Will the Internet Kill Traditional Car Radio?By JOHN R. QUAINPublished: May 6, 2010(…)Of course, traditional radio broadcasters have heard the drumbeat of mobile apps. They have responded with their own apps, streaming live broadcasts from thousands of stations to handsets and through them, to cars.“We’re not trying to dictate where people connect to us,” says Evan Harrison, an executive vice president of Clear Channel Radio. “We need to be everywhere.”So the company has a popular app of its own called iheartradio. It’s a virtual tuner that allows listeners to choose streams from Clear Channel’s network of over 750 AM and FM stations nationwide. According to Mr. Harrison, the online streams have added 15 percent more listeners to the company’s total audience.“We are only too well aware of the technology,” says Fred Jacobs, president of Jacobs Media, a 27-year-old radio consulting firm. In a little over a year and a half, Mr. Jacobs has seen a land rush in radio apps. His firm has responded by creating more than 130 iPhone apps for individual radio stations and programs across the country. The separate apps, which the company said have been downloaded by more than 2.5 million listeners, cover stations and shows including C-SPAN Radio, “Loveline With Dr. Drew” and KDRY Christian Radio. Mr. Jacobs says these free applications often include extra features, like photos, and could offer new forms of advertising on a phone or dashboard screen.“It’s a way for radio to get its portable mojo back,” he says.Software developers also sense the opportunity. Livio Radio is about to introduce a $4.99 iPhone app that turns the handset into a digital tuner capable of pulling in music from 42,000 AM/FM and Internet-only stations. The company has designed its software to make it easier for drivers to scan stations with a swipe of a finger, although I still had trouble squinting at the iPhone screen.So is the death of traditional radio ineluctable?Joe Kennedy, chief executive of Pandora, says he thinks there will be a gradual migration in the car to services like Pandora, but he also says he believes it will not become a mainstream service until all new cars feature systems that can tap into apps. On the other hand, one player in this game of digital musical chairs may soon end up without a seat: Sirius XM Radio. Its satellite radio service is based on a monthly subscription model that few music fans may feel compelled to pay for, given the wider variety of genres available free on the Internet.Ultimately, the incursion of Internet-based music services and radio station streams may be less about annihilating yet another business model than it is about breaking down barriers. For the first time, small local stations will be able to reach an entire driving nation, so some broadcasters may see their audiences swell as more listeners find them on Internet-connected car radios. In the end, it may simply be a case of radio is dead, long live radio.