OPINION: Listen to some music while you work - via the Internet - Radio is the only medium that can accompany rather than displace other tasks, making it perfect for the office. The best way is through the Internet, Paul Edwards writes

The death of a medium is always greatly exaggerated. There is more evidence that existing media are strengthened as new ones emerge.

The death of a medium is always greatly exaggerated. There is more

evidence that existing media are strengthened as new ones emerge.



The launch of regular radio broadcasts by the BBC gave birth to the

Radio Times. Every morning people open their newspapers to read about TV

programmes, to read the lives of the soap stars and to plan their

evening’s viewing.



TV has created far more content for newspapers than any other man-made

phenomenon. Pre-recorded videos and satellite movie channels have grown

in tandem with unprecedented growth in cinema admissions. The

serialisation of a George Eliot or a Jane Austen novel does much for

book sales.



So, what can radio do next? It’s almost impossible to bring up the

Internet without being accused of adding to the hype.



I don’t intend to attempt the impossible.



There are 3,500 radio stations on the Internet worldwide. Of those,

about 500 are webcasters - they are broadcasting either live or have

placed recordings of their shows for downloading.



On top of that, there are roughly 50 stations that exist solely on the

Internet. In the UK there are 98 radio station sites with nine of them

webcasting.



So let’s diffuse some of the hype. The Henley Centre’s findings from the

Media Futures programme show that 4 per cent of people have access to

the Internet in their homes, of which about 30 per cent have computers

capable of receiving audio broadcasts.



The Internet, even though it boasts impressive growth rates in the home,

still has a long way to go.



But the home isn’t the only place to use the Net. Internet radio can get

into a place that traditional radio has so far failed to penetrate - the

office.



Media Futures 97 shows that the largest use of the Internet in the UK is

not at home but at work - 79 per cent of Internet users log on at their

desks.



All of us complain that there is never enough time to get things

done.



Radio is the only medium that can genuinely accompany, rather than

partly displace, other activities and tasks. Instead of putting on a

tape or CD and settling down to work, we could log on and tune in.



Advertising can be audio between tracks and shows - just like on

traditional radio. It also opens up the opportunity for ads to drift

across the screen as text by using existing Web ’push’ technologies such

as backweb.



Music while you work at the PC is exactly the sort of opportunity that

radio on the Internet can offer.



Advertising while you work could open the doors to new classes of

business-to-business advertisers; not exactly at the point of purchase

in many cases, but certainly when the listener is in ’business’ mode

rather than travelling or at home.



We don’t even have to think traditional Internet (slow loading, crashing

as Chris Tarrant hands out pounds 25,000, going downhill as the US wakes

up).



What the digital revolution really means is that you don’t need a radio

to listen to the radio and you don’t need a PC to access the

Internet.



All you really need is a connection, a chip and a speaker. Content of

all sorts can be distributed through any number of different digital

channels and windows.



The other implication of this is that the boundary of the transmitter is

no longer the boundary of the station. Webcasters can be heard all over

the world and their long-term attractiveness to advertisers can scarcely

be in doubt.



If radio can reach into the office and across territories, it can gain a

new lease of life for advertisers and stimulate innovative solutions for

communicating with audiences previously unimagined.