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Digital Audio Essentials by Bruce Fries, Marty Fries

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How Internet Radio Works

The word broadcast doesn’t accurately describe how Internet radio programs reach their listeners. Data on the Internet is usually sent directly, from point to point. Your computer serves the function of the radio receiver. A media player program, such as RealPlayer or iTunes, functions as the tuner, with a key difference: it must request that an audio stream (equivalent to the signal) from an Internet radio station’s streaming server (equivalent to the transmitter) be sent directly to it.

A separate stream is required for each listener of an Internet radio station (see Figure 6-2), in contrast to an over-the-air broadcast, where the same signal reaches all listeners (as shown in Figure 6-1). This has important implications for all Internet radio stations, small and large. To emphasize this important difference, we will use the term webcast to refer to an Internet radio broadcast and the term webcaster to mean an Internet broadcaster.

Internet radio webcasts currently require a dedicated stream for every listener, but listeners can be anywhere in the world

Figure 6-2. Internet radio webcasts currently require a dedicated stream for every listener, but listeners can be anywhere in the world

Webcasters

Webcasters range from individual hobbyists to large companies who run subscription services with hundreds of stations. Following are descriptions of several different types of webcasters.

Niche stations

Because webcasting is largely unregulated, thousands of webcasters have created original ...

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