The Ultimate Guide: What Is Online Radio and How Does It Work?

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These days, content marketing is the golden goose, helping brands build traffic and sell more.

For most brands, content means blog posts, ebooks and infographics. But don’t ignore this powerful form of content: online radio.

What is it? How does it work. I’ll answer these questions and more in this post.

What is online radio?

Online radio is either pre-recorded MP3 files or live, via-a-microphone broadcasts that are streamed over the Internet.

With online radio, you are not limited to one geographic area or dependent upon syndication partners picking up your show in order for it to be heard. It can be heard all over the world.

There are three elements to workable online radio.

  1. The source, which is you. You add sound such as clips, inputs from CDs, live voice and so on.
  2. The server, such as Shoutcast through They mix it all together, put it into a format that can be streamed and send it out through the Internet sound waves at the click of a link.
  3. The listener, because without listeners there really isn’t any point in broadcasting. The listener connects to your server and can hear anything you’re streaming.

Why online radio?


According to Radio Ad Effectiveness Lab

  • People better retain what they hear on Internet radio stations and see in an ad at the same time. The visual combined with auditory prompts stick in the person’s brain.
  • Even though a picture might be worth 1,000 words, the study found that, in some cases, words can be more powerful than print ads and drive the emotions of consumers, which results in a better response percentage for excellent radio ads.
  • The positive emotional impact of radio ads was equal to that of television ads or perhaps a bit greater. This is important because an ad campaign’s effectiveness can be impacted by how emotionally engaged the audience is.

According to Target Spot’s Internet Radio Advertising Impact Study

  • In 2012, Internet radio listenership has reached 42% of US Broadband households (up 8% compare to 2011).
  • Internet Radio has a highly desirable audience: 42% have households with children, 64% own their own home and 22% have a household income of $100K annually.
  • Ad recall improves by leaps and bounds when both radio and digital advertising are used together. Think banner ad and streamed radio show or a contest through the radio show where the user must visit a website for clues or to enter.
  • Online ad response rates increase by as much as three times in those who also listen to online radio.
  • The study found that the most engaged Internet users also listen to Internet radio. These people are also twice as likely to respond to an internet ad as those who don’t listen to online radio.

Cost effectiveness

  • Online radio is much cheaper than its AM/FM counterparts. Sites allow users to create a radio show with professional services for a small monthly fee.
  • You can do it yourself. Most of the online radio production sites have their own “online” studios. Some even allow you to have call-ins from guests or listeners to make the show truly interactive.
  • The MP3 file can be saved in an archive, which increases your reach because you can keep it available long after the show initially aired.

What all these mean to bloggers?

Affordable  and Easy to Start

Business Graph

Internet radio has broadened the listening base for broadcasters. No longer are you limited to expensive time slots on the local radio dial. No longer is it necessary to have pricey equipment.

With something as simple as a computer and a $20 microphone, you can get started with your own radio show and broadcast to people all over the globe.

Bloggers who are looking to increase the traffic on their sites or increase the return rate on advertising campaigns can easily and inexpensively add online radio to current marketing plans.

A weekly radio show takes about an hour or two of preparation time (depending on how research-intensive your topic is) and then 30 minutes to an hour or radio broadcast time.

Free Advertisement

Since many of the platforms available, like BlogTalk and Live365 offer built-in audiences, you have the added advantage of free advertising through these stations. In addition to your own advertising plan, you will naturally gain listeners who are tuned in to other shows similar to yours and stay around to hear other shows.

A quick list on where you can promote your online radio:

Extended Reach

Because you have the ability to record the MP3, you have an added advantage over traditional radio. Traditional live radio may be broadcast once. Those who are listening at that time hear it, but those who are not listening do not and most shows are not re-broadcast.

However, Internet radio is usually streamed on-demand, which means the listener can tune in whenever she likes, share with others, or listen more than once. You can even create a podcast of your show that can be downloaded for listening while commuting to work, in a waiting room or while exercising.

The potential reach of Internet radio grows exponentially with each of these possibilities.

Increased Engagement

There is a sort of online camaraderie when it comes to amateur radio hosts. Your listeners may have their own online radio shows and will be forgiving of minor technical glitches and errors and may even offer a few ideas to help you along the way.

Easy In, Easy Out

The investment, both time-wise and financially, is minimal, so if the radio show doesn’t bring the desired results or you don’t like creating it, you can get out of the show with little loss.

The potential for gains is big, however, especially with more and more people seeking online entertainment.

How to start and host an online radio station?

There are a couple of common methods to get your online radio station up and running.

1. Make your computer a streaming server

You will need some technical knowledge and your own server with streaming capabilities to pull this off. You’ll also need to be familiar with how to use a microphone and other recording equipment as well as editing software such as Audacity.

Here are some tools that can help you more easily stream through your server.

  • Icecast: This free software is installed on your server and allows you to stream 24/7. You can upload pre-recorded tracks or stream live with a microphone.
  • Broadwave: Broadwave is software that allows you to stream through your computer to the Internet. You will need a website to offer this to your listeners. Listeners do not need to download any software on their end and can listen through their default browser.
  • FreeCast: One of the best things about this broadcasting software is that you can have an unlimited number of users listening in. As long as you have the broadband to handle the load of listeners, you can keep adding more and more people to your live stream.

2. Host your radio channels on third party streaming host

Homepage of Live 365

Start with free trials or packages and upgrade as your audience grows or you want to add more tools. Some of the third-party streaming hosts include:

  • Live365: This site has thousands of radio stations on every topic you can imagine and both talk and music radio. If you’re looking for a built-in listener base then this might be a good place to start your show. They offer a free trial and personal and professional broadcasting packages, so your radio station can grow over time.
  • BlogTalkRadio: The setup at this third-party site is so simple that you’ll be able to get up and running in less than an hour. They offer a free package up to professional packages. To begin streaming your show, you will call in to a telephone number. Guests can call in as well and you can approve them from the Studio page or disconnect. Shows are archived for future listening.
  • Stream Guys: This vendor offers some more advanced streaming possibilities with special software to stream to mobile devices. They also offer video streaming capabilities, if you’d like to grow in that area. It is a smaller company, but the website states that they understand the cost concerns of small businesses and individuals and offer a cost effective product.
  • Radio Streaming Services: Stream from your computer straight to the Internet 24/7. The system is based on a Cirrus Player and they are up on the latest in mobile streaming. You’ll gain access to statistics and market metrics that can help your business grow and help you see how to best utilize advertising in your online radio campaigns.
  • ShoutCheap: Use this Internet radio server for as little as $4.95 a month for 25 listeners. The more listeners you gain, the more you’ll pay, but you’ll also gain new customers as you go along. They offer two platforms, one is aimed at reaching International listeners. The easy, online interface makes broadcasting a breeze.

Online radio has been around for a while, but more and more advertisers are turning to radio stations as a means of getting the word out about their product or to gain new customers. For almost zero upfront cost, plus a little time, you can get started and test out your own online radio show.

Jerry Low is the a professional blogger who is passionate about SEO and web development. He writes helpful web development guide, Internet marketing tips and web hosting reviews at Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Connect and get more from him on Google+.

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