Media Analysis: Will Internet Radio Drown out DAB?

Article excerpt

The platform is steadily building its listener base, leading brands to examine its potential, writes Alison Donnelly.

The uncertainty surrounding the future of DAB has given a timely fillip to internet radio, which is slowly, but steadily, growing in popularity as a listening platform.

While just 2.1% of all radio listening in the UK during the first quarter of 2008 occurred via the web, according to Rajar, listener numbers are climbing, albeit gradually. They now account for about 21m hours of online listening weekly, up from 17m last September.

As well as providing radio stations with a welcome additional revenue stream, other non-traditional media owners have realised the potential that web radio has to offer, demonstrated by recent deals between MySpace and Mars Planets and AOL and Last.fm.

Given the less-than-wholehearted support that DAB is now receiving from media owners, underlined by GCap Media's complete retreat from the market, it is likely that the focus will shift to online services. They are cheaper, offer universal coverage and have the capacity to provide podcasts and other interactive elements - all things that DAB cannot.

'Radio needs to focus on providing excellent content and then ensuring it is available on as many platforms as possible,' says Ross Nestar, head of radio at Mediaedge:cia. He adds that the internet will have a key role to play. 'Radio has always been an interactive medium so online is a natural platform for it. Commercial radio stations have been slow to exploit it, though, as they don't have the same resources as the BBC, which has done so very well.'

MySpace's tie-up with Mars highlights the opportunities that exist to create branded radio content specifically for the internet. MySpace has produced a weekly show fronted by Alex Zane, which is sponsored by Mars Planets and heavily led by user-generated content.

The show provides another way for users to consume content, according to Dom Cook, marketing director at MySpace. …