(Sorry, couldn't resist).
From Inside Radio:
By a three-to-one margin, Inside Radio readers believe radio stations should keep their webcast available to listeners free of charge. Nearly three-quarters (73%) say radio has always been the free audio medium and a move to charge a streaming fee would only send listeners to Pandora and other online services. Roughly one-quarter (27%) do see an opportunity to charge however, noting it costs money to distribute to computers and mobile phones and that the expense grows in lockstep with increases in listening. This week the Bay Area’s Americana/adult alternative KPIG launched a paid webcast, which the station says has already brought in more revenue than advertising did.
Where do I begin?
First, the decision on whether or not a stream should be free is not yours and is not poll-fodder. It belongs to the audience. What we think is irrelevant. What they will tolerate, let alone demand, will soon be evident.
Second, the idea that charging for a stream will "send people to Pandora" is a bit arrogant, since it assumes the streaming audience doesn't already go to Pandora, and the statistics indicate that audience does. In fact, they're more likely to go to Pandora than to your broadcast group's entire portfolio of streaming sites specifically because Pandora offers value in excess of that which is already on the air for free.
Third, the idea that a station – any station – is making more from subscription than from its advertising doesn't tell you how strong it's subscription efforts are, it tells you how weak its advertising efforts were.
Fourth, the best way to keep listeners on the verge from abandoning radio (if there are such folks) is to offer more streaming options which are more distinctive and more compelling and get out of the mindset that nothing belongs on a stream unless it's also over the air.
Listeners are relatively rational beings who are making decisions about value. Offer greater value and you will have a more attractive product with more audience attached to it. Extort dollars from listeners who can otherwise hear your content over the air for free and prepare for a big fat shrug.
Finally, what's this all about: "Roughly one-quarter (27%) do see an opportunity to charge however, noting it costs money to distribute to computers and mobile phones and that the expense grows in lockstep with increases in listening."
Are you kidding me? So you should charge because it costs you money, not because it's more valuable to me (the listener) than a rainbow of free alternatives?
Best advice: Start thinking like a listener. Stop thinking like a cost-cutting broadcaster.