Radio revs up for the Internet

While radio certainly has a venerable heritage and currently maintains a position as the medium for those on the move, a new breed of broadcaster is starting to rev up for the information highway.  A variety of concepts are merging at ever increasing speeds.  If you are not faint of heart, stick your neck out and you'll find that we are approaching something very exciting.  The two dominant topics currently prompting discussion are digital radio and use of the Internet.  Exploration indicates how closely related these two matters are.

It is essential that broadcasters and advertisers unite in order to facilitate the implementation of new technologies.  Some cynics say that they've heard it all before -- a reference to the lobbying fiasco of AM stereo.  I prefer to think that we've learned our lesson -- consensus and cooperation will ultimately benefit us all.

Starting this year, the CRTC will begin hearing applications (from existing licence holders) for new digital positions.  These interference free signals will be broadcast with CD quality sound in a new frequency band (1452-1492 Mhz.)

Installation costs (roughly estimated at $80,000 per signal) and operating costs will be substantially lower than for their analog counterparts.  Digital compression techniques are rapidly improving, opening up new transmission possibilities.

In addition to conventional broadcast services, related items such as weather/news information, addressable messages and geopositioning services can be offered in digital form by broadcast license holders.  Advertisers can be offered the option of providing phone numbers and product details in digital form to interested listeners.  This array of possible services affords the broadcaster new sorely needed revenue sources.

Digital signals will be offered parallel and concurrent with analog signals for the next decade.  The key to success appears to lie with enlisting the support of auto manufacturers.  The inclusion of digital receivers in new cars is the only sure way of securing listener support.  Land based transmission will begin this year, while satellite based transmission is scheduled to be in place no later than 2004.

It is becoming clear that the concept of international broadcasting holds immense promise.  In addition to the digital transmission described above, look for broadcasting on the Internet to become widespread over the next few years.

Shortly, FM quality signals will be broadcast over telephone lines via the World Wide Web to computers around the world.  With the use of the RealAudio players (download from and a relatively fast modem (28,800 baud) listeners can tune into special programming events or regular programming from stations in Sydney, Hong Kong or Santa Monica.  Given that the number of hits on a Web site can be accounted for precisely, these stations will be able to record the exact number of impressions in a manner never before possible.

In addition, many stations in Canada have been setting up their own Web sites for promotional and research purposes.  This appears to be especially true of younger skewed rock stations (Q107 and CFNY-FM in Toronto, CFOX-FM and Z95.3 in Vancouver, CHOM-FM in Montreal, CITI-FM and Q94FM in Winnipeg among others) and information/news based stations.  Given that 52 per cent of Web users are 16 to 34 and 64.5 per cent of Web users are male, the importance of the net as a rock promotion vehicle becomes apparent.  It is also interesting to note that total Internet usage in the U.S. and Canada is equivalent to the total playback of rented video tapes.  Thirty seven million people in the U.S. and Canada currently have access to the Net.  This number is growing at an astonishing rate.  Stations have used their sites for listener requests, determining attitudes toward specific cuts and listener promotions.  Some enterprising stations include and merchandise links to advertiser sites.

The Net offers a series of other advantages.  It will become the most quick and efficient way of communicating with national clients.  Sound can be attached to communiqués and sales pitches.  Creative will be stored in digital form and trafficked via the Web more cost effectively than this has been possible with older methods.  Sound clips, interviews and various other sonic resources will be accessible from central sites.  For example, check out the radio links in the Yahoo net directory.  You can download everything from classic radio shows of the 30's and 40's to current clips.  Also, a central pool of ad copy for broadcasters (check out can prove to be an effective resource.

Those broadcasters who are taking the trouble to quickly get up to speed on the information highway will be the ones who will win the race.  By merging traditional strengths with new technologies, the radio medium appears to be ready to take off.