SEATTLE RADIO STATIONS are doing very well in the brave new world of broadcasting over the Internet. According to figures released this week by Arbitron, the radio industry's market research source, Seattle placed two stations in the top 11 of Internet broadcasters worldwide: Classical KING-FM ranked number 4, and jazz station KPLU-FM came in at number 11.
How have our classical and jazz station gained such a prominent position worldwide? "We're big in the Beijing embassy," quips KING's general manager Peter Newman. He goes on to credit his station's "unbelievably fabulous programming."
KPLU's general manager Martin Neeb also has a pithy explanation: "We're the best jazz programmers in the world." He believes his station's acoustic jazz and noncommercial National Public Radio format have helped create a strong online presence.
Other more mundane reasons for the Seattle stations' success in Internet radio include neighborly collaborative relationships with Real Networks and Microsoft, the primary streaming software suppliers worldwide; the local stations' technological advantages in overcoming glitches that plague Web audio; and key positioning on search engines and links. Type in "classical music Internet radio" ongoogle.com, for instance, and KING-FM is listed second.
Arbitron's Internet ratings measure time spent listening to the stations online, and each station racks up over 200,000 hours a month. About 50 percent of those listeners hail from Seattle. The other half is split nationally and internationally, and includes listeners in Japan, Australia, and Europe. KING's research guesstimates their Internet audience adds up to 14,000 to 22,000 unique listeners a day.
KING was one of the first 10 stations to jump into the Web in December 1995; Newman says, "It seemed that potentially—and history has born me out—technology could transform the way people could listen to radio, and we didn't want to be left in the dust."