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An update on streaming
Variety in bit-rates
The latest trend in streaming audio is to encode your audio at various bit-rates and allow the listener to choose either a low or high quality stream. This works well for users with smartphones who may stream your station on both a cellular network and Wi-fi. It does require a little extra bandwidth on the studio side, since you have to encode and send two streams out (low and high quality) but it does result in a better listener experience.
In addition to quality choices, think about how your listeners are going to connect to your stream. For the longest time, stations used streaming audio to draw traffic to their websites by requiring a login or by forcing an embedded player. Think twice before using that tactic. Many stations now realize that with all the choices out there, it is much better to offer the audio in whatever way the listener wants it, without making them jump through hoops. Simply put, there are millions of choices for radio programming on the Internet, so it makes good business sense to make your station an easy choice by offering it in as many formats, and on as many devices as possible. The reality is that the tools already exist to liberate your stream from your site if someone really wants it, so why not stay ahead of the game and give them what they want?
Streaming audio is a very important decision for your station, one that will have a big effect on your operation. It is worthwhile to spend some time researching the companies out there, and more importantly, testing the technology. More and more listeners are seeking their favorite radio stations on the Internet. Are you going to make it easy for them to listen? If you don't, there's a good chance your competition will.
Tarr is director of engineering, Entercom Milwaukee.
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