson.

People seem to enjoy the alternatives to traditional radio, which has become too commercial and standardized for the common person’s taste. Online radio services also offer a degree of diversity that traditional radio services are unable to, such as: the ability to select, save and manipulate content; visualized content; additional information, and; related content.

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