Advantages and Disadvantages of Radio Broadcasting Over the Internet

Radio content is still king. And internet radio has a positive impact on both listeners and broadcasters.

In this article, you'll discover:

  • Pros and cons of internet radio for broadcasters.
  • Pros and cons of web radio for listeners.

Let's get started:

More...

Chapter 1: Broadcasters


In 2019, online stations number in the thousands.

For instance, on Tune In, you can find over 100,000 radio streams from all corners of the globe.

Technologies that currently power most web radios were launched in the 1990s: Shoutcast 1998 and Icecast 1999.

They are used by terrestrial radio stations and dedicated internet radio owners. 

Benefits of Internet Radio for Broadcasters

#1: Low start-up costs

For a newbie, getting a radio station on air is a quick & easy affair. You can set up a small physical studio in your shed or spare room. Since you need servers that relay your stream to listeners, you can get hosting for a small fee on CloudRadio.

What basic equipment do you need in a small studio? 

  • Computer
  • Microphone + accessories
  • Broadcasting desk (optional)

#2: Automation has made running a radio simpler

There is a plethora of radio broadcasting software. Most have automation features, which saves a lot of time and effort. Some stations run unattended for many months. 

#3: Low running costs

Running an online radio station is affordable, and it’s a key advantage of radio broadcasting over the internet. You don’t require a lot of personnel; you can actually find volunteers living miles away from you to contribute their time.

The recurring costs include paying for hosting, internet costs, royalties for commercial music, etc.

#4: Access to an international audience

Web radio knows no geographical bounds. In turn, internet radio broadcasters can amass a global audience. Someone can listen to UK radio stations while in the U.S., or tune in to Asian radio stations from Africa.

The proliferation of smartphones has also contributed to the growth of internet radio. Currently, there are 2.71 billion smartphone users in the world.

Car manufacturers are equipping their new models with infotainment systems that support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These apps allow drivers to connect their phones and access online radio apps such as Tune In.

#5: Easy to transition into podcasts

Audio podcasts are very similar to radio programs. You listen to them, and not watch them. They are both hosted. Even the equipment used is similar, for instance,
microphones, audio mixing desks, etc. 

The difference lies in their distribution. Podcasts utilize RSS feeds and are always available on podcast platforms. Many radio stations repack their radio programs into podcasts, for instance, The Ted Radio Hour, Freakonomics Radio, etc. Once you have a radio station, transitioning into podcasts is darn easy!

#6: Internet radio directories for promotion

Internet radio directories help listeners discover new stations. Some directories attract millions of listeners and have become very famous. Good examples include Tune In, StreamFinder, myRadioTuner, etc.

It’s free to submit and get listed. Once your radio is on some directories, it becomes accessible even on smart speakers and TVs. 

#7: Better audience insight

Internet radio stations have a much efficient way of collecting stats on their listeners. Through the server-side radio streaming software like Icecast, the radio owner can tell:

  • Total number of listeners for a time period (daily, monthly, or yearly)
  • Listener’s location
  • Total listening hours
  • And more.

#8. Available on every device

To access a radio station, one only needs a device that can play a radio stream. They are many devices that can do this, including smartphones, computers, laptops, gaming consoles, car infotainment systems, smart TVs, and smart speakers like Alexa Echo & Google Home.

Disadvantages of Internet Radio for Broadcasters

#1: The struggle of getting listeners

Internet radio still has a long way to go when it comes to appeal and availability. Most people use FM or AM radio signals because they are still readily available. Also, most cars have free AM/FM enabled stereos.

But there are ways radio stations can promote themselves, including creating apps, using social media, running ads, etc.

#2: Depended on the availability of the internet

Do you know the basic human needs? Food, shelter, and clothing. What of the modern needs? Education, healthcare, sanitation, and the internet. Yes, the right to broadband is a human need.

Good internet connections aren’t available everywhere yet. Similarly, listening to internet radio comes with a cost. You can't say the same thing for FM/AM radio.

But the terrestrial stations also face challenges. For instance, FM radio signals can only travel for 30-40 miles. They can also be blocked by physical objects, including hills, buildings, etc.

#3: Paying royalties

A license is not required to start a web radio station. It's one of the major advantages of internet radio. However, if you’re playing commercial music, you need to pay royalties.

Royalties are paid for each performance of a copyrighted song. There are not expensive. Educate yourself more on royalties for online radio here.

#4: Tough to land advertisers

Advertisers generally seek stations that draw loads of listeners. They also go after stations with targeted audiences, maybe, listeners from one city.

Though internet radio stations attract global listenership, few stations draw thousands of listeners each day. 

Small radio stations find it hard to land lucrative advertisement deals.

Fortunately, internet radio stations can join ad networks. If you’re familiar with Google Adsense, they work in a similar manner.

In that, one ad is distributed across many internet radio stations in the Ad network. The advertiser pays as per the number of people who heard the ad.

Chapter 2: Listeners


If you’re a radio listener searching for pros and cons of internet radio, this chapter covers that.

When TV came out, many feared it would kill radio.

Why is radio resilient? A simple answer is: you can listen to the radio as you work, drive, shower, etc.

How popular is internet radio? Well, according to forecasts by Statista, 68.4 % of internet users in the U.S. would become online radio users in 2018.

Pros of Internet Radio for Listeners

#1: More Variety

Terrestrial radio stations undergo format changes in their lifetime. For instance, if the station’s main format is Urban hits, but it stops attracting many listeners, they may switch to Country.

Some formats have since disappeared from mainstream radio. Fortunately, you’ll find internet radio stations for every genre, including Rhythmic Oldies, Kid’s radio, Bluegrass, Ambient and Beautiful music, etc.

#2: Better sound quality

Internet radio trumps FM and AM stations in terms of sound quality. The audio is clear and free from static. It’s like listening to music that you have downloaded from Spotify or Apple Music.

#3: Improved listening experience

Straightaway, internet radio stations enhance the listening experience by offering stream players that display the song title, artist name, album art, and social media share buttons.

There are other extras you can find on radio websites and mobile apps. For example, a list of previously played songs; archives in case you missed a previous episode; the ability to pause, resume, or rewind a stream; and more!

#4: Internet Radio is more accessible

Regardless if you’re 60 ft under the sea in a submarine, or 20,000 ft above ground in an airplane, as long as you have access to the internet, you can still enjoy to internet radio.

If you have used a radio set with a tuning cord, I bet you know the pains of finding good reception.

#5: Fewer ads

Don’t like ads? it’s impossible to miss them on commercial radio stations. Luckily, you'll find many web radio stations playing music 24/7 with no ads to disrupt your listening experience.

Just a minute... Some people, like your dear author, like radio ads. Radio commercials can be very informative especially if there is a concert or new movie coming out. Hearing about where to find deals and discounts is also great. What's more, some ads are funny.

Cons of Internet Radio for Listeners

Concerns over data consumption


Expensive data could be the biggest hindrance as to why you don’t listen to internet radio or podcasts as frequently as you would like.

What’s the way out? 

Find a carrier offering unlimited mobile data, for instance, the AT$T (Unlimited Choice Plan).

If you’re listening to a radio stream, check if they have streams at lower bitrates. For instance, a 128 Kbps stream consumes more data than a 64 Kbps stream.

You may not have to worry about this problem in the foreseeable future. The cost of mobile data has progressively decreased. Speeds are also getting faster thanks to the introduction of 5G that will become available to many consumers as from 2019.

Did you know that India has the cheapest mobile data in the world ($0.26 for 1 GB)?

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Parting shot

We have seen that internet radio has many advantages and few disadvantages for both listeners and broadcasters.

If your dream is to start your own radio station, look no further than CloudRadio.

Why us?

First and foremost, you need a fast & buffer-free stream. Second, you need to cut on costs. Our prices are just right.

Third, you need support. We write detailed beginner guides that you can find on our blog. You also get free support.

Online broadcasting, at its best...

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Hosting

10GB storage

Shoutcast or Icecast

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7 server locations

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Pay per listener

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Broadcast from studio

  • Hugues
  • Updated September 23, 2019
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