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Streaming Radio: What's New With 9 Top Services?

Pandora Is Bigger Than Seacrest

It's probably not news to you that traditional FM radio is dying out at an increasing rate. This trend has been taking place for the last two decades thanks to a string of events that have set us up for a brave new world of streaming Internet radio.

The demise of radio can be traced back to the 1990s. Thank your government for that. Before 1992, a company could not own more than two stations per market, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 completely took the shackles off ownership. Clear Channel went on a buying spree, purchasing more than 70 other media companies, plus individual stations. It now owns 850 radio stations in the U.S.

This caused a switch from locally-driven programming to corporate-directed programming. In the old days, the program manager of the station decided what was played. A smart PM knew the area and played what the area liked or was open to hearing. Now, that's no longer allowed. Playlists come from corporate HQ and there is no deviation from it.

The result is listeners are switching off in a big way. This April, the radio business got its first wakeup call: Pandora was now the largest radio station in Los Angeles. L.A., the city of so many aspiring artists, the city with more recording studios and music stores than supermarkets, the city with radio stations that gave us super DJs like Ryan Seacrest and Casey Kasem.

But a survey by Media Audit estimated that 1.9 million people in Los Angeles listened to Pandora between September and October of 2011 while Seacrest's station, KIIS-FM, had 1.4 million listeners during the same time period.

So what are the radio stations out there and which is best for you? We'll run down what's happening in this thriving space.