Radio streams toward your mobile phone...ads included

Let's not claim radio isn't a mobile medium -- after all, many of us listen to it primarily in our cars. But StreamAudio has announced technology that'll put favorite stations on certain mobile devices without wheels.

StreamAudio isn't a familiar name to most listeners. But if your favorite radio station has a streaming-audio feed, it's possible that it does business with the San Jose-based firm, which works with over 50 media groups and facilitates tech for more than 600 stations.

StreamAudio's systems handle functions such as streaming, podcasting, and management tasks such as tracking what's played so royalties can be properly paid to songwriters and artists.

The idea behind StreamAudio is that radio stations should concentrate their limited resources and studio space on doing radio, leaving the details of streaming to someone else. Its new "Multi-Format Streaming" option continues that effort, allowing for streams not just in the usual MP3 format but in WMA, AAC, AAC Plus and -- are you ready, open-source fans? -- OGG. That means radio streams on phone handsets including the iPhone, Treo, and BlackBerry, plus support for Windows, Mac and Linux users on more desk-bound hardware.

The difference between StreamAudio's approach and that of its competitors, according to company president Darren Harle, is that a StreamAudio client radio station is still pumping out just one "source stream" from the computer at the station. The stream is reformatted (transcoded) into multitudes at StreamAudio's data centers. Paul Distefano, a company vice president, told BetaNews that for listeners, the time delay on a freshly transcoded live stream would be minimal -- seconds, if that.

Another development may not cheer listeners, but it's a good omen for the long-term survival of terrestrial-radio streams: The Multi-Format Streaming process also allows stations to sell ads specifically into streams. All ads that listeners hear can be counted and metrics provided for advertisers, encouraging potential ad buyers to pay to support streaming radio -- and the stations that make it available.

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