The Evolution of Internet Radio, Its Advantages and Mechanisms
Until the current century, your PC was the only means to obtain Internet radio broadcasts. With today’s wireless connectivity, web broadcasts can now be channeled through car radios, cell phones and other mobile devices.
Advantages Offered by Internet Radio against Traditional Radio
Two factors restrict the capabilities of traditional radio broadcasts: transmitter power (about 100 miles) and the broadcast spectrum at hand (at most, around 24 local channels).
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Of course, we all know that Internet radio comes with no geographic limitations, meaning its potential is as endless as cyberspace itself. Compared to traditional broadcasting, Internet broadcasting is also not restricted to audio. It can be enriched by photos or images, links and text, and even interactive features, such as chat rooms, forums and the like. This advancement enables people to do more than listen to music or radio programs, allowing the relationship between advertisers and consumers to grow deeper as they become more interactive and intimate. This widened media capability can as well be useful in a variety of other ways. With Internet radio, for instance, trainings or seminars can be conducted, and links to documents and payment options may be provided.
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Of course, cost is still one of the clearest advantages of Internet radio compared to traditional radio. Getting “on the air” online is far cheaper for Internet broadcasters, who can also target specific communities of listeners who are on certain music or interests.
So how does Internet broadcasting happen? First, the audio goes into the Internet broadcaster’s encoding computer via a sound card. Then the audio from the sound card is transformed into streaming format by the encoder system. Such audio is sampled by the encoder and before being compressed for transmission to a high-bandwidth server. Over the Internet, the audio data stream is forwarded to the listener’s computer’s plug-in or player software, and that is where it is transformed into humanly appreciable sound.
The two ways through which audio can be delivered over the Internet are by downloading and by media streaming. In downloading, the audio file is stored on the user’s device. In audio streaming, the file is simply played, but it is not stored. It is a continuous broadcast that requires three software packages – the encoder, the server and the player. The encoder transforms audio content into streaming format, the server makes it available online and the player gets the content.
In a live broadcast, the encoder and streamer work in tandem in real-time. An audio feed goes to the sound card of the encoding computer at the broadcast location, and the stream is fed into the streaming server. With a large amount of computing resources being required by the process, it’s a must that the streaming server be a dedicated server.