Streaming Radio, how quaint

Clear Channel and Infinity after becoming de-facto duo-ply in the terrestrial radio business, and nearly killing it with mega-formats, have decided that it is time to stream their radio stations on the web. I see the logic of it – broadband has finally arrived, people listed to music digitally, and there is an audience to be monetized. However, from where I stand, they are coming to the market five years too late, with a product which can be best described as $2-bottle-of-vinegar pretending to be a fine Cabernet.

Infinity CEO Joel Hollander said in a statement: “We believe streaming our stations online will not only exceed their expectations, but will also create an outlet with which we can target a larger audience and increase time spent listening.” His words remind me of that hideous tear jerker, While You Were Sleeping. Infinity’s reaction is like closing the barn door after the colt has bolted.

Simply streaming the music from radio stations is not going to work. The broadband-lifestyle is about choices. Folks listen to online music because it is sliced and diced to meet specific niches and tastes. Satellite radio, which is nothing more than an aggregation of niches is slowly and surely killing the terrestrial radio. Services like Mercora, allow folks to micro-slice their interests and listen to music they love, not the music that is shoved down their throats.

Despite the moral problems I have with downloading music from the Internet, I cannot argue with the fact that it allows consumers to be “highly selective.” In other words, digital music is the first market which allows “mass customization.” ITunes/IPod combination allows me to create my own radio station, sans ads. Online recommendation engines help me find music more in tune (pun intended) to my life. If terrestrial radio has to stay relevant, it has to innovate.

For clues, read this fantastic piece from The Christian Science Monitor’s Gregory Lamb. And I quote him for a closing thought.

About the only thing that really separates radio listening from, say, uploading music to an iPod is that on radio, someone else plays deejay.