Internet radio, which can draw on vast troves of music from around the world and customize them to a listener’s personal tastes, is growing. While ratings for traditional radio broadcasters have been lackluster, Internet radio listenership in the U.S. has risen to 29 million a week, up from 20 million three years ago, according to Arbitron Inc. and Edison Media Research.
Even so, the nascent industry has yet to capture the biggest prize — portability. Some halfway solutions exist, such as music devices that allow people to stream Internet radio on speakers, or software that allows technology buffs to access Internet radio from their phones. But results can be glitchy, expensive and technically against the terms of contracts with mobile-phone service providers. Now, start-ups and giants are jockeying for position in mobile Internet radio, in a race that could rearrange the business model of music and broadcasting.