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How Does Internet Radio Work?

Updated February 21, 2017

Internet radio is a medium for audio broadcasting that is similar in concept to traditional radio. The difference is that, as opposed to a standard AM or FM radio signal, Internet radio is transmitted directly to computers or similar devices via the Internet.

No matter which category of Internet radio you are using (standard simulcasting of regular FM/AM radio, music recommendation, or an Internet exclusive radio network), they all take advantage of streaming technology. When an audio or video signal is streamed it is continually being received by a user in a signal over which they have no control. Streaming media is integral to a popular form of Internet radio where regular radio stations are simulcast over the Internet in real time as they are being broadcast over regular radio airwaves.

Streaming

Internet radio is a medium for audio broadcasting that is similar in concept to traditional radio. The difference is that, as opposed to a standard AM or FM radio signal, Internet radio is transmitted directly to computers or similar devices via the Internet.

No matter which category of Internet radio you are using (standard simulcasting of regular FM/AM radio, music recommendation, or an Internet exclusive radio network), they all take advantage of streaming technology. When an audio or video signal is streamed it is continually being received by a user in a signal over which they have no control. Streaming media is integral to a popular form of Internet radio where regular radio stations are simulcast over the Internet in real time as they are being broadcast over regular radio airwaves.

Music Recommendation

Another type of Internet radio are services built on music recommendation. Pandora Radio for example, works thanks to a simple computer algorithm that plays songs that are similar to the ones you've requested. You start out by requesting an artist, and when a song by said artist is finished Pandora plays one that their staff and users have ranked as similar (Did you play Bruce Springsteen? Well, then you might like Arcade Fire). Other Internet radio services like Last.FM operated in a similar manner to Pandora.

Internet-Exclusive Radio Networks

The last major type of Internet radio service are servers that house Internet-exclusive radio networks. As opposed to simply recommending music or simulcasting AM/FM radio, services like SHOUTcast are home to content exclusive to the Internet, created by amateurs and professionals alike. These operate essentially exactly like AM/FM radio, only they're on the Internet. These radio stations can feature talk radio, comedy, or music. The audio content is recorded on a user's computer where it is then uploaded to the SHOUTcast server and accessed by listeners using the WinAMP application. The audio can be broadcast delayed or in real time, depending on the intentions of the user.

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About the Author

Stephen Lilley is a freelance writer who hopes to one day make a career writing for film and television. His articles have appeared on a variety of websites. Lilley holds a Bachelor of Arts in film and video production from the University of Toledo in Ohio.