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Off the Dial

By Mayana Slobodian

Friday May 25, 2007

A while back there was all this talk about Internet radio, like it was going to be the next big thing. Free whatever wherever, or whatever. We never really got it. Then we noticed the “Radio” tab in iTunes. Bypass the Eclectic and Alternative sections (“Netwavz Radio: You Want Rock? We Got Your Rock!” “9 FM: We Play Anything!”) and get to the one entitled Public. Along with CBC Radio 3 and a bunch of NPR stations, there are streams for college and independent stations across the States. WNYU from New York, WIDB from Carbondale, IL, and so on. No ads! Music liberty!

Don’t get all techno-optimistic on us just yet. Reservations include concerns about the convergence of all media into singular providers (iTunes for music, Google for everything else), and the fact that our tendency to absent-mindedly channel surf whenever something isn’t quite to our taste diminishes the purpose of these stations in challenging us to hear new things.

But we’re finding out what kids in Olympia or Chicago are listening to, all without going to ugly HTML sites and having little boxy media players mess with our desktop feng shui. Convenience trumps ideals.