What is Internet Radio?

Internet radio stations, also known as online radios or net radios, are an audio service that use the Internet to broadcast instead of traditional radio waves. This streaming form accommodates live broadcasting, as well as pre-recorded content.

How does Internet Radio work?

There are 2 types of broadcasting when it comes to Internet radio stations: live and automatic. Live broadcasting is, as the name implies, when you speak live on air or broadcast music in real time. Automatic broadcasting allows you to prepare your content in advance, and have it broadcast at the scheduled time.

Automatic broadcasting

Broadcasting automatically is one of the advantages of starting your own online radio station. For this method of broadcasting, you’ll need to use an automation software in order to schedule your content in advance. This can be a software that you download on your computer, or a cloud-based solution (like RadioKing’s Radio Manager!)

An automation software will allow you to prepare your content before-hand, and will take care of broadcasting it as scheduled, even if your computer is turned off.

In the image below, we can see a radio host (you) scheduling their content via the RadioKing Manager. The Radio Manager will send the information to the dedicated servers. Then, the radio server executes the scheduled programming (done via the Radio Manager) and makes it available to listeners via your unique listening link. Your stream can then be listened to on various devices (computer, smartphone, smart cars etc…)

Live broadcasting

You can also choose to broadcast live on your radio station at any time. This setup can be used by online radio hosts who wish to speak or mix music live. In order to do so, a live broadcasting software is required. There are numerous free options that are more or less complex, depending on what you’re looking for.

To broadcast live you will need to configure your radio stream directly into the live broadcasting software of your choice. You may then begin your live broadcast, which will be sent to our servers and made available to listen to via various devices (as for your automatic broadcast).

Note: Once your live broadcast is finished, the automatic broadcast resumes on its own.

The advantages of Internet Radio

There are multiple advantages to broadcasting radio on the Internet:

  • No geographical barriers: unlike FM radios, an online radio stream can be listened to by anyone, anywhere in the world (as long as they have an Internet connection!) This also means that you have a much larger potential audience.
  • Sound quality: when listening to traditional FM radio, you can sometimes experience interference and loss of signal (when driving through a tunnel for example). Furthermore, Internet radio audio is often less compressed compared to FM.
  • Less advertisements: on FM radios, you can quickly become frustrated with the amount of ads that are broadcast. Although many online radios may also include advertisements in their broadcasts, the amount and duration are much smaller.
  • Fewer requirements: Internet radio stations require less ressources and equipment compared to FM radio. All you need to launch an online radio is a computer, an internet connection and content! Plus, you can easily start a radio from the comfort of your own home.
  • Re-using content: by recording your radio broadcasts (live shows, interviews etc…) you can re-use them and make them available to listen as catch-up content on your website for example.

What about FM Radio?

The first use of amplitude modulation (AM Radio) was in 1906, when a version of O Holy Night on the violin was broadcast. Although this was an incredible technological breakthrough, there were many drawbacks mainly concerning the bad audio quality. 

In 1933, Edwin Armstrong developed a new way of sending audio transmissions via radio waves: frequency modulation (FM). It proved to be a much better way of transmitting audio, as it supported multiplexing signals, and provided better audio quality.

How do FM Stations work?

FM radio stations use frequencies emitted from a transmitter to cover a defined area. Put simply, radio waves carry information from a station to a receiver. However, these radio waves must be modulated in order to carry this information.

The carrier wave is forced to change due to an overlaying signal. In order to modulate their carrier waves, FM radios uphold a constant amplitude whilst the frequency varies based on the overlaid signal.

Broadcast an FM Radio Station on the Internet

Many FM stations have taken the leap and have begun transmitting their broadcast over the Internet too (simulcasting). To do so, all you need is an encoder. You can use either:

  • Virtual encoder: BUTT
  • Physical encoder: Barix instreamer

Broadcast FM radio using BUTT

BUTT (Broadcast using this tool) is a free software, compatible with all operating systems. It allows you to to encode your audio in order to then transmit it via the Internet.

Note: BUTT is also a great tool to use for your live broadcasting needs!

To broadcast an FM radio on the Internet, we invite you to download BUTT on a computer that is dedicated for this purpose only. You’ll then need to connect your mixing desk to this computer in order to begin streaming online.

Broadcast FM radio using a Barix instreamer

If you want to use a physical encoder, you’ll need to hook it up to your Internet connection via an Ethernet cable. Then, connect your encoder to your mixing desk. Finally, you’ll need to switch on your device and take note of the IP address that appears. You can then access the IP address on your Internet browser and configure your settings!

The instreamer will send the audio from your radio station to our servers, which we then take care of transmitting on the Internet.

We hope that this article has helped you understand how both Internet and FM radio stations work! If you’re interested in going a little further, don’t hesitate to take a look at our Radio Academy.