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Back to Earth for Web Radio


Radio station groups are grabbing growing numbers of listeners online as Web giants Yahoo! and AOL flinch at the costs associated with streaming music.

That move into digital radio - particularly during work hours - was reported this week by industry tracker Arbitron.

CBS took over online radio programming for AOL in June and has seen its cumulative audience grow from an industry-leading 1.9 million combined listeners in August to 2.3 million in September, according to Arbitron ComScore.

Second-ranked Yahoo!, by contrast, saw its cumulative numbers slip slightly from 1.2 million in August to 1.1 million in September.

Sources said many online-only radio programmers are dialing back the variety of programming - and even imposing caps on how long people can spend listening online - in the wake of a ruling earlier this year that hiked royalty rates for streaming content.

But terrestrial stations can offset those costs by selling integrated online and off-line advertising packages to sponsors, radio sources said. In turn, their overall Web traffic is growing.

Clear Channel Online's visitor traffic jumped 12 percent in October with more than 14 million unique visitors. Its network of sites now ranks third among companies that offer radio programming on the Web, just behind AOL and Yahoo!

In an effort to expand its audience beyond traditional radio listeners, Clear Channel is taking a page from the portals' books by driving traffic with special premieres from the likes of Beyoncé and Guns 'n Roses.

It also offers special online-only channels like eRockster and an application for the iPhone called iheartradio, which has been downloaded more than 300,000 times.

NPR's online visitors in October jumped 59 percent to about 3 million, while Citadel gained 66 percent to more than 2.4 million visitors and Entercom Communications rose 26 percent to slightly more than 1 million.

Over the same period, traffic to Yahoo! Music is down 16 percent to 18.8 million.





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