sree's lowercase world | stuff | chronicle on internet radio

The San Francisco Chronicle
March 25, 1999 Page B1

Don't Touch That Dial, ummm, Mouse
Ziff-Davis, other firms offer radio over the Internet


ZDTV calls its latest venture ZDTV Radio -- but you can't listen to it on any radio.

"It's a non-station radio network. We do not have a radio transmitter," said Greg Drebin, senior vice president of programming at ZDTV, which launched the service last week.

It's only on the Internet, and only available to people who have the latest Microsoft browser, Internet Explorer 5.

A lot of radio stations are already putting their regular broadcasts on the Internet. Other news purveyors, including Cnet, are also broadcasting audio-only programs on the Web.

But the new Microsoft browser is expected to make Internet radio more popular because it will make finding a station as easy as punching the button on your car radio.

San Francisco's ZDTV -- a unit of magazine-publishing giant Ziff- Davis -- is a cable television network that produces shows about technology. It's been on the air for nearly a year and is picking up markets across the country, but it still can't be seen in most parts of the Bay Area except by people with satellite providers DirecTV or the Dish Network.

ZDTV Radio ( will put technology news online in an audio-only format.

At the moment, the sound quality on the Net isn't always that great, particularly if you connect using phone lines, but the concept has a couple of big advantages.

For instance, college football fans can listen to their alma mater's games, even if they now live 3,000 miles away.

Another benefit: You can listen to programs whenever you want, just by calling them up out of the archives.

Cnet and National Public Radio, among others, are already archiving their Net radio programs. ZDTV isn't yet but says it will eventually.

"Far from seeing radio as something whose Golden Age has passed, it has reinvented itself again. Radio's best days are ahead of it," said Sreenath Sreenivasan, a professor of new media at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

ZDTV is already a master of convergence with a newsroom that tightly integrates television with its Web site. It's not hiring any additional people to produce the radio shows but will use people from its existing newsroom at Eighth and Townsend streets.

Initially, radio shows devoted to computing will face the same kind of hurdle as tech TV. "Ninety percent of people hear, `TV about computing,' and they think it's going to be boring. How do you make it interesting? That's a challenge," said Drebin, a former MTV exec.

Meanwhile, Cnet, which broadcasts from the coveted domain name, this week signed a syndication deal to broadcast its reports on real radio. "It's subversive art."

PHOTO; Caption: Greg Drebin is senior vice president of programming at ZDTV.

sree's lowercase world | stuff | chronicle on internet radio