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Web Radio: An Almost Unlimited Supply of Free Audio

So, what exactly is Web radio? It's simply a transmission technology that uses the Internet to broadcast audio (streaming) — in fact it's very much like listening to a terrestrial radio station. This streaming audio can be transported using several audio formats which include: MP3, WMA, OGG, AACPlus, and RA; the most common of these is the MP3 format which is universally compatible with a wide range of software and hardware devices. Rather than downloading radio shows for example as MP3 files (podcasting), Web radio (also referred to as Internet radio, streaming radio, or simply e-radio) continuously streams audio to your computer. Since it was first used in the 90s, this Internet audio technology has evolved to become one of the most popular ways that people listen to music. Lets now take a look at some of the ways that you can tap into this almost limitless supply of audio.

Traditional Internet Radio Stations

Advantages:

1.Access to terrestrial radio stations that relay live broadcasts using Web radio (useful for listening to shows not available in your country).

2.Thousands of radio stations to choose from covering various topics and music genres.

Disadvantages:

1.Listeners have no control on what is broadcast – this is a passive experience identical to terrestrial radio.

2.Service doesn't provide additional interactive services such as social networking.

This is the traditional way of listening to an Internet radio station. There isn't any user interaction with this type of service; you have to listen to whatever is on at the time whether you like or loath it!

There are a number of ways you can connect with this type of radio station. The first is to use a software media player such as iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, etc., which all give you access to thousands of stations for free. Another way is to simply use your Internet browser and use one of the many web-based radio stations out there — one of the best places to get started is a Web radio directory like Live365.com which has thousands of stations listed from all over the world. And finally, there are dedicated software programs that can make listening to Web radio easy; A couple of free examples are Screamer Radio and Musicy.

Streaming Media Services

Advantages:

1.You can create your own custom playlist of songs, genres, or artists for the best user-experience.

2.Other features are normally offered not featured in traditional radio like: social networking, videos, images, blogging, forums, etc.

Disadvantages:

1.Typically no access to talk shows, news, sports programs, and other special programming that traditional Web radio offers.

2.Access to some streaming media services can be country specific (Pandora for example is U.S. only).

When you think of listening to Web radio, you probably think of traditional Internet radio stations mentioned above — right?  But what about the streaming music sites that deliver the content you want on-demand? Websites such as Last.fm,Lala.com, MySpace Music Pandora, etc., are all examples of interactive services that let you make your own playlists.

Modern streaming media services such as these give you more control on how you connect with music in particular — you can listen to the music you want, when you want it. Some streaming media services go even further by offering you cloud storage;  this is online storage that you can use to store your own music and stream it anywhere in the world — Lala.com and Maestro.fm are examples of this. Another advantage of the modern services is that they very often come with additional interactive features such as social networking which enables you to chat to other music fans; other services generally offered include: blogging, forums, photo sharing, and even uploading your own music that other users can stream; Jamendo is one good example.

It’s Your Decision!

Whether you like the idea of listening to traditional radio while you work, or prefer the hands-on approach that the new interactive streaming media services provide, you'll find Web radio a useful resource for free audio. There's certainly enough content to keep you entertained this Christmas…and probably for many more to come. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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