Tuning in and out

The ability to stay financially afloat has proved quite a challenge in recent months for Internet companies, particularly for streaming radio stations, with youth station Bigfatradio.com becoming the latest casualty.

The station attempted to capture the youth market through ex-JJJ DJs such as Michael Tunn and Helen Razer, but has closed down due to a lack of funding. This follows the demise of K*Grind's youth portal and the scaling back of SpikeRadio, an Internet venture established by Australian-based Spike Networks, after considerable cash shortages.

At the same time, talkback has hit the Internet with the launch of Talk Australia, hosted by television and radio celebrities such as Larry Emdur, Lochie Daddo and Ian Leslie.

The ups and downs of streaming content on the Internet has led many to believe the business case for streaming online entertainment is simply not strong enough to keep these types of ventures afloat. But this hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of Paul Hodges, managing director of Talk Australia. Hodges believes people can't get enough news and information, and after two years of research into the venture, concludes that his station has found a hole in the Internet market.

Hodges claims Talk Australia will provide Internet users with the kind of variety and personality that has been lacking in many ventures, and will cater for a broad audience. The station will gain revenue through advertising, in much the same fashion as a free-to-air radio broadcaster. "It's a potpourri format of entertainment and information, and will appeal to a broader rather than a niche audience," he said.

Hamish Cameron, managing director of streaming radio station TheBasement.com.au, believes the opposite - that the continuing success of such ventures relies on a targeted niche audience, and a reliance on additional revenue streams for advertising.

Cameron set out to create a broadband station, and while he recognises broadband take-up is very minimal at the moment, he is relying on early adopters until it is more widespread. He believes broadband users are more likely to be technically competent, Internet aware, open to alternatives to mainstream radio and not afraid to download a player or buy through e-commerce.

He sees many Internet radio ventures as online jukeboxes, without personality or variety. As a unique differentiator, his venture is using the eclectic Basement live music venue, in Sydney's Circular Quay, as a grounding point to give the venture some personality. As well as offering something mainstream radio couldn't, Cameron also found a new source of revenue. As well as the various forms of advertising on the site, TheBasement.com.au will begin recording live CDs and DVDs through the 24-track recording studio and remote control video cameras installed in the live venue. So the dot-com can rely on both advertising and product sales to cover its costs.

"Often these Internet ventures are targeted at teen markets, which can be exceptionally fickle," he concluded. "Our business plan was to pick a market under-served by traditional radio and make sure we have multiple revenue streams."

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