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Streaming is hard, unreliable, not up to "broadcast" standards, too slow, quality is no good, and on and on. These are all the retorts I hear everyday
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Streaming is hard, unreliable, not up to "broadcast" standards, too slow, quality is no good, and on and on. These are all the retorts I hear everyday about streaming. For the most part the naysayers are right. Streaming is not very good today. It is in its infancy not unlike television 50 years ago.

"Is this a real business or just a passing fad?" is a common question. With the current downturn in the stock market, especially for the Internet companies, one could surmise that the Internet is just a fad. Quite to the contrary, the Internet, or a universal network, is here to stay. The free sharing of ideas and communications is a powerful drug that is very hard to squelch.

As the opening webpage to the Bridge school (www.bridgeschool.org) states "communication is the essence of human life" and "technology is a tool that provides access to communication and knowledge for all."

Streaming, for all its faults, will become a driving force for many stations over the next few years. Never before has there been a technology that allows "broadcasting" on a global scale nearly for free.

All broadcasters should be putting in place plans to understand the streaming business. This is more than just a technology plan. Sales, marketing, programming and shareholders all play a large part. The plans need to address what it means to broadcast today and what it will be like two, five and 10 years from now.

I support getting going now and begin full time web broadcasting ASAP. No one knows what it is going to be like two, five or 10 years from now but there are some trends we need to watch. The growth in broadband is a good example. DSL and cable modem installs remain high and continue to grow, hardware specifically designed for broadcasting on the Net is already available and more and more users each day are good indicators of the trend.

This is especially relevant for radio (Audio-only broadcast) where the costs are insignificant and immediately you can access a worldwide audience. With today's codecs, radio hits the maximum audience penetration. Users can listen to quality audio over a 28.8k modem.

Today MP3jays are using systems like our SHOUTcast (www.shout cast.com) to reach people all around the world. At any given time there are over 1000 Internet broadcasters sharing their music, ideas and generally communicating with their audience. SHOUTcasters have the ability to have real-time conversations with their audience. This feedback allows the broadcaster to begin to drive their own metrics.

So how does a broadcaster get above the fray? This is one of the areas that traditional broadcasters can shine. With years of marketing expertise you will be able to move that ability to the Web and grow. The big difference is now instead of a 100-mile radius you have to market to the world.

Recently, a "fictitious" Internet station took the lead by being smart and doing their homework. They realized they had a niche market, or at least they created a niche that worked with the station's message. They started by promoting themselves with appropriate fan and enthusiast sites. The sales and business development teams have been working on mutual agreements for co-promotion. Lastly, the programming and technical team have fully embraced the technology using it to its fullest.

The sales force is focusing on the station's message to its advertisers and making sure that what they are selling is larger than just the local market. Can your station make the needed leap to streaming?