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2013 Streaming Audio Update
About ad insertion
Your station isn't obligated to use an outside streaming provider -- you can roll your own streaming and ad-insertion solutions. A good example of the home-grown approach is that used by Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. I previously discussed this in detail in the September 2010 issue of Radio magazine. We still use this methodology in New York, and the systems described generate the streams for iHeart Radio.
Stations that use Triton Digital Media to stream now have a new option for ad-insertion called a2x. Once a content provider's stream passes through Triton's platform, the a2x capabilities become available. Triton passes all known information about each listener to participating adservers; this also includes information from a company called eXelate, who collect information that can be used to target audience segments. The adservers receive a request for an ad and may elect to return an ad or pass on the opportunity if the listener information doesn't match the targeting desired. Triton is also able to confirm to the adserver that the impression took place for a specific user.
With all the various streams generated inside of a radio station complex today, it could be difficult for the typical radio engineer to spend a lot of time listening to the online presentation. There are many things to do and many other aspects of the radio station (or stations) that need attention, and usually the ones that generate the most revenue get the most of that. Similarly, that can also hold true with respect to the equipment actually used to generate the stream. It was very typical at the beginning to use whatever audio processor happened to be sitting on the shelf to feed the input to a streaming encoder; likewise, the computer used to generate the stream could have easily have been a spare. To get the best sounding streams, and to mitigate the clunkiness (as some in our business call it) it pays to get the right gear for the job. Perhaps it's time at your station to build streamer 2.0. Let's take a look at some of the choices that are out there.
Build your own stream
If you plan on generating your own stream and thereafter forwarding it out to a Content Delivery Network (such as Akamai, Limelight or CDNetworks to name a few) then are a couple of ways to go about it. First, let's look at single-box solutions.
Telos makes a single rack-unit device known as ProStream. This device comes with line-level XLR inputs (as well as XLR outputs for listening to the fully-processed unencoded, or encoded, audio) as well as a Livewire input. Its onboard audio processing is from Omnia. ProStream is Linux-based, and encodes streams at bitrates between 16 and 320kb/s for Wowza, ICEcast, Adobe Flash, Shoutcast and Shoutcast v2 servers. Codecs available include MP3, AAC-LC, HE-AAC, and HE-AAC v2. The device is controlled from the front panel, or via its embedded Web interface. It has two Ethernet interfaces -- one to use for the LAN (which would include Livewire and metadata) and the other for WAN and encoder send outputs.
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