Are You Listening to a Radio Station Right Now?

The Internet is having a startling effect on radio, as evidenced by a new report released by The Arbitron Company, entitled "Arbitron Internet Listening Study: Radio in the New Media World." Arbitron concludes "that Internet broadcasting is a fast-growing medium which presents both challenges and opportunities for radio broadcasters."

The study, presented at two sessions at the National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show in Seattle, examines how radio listeners use the Internet, who is listening online, and what the potential impact of the new medium will be on the established radio medium. Some 1600 Spring 1998 Arbitron diary-keepers and 1300 online audio users were polled for the study. Arbitron has long studied and measured local radio audiences, and creates periodic reports that can make or break a station's advertising year.

Most radio stations set ad rates based on their impact in a local market, yet the Internet has given stations of any size a global reach. As more stations serve customers online, addressing advertising simultaneously to both local and online markets becomes a sticky issue. Should traditional stations simply relay their "on-air" content to the Internet (with local ads intact), or create entirely new streams or ad clients aimed at a national audience? Does broadcasting a licensed program over the Internet as well as over the air violate copyright agreements? Broadcast.com has shown that Internet "stations," not rooted to broadcast towers, are also creating competition for listeners' ears, further eroding traditional radio markets.

Key findings from the study: One out of every four Americans has visited a radio station's website, and nearly 70% of those who have visited the site once have returned to it; almost one in five online users has listened to radio on the web, a figure likely to increase as technology becomes more pervasive and more Americans go online; online users spent nearly three hours less with radio per week than radio listeners who were not online; and 13% of online users admitted that the decrease in time spent listening to radio was a direct result of the time they devoted to online activity.

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