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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Just when a major study says Internet radio is dead, leave it to Jim Goodmon of Capitol Broadcasting to find his own way to keep music flowing over the Web.

Radio stations, hit by stiff new requirements for royalty payments on music delivered online, have fled the Web faster than stockholders burned by WorldCom.

But Goodmon, the serial entrepreneur and technologist who put the first commercial high-definition TV station on the air (WRAL in Raleigh in 1996), is partnering with Decisionmark Corp. to test new technology that might solve the royalty questions.

If a pilot program announced by Capitol’s WRAL-FM, also based in Raleigh, and Decisionmark works, radio stations will be able to deliver music to their defined broadcast areas via the Web. If they can control the audience, or “reach”, Decisionmark says, the stations won’t have to pay additional fees which were decreed by the Library of Congress earlier this year.

Decisionmark, which is based in Cedar Rapids, IA, calls its idea “Air-to-Web Broadcast Replication”.

Here’s how the pilot program will work, according to Ken Franken, product development manager for Decisionmark:

  • WRAL-FM will include some 200 people “by invitation” in the pilot, based on WRAL’s frequent listener program
  • The listeners will have to register, using a verifiable postal address
  • Decisionmark will verify the addresses and, using patented technology it has developed to measure TV and radio station broadcast reach, will then insure the listeners fall within the station’s normal over-air signal.

“They will get conditional access if they are within the signal area,” Franken says. “If their postal address is not valid, they will be de-authorized.”

Jupiter study says no to Web music future

Radio stations and media companies have complained that the new royalty rules will bankrupt them, so they have shut down Web efforts outside of talk and sports. On Thursday, Jupiter Research proclaimed in a study that, “While listening to online audio is up — streaming music has yet to produce a survivable — let alone profitable — business.” The royalties make the future grimmer, Jupiter said. Even as Jupiter announced its study, Goodmon was in New York City on a media tour with Decisionmark to tout the pilot program.

Stations do have alternatives, such as offering subscription-based services RealOne from RealNetworks, as an example), or they can go through a new so-called clearinghouse for royalties (“SoundExchange”), set up by the recording industry.

But Goodmon, who was among the first broadcasters to fully embrace the Internet and the Web, may have found a workaround with Decisonmark. He’s worked with the company before on other projects, such as HDTV.

“Jim is a very good technologist who can see opportunities and ways to capitalize on them,” Franken said.

Capitalize.

Capitol Broadcasting.

Goodmon makes the two go together.

Decisionmark: www.decisionmark.com

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire. Send feedback or ideas to rsmith8@nc.rr.com