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Tuning in to Internet Radio Opportunities

It's easier than ever to host your own Internet radio show. With some time and effort, and very little money, you can host a show that's broadcast around the world.

You can inform people about a particular subject. You can play music, discuss current events or focus on whatever topic you find interesting. You can seek to educate, change minds or simply entertain.

Finding an audience takes time and it probably won't be easy to make money. Most online radio hosts do it as a hobby and make little or no money from their hosting duties. But this field is developing fast. We might soon see a growing number of Internet radio hosts earning solid incomes online.

Easier to Start Your Own Show

Joe Crawford worked in regular radio for three years before starting his own Internet radio show, The Joe Show, three years ago. On his show he has interviewed many guests. They've included authors and politicians, as well as celebrities such as Tim Conway and Howie Mandel.

Crawford's monthly radio show is a hobby. But he hopes it leads to other opportunities in the entertainment world. "Eventually I want to become a talk show host on TV," he says.

"I just love hosting my own show," says Crawford. He's also a professional entertainer and special event host. "I'm a person who likes to give out information and talk with people, whether I'm in a big group of people and talking with them or if it's just through a microphone (online)... It's in my blood and nature to love entertaining."

Crawford's show is located on BlogTalkRadio, which lets anyone create a show for free. You only pay fees if you want additional, premium features. Thanks to BlogTalkRadio and similar sites, your only investment in creating your own show is time (assuming you already have a computer with a built-in or plug-in microphone).

"If you're like me... you're the host, you're the producer, you're the salesman," explains Crawford. "You're pretty much running the whole radio station yourself, which would usually take about eight people -- you're doing eight jobs with one person."

It helps to have education or experience in broadcasting. But it's not essential. After all, you're working for yourself! That's a big advantage over trying to break into regular radio.

"It's easier to get your own show on the Internet... as opposed to if you're going into a radio station and saying, 'Hey, I'm looking for a job,'" says Crawford. "Because, of course, in the radio stations they're looking for education, they're looking for work experience."

Creating a Show to Complement Your Profession

Many Internet radio hosts use their shows as an add-on to their regular profession. An example is Patricia Raskin, who has a background in education and psychology. She has a master's degree in counseling and spent the first 13 years of her career in the public school system.

Raskin helps people improve their lives with two Internet radio shows and one show on a radio station. On her shows she interviews self-improvement, spiritual and health experts. Raskin has more than 25 years of experience in radio and also coaches Internet radio hosts.

"I was an entertainer as a kid," says Raskin. "I was a singer, so I had performing skills."

Raskin is a pioneer when it comes to Internet radio. She's been broadcasting online for more than 10 years.

"For me, this has really been a labor of love and a mission in terms of making the world a better place through the kinds of [shows] I do," says Raskin.

Raskin says that sound quality was a big challenge in the early years of Internet radio. Listeners would often complain about it. But Internet radio has greatly improved. "Now the sound is outstanding," she says.

Recently, Raskin was in Italy and was able to host her show using her laptop and Skype (for long distance calling). The portability and reach of Internet radio makes it an extremely effective way to be heard.

"I think the Internet is very powerful because it's very accessible and it can be heard by everybody, so I think in that sense it gives a lot of people an opportunity to make a difference, while it's much harder to get that opportunity on terrestrial media (regular radio)," explains Raskin.

"I've been on it a long time and I'm very seasoned in what I do, but for people who just want to spread their wings and try something they haven't tried before, there is a lot of opportunity to do that on the Internet."

Since the barriers to entry are low, just starting an Internet radio show isn't a problem. But if you hope to ever make money at it, you need to build an audience.

"I think the challenge is building audience numbers on the Internet, but more and more people are listening," says Raskin.

"I think the other challenge, of course, is getting people to pay for it and getting the sponsors. It's easier on terrestrial (regular) radio where there are often bigger numbers, but numbers are growing on the Internet -- they really are."

More Americans Tuning In

One of the main reasons people listen to online radio, according to the study, is the variety of programming. The other main reason is that listeners have control over what music they listen to.

Ilene Dillon is a psychotherapist who began her Internet radio show, Full Power Living, in 2004. Since then, she has started hosting two additional shows on the Women's Information Network.

"I got an offer from an Internet radio site and I followed my intuition and decided I would give it a try," says Dillon. "I knew absolutely nothing about it and I had a very steep learning curve."

Fortunately, Dillon's son was computer savvy and helped her set up everything. But there was still much work to do.

"I thought, 'Oh, you can just have a radio program,' but you have to get guests, you have to come up with the concepts, you have to have scripts, you have to have public relations and advertising," says Dillon.

"I had to learn about [e-mail] lists and how to get the word out to people and how to archive the programs, how to set up my website so that people could listen at other times besides just the broadcast time," Dillon adds.

"And I also had to overcome my own fears of reaching out to people and asking them to be on my program and... putting myself out in the world."

Getting the Word Out

Start by building on the networks that you already have. Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace can be a great help.

"In the beginning, I think what most people do is they let everybody they know know what they're doing," says Dillon.

"And you also build your listenership by asking every guest who's on your show to alert their (contact) list to the fact that they're on your show. There's a tipping point where you start to have lots of people listening to your show."

Dillon now has listeners all over the world. For example, she's heard from listeners in Russia, New Zealand, Australia and South America.

Dillon says hosting a show is a ton of work. But it's also very rewarding.

"What's really exciting for me is I have all these cutting-edge, famous, interesting people -- people who are really thinking about life and who are really charting new courses for us to take -- and I get to read their book and then I get to make my own questions," says Dillon. "And I get to talk with the author about the ideas that they have in their book, so I'm getting this incredible education."

Dillon's online radio shows have led to paid opportunities for her. For example, she has gotten coaching clients and teaching opportunities. But she doesn't make money directly from her shows (she has chosen not to have advertisers on her shows).

"I think... that a young person could make money and could be very successful with a radio program, but I think they would have to be like any successful businessperson," says Dillon.

"They'd have to really read their market carefully, really generate a lot of enthusiasm, really get the word out, which can be done. And if you hit the right [buttons] with people, I think you could be successful."

Dillon adds a cautionary note: "I think it's like anything -- there are going to be a lot of people who aren't successful for every one that is."


How to Set Up Online Radio and Broadcasting Over the Internet
Helpful step-by-step instructions

Interview Tips
Some great radio interviewing tips from National Public Radio

No Recession for Internet Radio
An article about how Internet radio is going strong

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