Media Morph: Online radio

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What it is: Radio! But through your computer! Streams of terrestrial stations as well as online-only stations created by everyone from the major Internet portals to amateur college kids can now be tapped from your desktop. Because of the Internet's essentially boundless inventory, online radio boasts a much wider format variety than terrestrial radio. Stations on Yahoo's LaunchCast, for example, include power ballads, show tunes, 1990s contemporary Christian and ska.

Consumer Adoption: Some estimates peg the total online radio audience at about 20 million, but the highest concentration of listening comes from Arbitron/ComScore-measured Yahoo LaunchCast, AOL Radio, Live 365, MSN Radio, and Clear Channel's 400-station streaming network. Ronning Lipset Radio network sells the ad inventory for all of the Arbitron/ComScore rated stations, which in an average week in July notched 6.8 million unique online-radio listeners. That number would place it second on the list of Radar-measured radio networks.

Advertising model: Most online radio stations run three to five commercial units an hour and most of the ads appear in island pods. Some marketers, such as Visa and Lending Tree, have sponsored entire programming blocks or special events. There's also usually a static visual ad-but don't count on listeners seeing it; most minimize the player on their desktop making the application very much like traditional radio. CPMs rival those of network radio, in the $3 to $5 range.

Why you should care: Remember that line about being everywhere consumers are? Well, 65% of online-radio listening occurs at work. Additionally, the medium attracts an affluent, urban audience, according to Scarborough, Simmons and MRI research, and while the streams sound like radio, they boast the measurement and hyper-targeting capabilities of the Internet.

Media Morph is a new weekly feature looking at how traditional media companies are making use of new technology from cell phones to VOD, podcasting and more to distribute content--and how it’s working.

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