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Reviews of Web Radio. Radio Production for Internet Streaming

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On Amazon.com this book received a 5 star rating from one customer review (Jan 11, 2002) and the following recommendation:

"It's a really good book - excellent if you've ever thought about setting up your own web radio station. (But let's face it - most of us won't!)
What's a really good idea is the accompanying website which will provide the latest info on trends, tool, etc. A simple idea which should avoid the usual problem with those types of book - that they get out of date almost immediately.
Hope the updates keep coming ...

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The May 13, 2002 edition of The RADIO Magazine carries the following review by Richard Rudin, senior lecturer in journalism and radio at Liverpool John Moores University, UK.

READING THE RADIO

Richard Rudin reviews WEB RADIO: Radio Production for Internet Streaming by Chris Priestman. Published by Focal Press. ISBN: 0-240-51635-4

When you consider that there are tens of thousands of channels of web radio, involving - at various levels - thousands of people, a book dedicated to this major and form of radio has been a long time coming.
True, there have been publications which list the services available and provide some basic information on the technologies, and others consisting of scholarly research on new digital platforms, but, to my knowledge, this is the first book which considers the whole phenomenon, from the basics through to the more intellectual debates.
Chris Priestman is senior lecturer in Radio and Broadcast Journalism at Staffordshire University, as well as being a freelance radio producer, so has been able to observe the growth of web radio from several different perspectives.
When I began reviewing radio stations available on the Internet for the Soundsites column in this magazine some six years ago, listening to radio on the web was an unusual, rather mysterious, frequently frustrating and, let's face it, rather anorakish occupation. The main excitement then was the ability to listen to stations from far off English-speaking nations, mainly the United States, Canada and Australia, that hitherto could only be heard if visiting those areas or if taped by fellow anoraks. To be able to listen to some of the legendary stations in 'real time' was a heady, exotic experience and instantly produced a new, world-wide community of listeners. Since those far off days (and six years IS a long time in the life of the Internet) listening to radio on the Web has become a commonplace, often routine, experience, with the latest figures indicating that around a quarter of those with personal computers and a modem regularly listen to 'streaming' radio services. Internet-only stations quickly became established; initially these tended to be of continuous streams of music but increasingly aspiring and/or frustrated broadcasters, particularly in the community mould, used the technology to spread their own and distinct 'take' on life, society and culture.
Web Radio serves two main purposes: it's a 'how to' book for aspiring web broadcasters and a more intellectual assessment about the impact of the new medium.
The former is well served: for anyone thinking of starting a web service - or has started one but has had problems, whether of a technological, creative or marketing nature, this book probably has the answers. It is packed with information and clear advice so that everyone from the novice to the veteran can find something of use and even of inspiration. The section on copyright - a thorny issue which has resulted in many of the US music stations closing their Internet service - is especially useful. This is all aided by examples and case studies of successful web broadcasters. The sections on building an audience, music scheduling and promoting the service are particularly strong.
Sometimes there might be a little TOO MUCH information for someone, say, interested in setting up a student or community radio service, but each chapter concludes with a summary and it is generally written in an accessible, user-friendly style, backed with plenty of illustrations and 'screen grabs'.
Above the more prosaic aspects of the medium, Chris Priestman has some very interesting and perceptive comments about the significance of web radio in the wider cultural, political and broadcasting contexts. There is a fascinating section about what web radio ISN'T - including the similarities and distinctions between Internet and Digital Audio Broadcasting.
Sometimes I felt frustrated that just as these arguments were developing they were cut short for more of the 'practical' stuff. I suspect that Priestman has been compelled to do some drastic pruning of the more reflective sections in order to keep the book to a manageable size (something I can empathise with!). I hope that some of this is work in progress and that a further, more academic book, will emerge in the next couple of years.
But for anyone thinking about setting up such a service, or already involved in one but believes it might not be reaching its potential, this is a 'must read'."

"Richard Rudin is senior lecturer in journalism and radio at Liverpool John Moores University. He is the co-author - with Trevor Ibbotson - of An Introduction to Journalism, which has just been published by Focal Press. Further details at: www.richardrudin.com"

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Review in The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcasting and Audio Media v1 n1, 2003 Intellect ISSN 1476-4504

Chris Priestman, Web Radio: Radio Production for Internet Streaming, Oxford: Focal Press, 2002, 296pp., 296pp., ISBN: 0-240-51635-4

In the preface to Chris Priestman's new book, Web Radio, the author poses a number of questions, many of which have been bothering academics and industry insiders a great deal over the last couple of years or so. These questions centre on the social, cultural, economic and political implications of the adoption of new delivery technologies, in the hitherto somewhat slow-moving and established world of radio broadcasting. Despite its title, this book does not make the mistake of ignoring other technological developments in radio broadcasting; even the preface touches on the various more traditional models for digital broadcasting of radio (DAB, DRM, satellite). That said, however, there is little doubt that the author's strengths and expertise are directly associated with the core topic of web-based 'radio' broad-casting, and most of the preface focuses, in some useful detail, on the historical development of webcasting techniques in their short history, going back to the mid-1990s. A summary of advantages and disadvantages and the key observation that potential practitioners 'need to understand what makes web radio different to the analogue radio we are all used to' leads into a summary of the book's layout and approach.
Like all good textbooks, Web Radio has clearly been carefully thought through in terms of its structures and objectives, there is a clarity of perspective which makes it particularly attractive. There is no overbearing obsession with technical minutiae, and consideration is given to as many of the possible options that such a fledgling technology seems to offer as is practically possible within the space available. The contents offer enough detail to help prospective web broadcasters, whilst at the same time posing an adequate number of broad questions and observations to form useful starting points for seminar discussions. On a practical note, all chapters come with their own list of suggestions for further reading. The first two chapters of the book deal in detail with definitions of what web radio is, and isn't. A comparison is made between the earliest days of analogue radio some 100 years or so ago, and the more recent beginnings of Internet-based webcasting. This comparison argues that whilst technical and socio-economic factors pushed analogue radio into becoming very much a 'top-down', 'vertical' industry, web radio could easily become a home for interactive 'horizontal' broadcasting, freed from the constraints of corporate operation by the flexibility of the technology and by increasingly fragmented social conditions. The argument is well laid out, albeit lacking somewhat in collaborative background material, but it does offer a good starting point for discussions on the nature of radio and its integration within the broader context of societal development An overview of the various sectors of the traditional radio industry is also given early on in the book, and this is followed by sum-maries of the various other uses of audio content on the Internet other than for 'broadcasting' purposes. The second chapter also includes more technical details of other digital broadcast radio platforms (DAB, DRM). This area of background information is one of the weakest in the entire publication; with notable omissions and factual inaccuracies. For example; there is no real exploration of the considerable data-handling capacity of DAB or its possible integration with mobile-phone or PDA technology for 'back-channel' web-based information delivery The explanation of IBOC and DRM is also con-fusing as the author makes a distinction that does not exist over the former's ability to broadcast alongside analogue AM or FM. In fact DRM manages this feat as it stands on AM; and there is no funda-mental reason (apart from politics) why it couldn't do so on FM too! Such criticisms are; however; not too serious as they concern issues peripheral to the core of the book; but hopefully a future edition will improve on this section. The key to these opening chapters is the challenge of radio now being denned not by delivery method; but instead by the nature of its content regardless of the technologies involved. Such structural changes to the radio industry are of course driven to a great extent by the more general issues of digital convergence (the increasingly flexible use; reuse and blending of various digitized content across multiple delivery platforms and in multiple formats); and; at the same time; the increasingly divergent uses of electronic media; tar-geting ever more disparate audiences- These general topics are given due prominence and at a more practical level; the issue of the development of the relationship between broadcasters and the music industry is also examined.
The central chapters (5 to 8) of the book deal with the practical 'nuts and bolts' of webcasting in more detail. After beginning with software for receiving streamed content (that which the listener needs), software to produce and deliver such content is also explained. The technical advantages and limitations of the Internet are delved into in some detail; and; as well as looking at established technologies; due space is given to emerging ideas; such as multi-cast streaming (the ability to send a single data stream to multiple recipients). Here is a key issue that could perhaps do with wider examination - the fundamental difference between 'free-at-the-point-of-delivery' one-to-many radio broadcasting; and 'paid-for-delivery' one-to-one connections over the Internet. Whilst the technical issues are well covered and operational costs are examined, the wider fundamental economic implications of this difference are not really properly addressed. The author may of course have considered the issue to be off topic, but, personally. I would disagree given that the difference between broadcast and telecoms funding models will be crucial to the future development of web-based radio services. However, on practical issues the book excels and the implications of webcasting for existing traditional broad-casters and for emerging web-only operations are examined in some detail. A useful selection of case studies is also included as is a complete chapter on the subject of copyright.
The concluding chapters of the book are a blend of practical and theoretical issues, from free speech to scheduling, not forgetting options for redefining radio content. Once again there is enough detail to satisfy the potential practitioner and enough theory for teaching purposes. Topped off with a final chapter entitled 'So How Is Web Radio Different? A Check List', as well as an excellent glossary, web-site list and bibliography, Chris Priestman's book is well researched, well laid out and well written. Almost all the criticisms I have are minor and do not detract from the overall worth of the publication to any great degree. I deliberately did not look at the book's website until after completing this review, but it offers the potential to develop into a useful resource in its own right. For those interested, the address is www.web-radio-book.com.

Reviewed by Lawrie Hallett, freelance writer and consultant on radio

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© Chris Priestman, December 2001
Email: c.j.priestman@web-radio-book.com
Book extracts are reproduced by permission of the copyright holder, Focal Press, which is an imprint of 
Taylor & Francis Group LLC.