detektor.fm – Recording studio and editorial office | Photo (detail): © detektor.fm
Online radio stations are diverse, free of charge and more often than not tailor-made to meet the needs of the listeners. Now they have started to become more and more professional.
Be it a one-man project, a niche channel or a conventional radio station - the sky is the limit when it comes to choosing a radio station on the Internet, for every taste in music there is the right channel. Alongside the sub-brands and live streams broadcast by FM radio stations, which also transmit an analogue signal, there are now many online-only web radio stations that are enjoying increasing popularity. They have names like Radio Superoldie, Technnobase.FM or Radio schwarze Welle and more and more people are now listening to them on their smart phones and tablets. Their music shows do not normally focus on mainstream music and songs, their creators are more interested in providing an individual program with real character. The oral contributions are equally as diverse as the terrestrial stations, ranging from reports, interviews with top-ranking politicians to somewhat less amusing comedy sketches. The differences in quality are great. Alongside the well organised stations, which are becoming more and more professional all the time, the Internet has also become a playground for amateurs who run their own, private stations – most of them focus on local topics, have limited broadcast time and amateur presenters on the microphone. What counts is having your own Internet fan base.
No news, no weather and no traffic reports
Every day about 6,000 to 8,000 users listen to detektor.fm. Of course the station cannot keep up with the sub-brands of the big VHF stations that have about 40,000 accessing them every day. Nevertheless it is getting bigger all the time, since the beginning of 2013 the number of listeners has doubled. Its creators are pleased of course with this rapid growth, above all founding father and managing director, Christian Bollert. “We are convinced that the radio of the future will emanate more and more from the Internet,” says the 31-year-old journalist. “We put together high-calibre, sophisticated programs that are nevertheless entertaining and in which international topics also come to the fore.” Detektor.fm started in 2008 as a fun project and went on air one year later. Today the Internet radio station has two studios in the west of Leipzig, its core team consists of four colleagues and a network of free-lance journalists. There is no news, weather and traffic report every hour. “The others can do that sort of thing much better and faster than we can. The people who tune into us do not want to hear breaking news, they want more background information and live interviews.” They cover a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from things like the German Nursing Care Act to the future of the Tempelhofer Feld, the old airport in Berlin.
The first pioneers of online radio
The first radio program on the Internet, i.e. the birth of web radio, was actually devoted to quite different topics. In March 1993 the New York Times published an article about Internet Talk Radio
, an American talk show on which a different computer expert was interviewed every week. Shortly afterwards various bands started to air their concerts online, and one year later radio stations were already streaming their programs. In Germany in 1995 Info-Radio Berlin-Brandenburg in collaboration with the Technical University of Berlin introduced their streaming service Info-Radio on Demand
. It was not however until 1998 that the wider media audience in Germany took notice of the new developments on the Internet. It was then that many radio stations started to transmit from the Internet. At the same time the first web radio stations started to spring up all over the place, their numbers growing to almost unmanageable levels.
More than 2,800 online radio stations in Germany
According to the Webradiomonitor at the Bayerische Landeszentrale für neue Medien (the Bavarian State Bureau for New Media) there are over 2,800 online radio stations plying their products in Germany alone. Although the web radio market is becoming more and more professional, a great deal of fluctuation has also been registered. Last year, for example, there were in fact 550 newcomers to the scene, but at the same time more than 700 stations ceased operating. The problem – only two out of every five stations finances itself via advertising, which is in fact an increase compared to previous years, but unfortunately a very small increase. Other sources of income like fee-based services or donations are, according to Webradiomonitor, rare. The bottom line – many online radio stations are dependent on volunteers, projects of the heart bordering on (self-) exploitation.
Your radio station of choice – you only listen to what you like
Most of the time the actual radio station the listener chooses in the end is not a coincidence. “We are a radio station of choice,” says Christian Bollert from detektor.fm, “In your car you tune into the radio station that gets on your nerves the least, but on the Internet you only listen to what you like.” To make an impact, the listeners have to be constantly convinced, many radio stations do not have the money for advertising, the budget is small, the stations have to rely on being recommended to others. The creators of detektor.fm are also advocates of word-of-mouth recommendation, furthermore they put emphasis on their Internet presence and good journalism, as they say themselves, “We want to recommit to the strengths and traditions of classic radio, uncovering stories, providing new impulses, publicising issues.” There are no typical commercial breaks at detektor.fm, their income is generated by sponsored contributions, audio productions for third parties, seminars and lectures, a small amount from merchandising and donations. The presenters and the production directors are paid a fee, the free-lancers work for nothing. The members of the core team are the only ones who receive a salary, “We can live off it,” says Christian Bollert, and the way he says it makes it quite clear that money is of secondary importance to him, “It is our baby, we’ve put our heart and soul into it.”