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Brouhaha as blogger takes on SA’s internet radio numbers [updated]

A spat has broken out between a blogger and two high-profile internet radio stations, with new threats of legal action.

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On Monday, Shaun Dewberry wrote a blog post calling the listener figures of South African online radio stations, including 2OceansVibe Radio and Ballz Radio, “complete fabrications. Utter nonsense. Lies, even”.

Dewberry, who describes himself as “probably the first South African on Twitter” and has the Twitter handle @shaun is a techie at Interwebsradio, a Rock and Indie streaming radio station.

Shaun Dewberry
NetDynamix, the company which hosts the stations’ streams and provides their listener statistics denies the claims and has served Dewberry with a letter of demand.

Internet radio is a fast-growing media sector, attracting personalities like former rugby player Bob Skinstad, and national terrestrial radio DJs like Sasha Martinego, Darren Scott and Ian F.

Dewberry writes that “there is a growing hype being spread of streaming radio’s massive and escalating success as an alternative to terrestrial radio…” and that he cannot understand the reasons for the “amazing growth” of the sector. The blogger notes that on the back of this success the high-profile 2OceansVibe opened a second new studio in the prestigious Johannesburg-based Melrose Arch complex and Ballz radio is “leveraging a network of sports personalities to grow content and listenership”.

UPDATE: SA blogger served with legal papers in internet radio stats row

2OceansVibe’sRichard Hardiman‘s bio on Bizcommunity claims that the internet radio station attracts an average listenership of 35 000 [an hour], while Ballz co-founder Darren Scott, a former national DJ, recently told media news site Media Update that “weekly statistics for May show an average hourly listenership of just over 51 000 between 12:00 and 18:00″.

Hardiman says the storm had already caused the station potential damage: “We already have had clients put proposals and campaigns on hold until we get NetDynamix’s side of the story — if it turns out the article does have holes in, which NetDynamix assures us it does, we will also look at possible legal action for harm done to us on a business and personal level”.

Dewberry confirmed that NetDynamix’s legal team has served him legal papers.

Being a relatively new media medium, internet radio station figures are not officially regulated like that of traditional media sectors or the formal online publishing sector (regulated by the DMMA). Internet radio stations appear to source their listener numbers from NetDynamix, which hosts most of the major audio streaming services in the country.

In his blog post, Dewberry examines the figures published from NetDynamix via Shoutcast, a piece of software that relays and distributes streams to listeners. The majority of radio stations that use the software are listed on the Shoutcast site and Dewberry says these figures are much lower than those publicly claimed by the internet radio stations.

Every public Shoutcast server publishes their listenership to this directory. The largest have 12 000 listeners maximum at any time. If the biggest stations in the world only have 12 000 listeners, how can two start-ups (2OceansvibeRadio and Ballz) in bandwidth-starved Africa have tens of thousands more listeners than that?

Memeburn notes however that Dewberry appears to take issue with the internet stations’ concurrent user numbers (users listening or who are on a website at any one time), not the aggregate monthly users (the sum total of all the users who tuned in over a monthly period), which would be much larger over a monthly period.

Dewberry further points out that the social media following of each station and the number of internet users in South Africa does not support the large listenership figures that the internet radio stations are claiming.

On Monday afternoon, Scott himself responded by calling Dewberry up and questioning him live on air:

In the YouTube video, Scott takes issue with Dewberry’s assertion that there are “no parallels” between the social media followings of the two stations and the number of listeners they claim to have. Scott points out that this logic doesn’t take into account the followings of the station DJs, many of which are stronger than the station itself.

Speaking to Memeburn on Tuesday, Hardiman said that 2OceansVibe chose NetDynamix to provide its listener numbers to avoid them being called into question: “Obviously we deliberately went the independent route as far as number aggregation went in order to avoid claims of falsifying and inflating numbers”.

2OceansVibe “Chief Whip” Simon Hartley tweeted this morning that the station has referred questions over listener figures to NetDynamix and a response will be forthcoming.

Update: Dewberry appears to later defend internet radio stations Ballz and 2OceansVibe, tweeting:

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