Media Lifeline: Radio online, Friday, 25 May 2007 12:00AM

From streaming live broadcasts to interactive song selection, radio online is a fast-growing phenomenon.

1994: WXYC in North Carolina and WREK in Atlanta, Georgia become the first radio stations to begin streaming their standard live broadcast content over the internet. They are soon joined by Voice of America, and in February 1995, the first internet-only station, Radio HK, based in California, comes online. It showcases the work of indie bands.

1996: Virgin Radio is the first station in Europe to stream content around the clock. In 1999, Virgin, then owned by Chris Evans' (pictured) Ginger Media Group, launches what it says is the UK's first interactive media player, the Ginger Interactive Media Player - or Gimp.

1999: Scourcom launches Mycaster, a software package that allows anyone to set up their own internet radio station via the Mycaster website. The operation goes out of business during the dotcom crash, but the genie is now out of the bottle.

2006: WBEW, a public-service station in Chicago, launches Secret Radio Project, turning one of its stations over to formats that incorporate user-generated content. Listeners are invited to submit material, YouTube-style, to the station's website and this is then patched together by presenters.

2007: It's not long before the phenomenon crosses the Atlantic - although the XU initiative on Xfm stops short of 24-hour user-generated content. Listeners can log on to the Xfm site and select tracks they want to hear in a newly formatted slot between 10am and 4pm.

Fast forward ...

2008: Now Sir Richard Branson launches a new mobile internet-enabled radio gizmo that's a bit like an iPod, except that, in this case, listeners can upload their favourite tracks into the device and can then listen to them in the order of their own choosing - without interruptions from DJs or ad breaks. Listeners can also add in their own user-generated content, for instance, by humming along.

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