There’s a couple of interesting non-profit ventures trying to master the business of connecting audio content providers with broadcasters and/or the listening masses. Using the internet as distribution platform to circumvent traditional radio network models is not new, but making a marketplace out of it is fairly so.
Public Radio Exchange has been working at it the longest. The service came of age in 2004; users of the system pay a yearly fee to upload and market their work. Broadcasters purchase rights to air pieces via a system of points, which are redeemed for cash, paid out by PRX on a quarterly basis. The system’s gotten some limited but favorable press and seems to be enjoying fairly wide adoption among those who work in or on contract to public radio.
Newer to the scene is Boulder, Colorado-based Real Public Radio Network. RPRN employs a similar model – with a lower annual usage fee and a lower points-to-cash ratio. Some self-effacingly chintzy flash toons (“The Adventures of Trax“) hype RPRN’s flexible rights-sharing model, but since it’s brand-new there’s nothing really there to review yet.
PRX has adoption, archives, and (quite critically) foundation and institutional support. RPRN seems to have come out of nowhere, the creation of a motley cast involving a media executive, university entrepreneurship program, and some comp-sci students. I admire both of their missions but it still remains to be seen whether the economic models the two are promoting are sustainable on the content creator’s side of the equation.
Especially when there’s no lack of those who share for sharing’s sake, like Radio4all.net, Ourmedia, and the IMC Radio Network, and all things podcasting aside. You could easily fill one 24-hour channel with Radio4all.net material and still have gigabytes go unaired.