There is a contest underway in Denton. The popular local, online publication The Dentonite will present the first-ever DAM (Denton Arts and Music) awards to the winners at the Campus Theatre on February 11. One of the contest categories is Best Radio Station in which there are three competing stations: DentonRadio.com, KNTU 88.1 and Real Waves 1670 AM. The Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is honored to be nominated among Denton’s best and covets your vote for our all-local DentonRadio.com station. That said, consider the line-up. Three stations in three different modes of radio delivery: online, FM and AM.

Until recently, an online radio station would not have made the cut in Denton or anywhere else in America. When DentonRadio.com launched in 2012, it was cutting-edge and largely misunderstood. Online radio was just emerging as a viable listening option among the masses. People often asked us where on the dial to find DentonRadio.com, eyes glazing over when we replied with a URL rather than traditional FM or AM frequencies. According to Exaget.com, however, Internet radio is now the fastest-growing segment of radio-listening options.

Radio is changing.

Mikey 1On January 11, Norway became the first country in the world to begin the shutdown of FM radio and switch to all-digital. It’ll take a year for the transition to be complete across that nation, but by December 2017, traditional radio will be no more in Norway. A January 6, 2017 CNN column by Alanna Petroff said that after 10 years of government planning, “the Nordic country is switching from FM to digital radio -- called DAB -- because the digital option offers more channels, better audio quality and savings for broadcasters.”

Another column, this one on Public Radio International (PRI) on January 11, 2017, stated that Norway authorities say digital makes it easier to broadcast emergency messages in times of crisis. The same day, Henrik Pryser Libell reported in The New York Times that Norway’s Culture Ministry estimates the changeover will save about $25 million a year.

Not all Norwegians are happy, and there are skeptics worried about the cost to consumers, noted repeatedly in news about the country’s giant technological leap forward. You see, digital radio uses a digital signal rather than airwaves to transmit content requiring that listeners have a digital radio receiver. The old radios won’t work anymore. Remember a few years ago when we all had to purchase new televisions or get the required adapter box for America’s big analog-to-digital TV switch? Norway is experiencing the radio version of that experience.

Doubts aside, the rest of the world is watching, especially in Europe where PRI says Switzerland, Denmark and Britain in particular plan to shut down FM radio broadcasts in the future.

Which brings me to Australia. Digital and Internet radio have existed with equal popularity alongside FM and AM in that country for many years. Recently, though,

Exaget.com reports that the Australian Department of Communications is recommending Internet over digital radio after an efficiency review concluded that online and mobile listening alternatives offered significant savings over digital in the long run.

Don’t panic. FM in America is still king of the hill and far from going away. But online and digital radio audiences are broadening, a trend going only upward. Way off in the future, a decade at minimum says the research, America will likely follow the rest of the world’s radio lead.

Australia’s Director of Communications thinks Internet radio’s advantages will win over digital when the fate of the airwaves down under is finally decided. Internet radio just like our own DentonRadio.com, once a wild, visionary dream, is emerging now as radio’s new normal.

File Jan 20, 1 30 03 PMIn March 2016, DentonRadio.com had 479 radio sessions, similar in analytical meaning to the number of unique users on a website. In December, just nine months later, 7,835 radio sessions marked a 1,635 percent increase in DentonRadio.com listenership for the year. We attribute part of the dramatic gain to our Facebook Live broadcasts that accompany our live-on-the-air, in-studio shows. For instance, the 7,835 December radio sessions were just a sub-group of a 42,657-large audience that month who tuned in via their Facebook feeds. In less than a year, our handful of listeners has grown to nearly 190,000.

The growth is more than Facebook, though. We believe a new era of radio has dawned.

“The best is yet to come,” says DentonRadio.com manager Jake Laughlin. “We are continuing to explore new and exciting forms of Internet and digital media to spread the original and independent sounds of Denton!”