Web radio revolutionises our listening tastes

The concept of national music stations and local radio shows is becoming increasingly outdated. Web radio has created a bright new world of digital listening choice, where your exact preferences in radio drama, music and talk-shows can be met with a huge variety of specialist stations.

The listings website at http://www.rad.io/ offers a choice of over 7000 stations. You'll find the traditional favourites like the BBC's World Service there, and many established radio stations throughout the world now have a web radio presence, but what is becoming apparent is that the old rules of broadcasting no longer apply.

Web radio stations operate by way of a system called streaming, essentially compressing audio into a digital file, usually an MP3, Real Audio or Windows Media Audio format. These can range in quality, although there are classical music stations that use high bit-rate compression to maintain a hi-fi audio experience.

The freedom of web radio allows a radically different approach to audiences and to content. While analogue stations were always restricted by the range of their transmitters and by the demands of their advertisers, web radio stations have no geographical restrictions and can afford to cater for minority tastes.

Digital media also offers greater scope for performers to reach audiences directly, rather than wait for the exposure of a five minute interview on a news programme.

Webcasting has become an effective and instantly accessible way for entertainers, particularly comedians and authors, to reach their audiences directly, without having to go through the old media channels.

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