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Listening to Local Radio Online

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There are lots of streaming music services available online, such as Pandora and Spotify, but what do you do if you just want to listen to your local radio station on your computer or smartphone? Michael Miller, author of The Internet of Things, shows you how to use iHeartRadio and TuneIn to listen to AM and FM stations from anywhere in the United States or around the world!
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You may not know this, but many, if not most, local AM and FM radio stations stream their broadcasts over the Internet. That means you don't need a radio to listen to your favorite radio station. All you need is a computer or smartphone and an Internet connection.

Although many stations stream their broadcasts from their own websites, it's often easier to use a streaming radio service or app that can access feeds from multiple radio stations. These services/apps, such as iHeartRadio or TuneIn, let you listen to practically any radio station in the United States, and many more globally. This way, you can keep in touch with your local stations when you're away from home—or listen to the best of the best from anywhere in the world!

Using TuneIn

My favorite streaming radio app and service is TuneIn. This service streams live broadcasts from more than 100,000 radio stations around the world for free, to any computer, smartphone, or tablet. TuneIn is also available on "smart" TVs from Samsung and Panasonic, and on Roku and Sonos streaming media boxes.

What I like best about TuneIn (as opposed to iHeartRadio, discussed next) is that it's truly a global service. You can find local stations from virtually every country around the world, which enables you to listen to the best music of any type, anywhere. You're not limited to primarily U.S. stations, nor to stations owned by a single media conglomerate. (And, yes, TuneIn includes all the Clear Channels stations that also make up the bulk of iHeartRadio's options.) You get the most stations of all genres from all countries, period.

To listen on your smartphone or tablet, you need to download the TuneIn mobile app. It's available (for free) for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry devices. On your computer, you listen in by pointing your browser to http://www.tunein.com.

After you sign up or sign in to your free account, the TuneIn website displays some recommended stations, based on your past listening experience, along with playback controls for the currently selected station at the bottom of the page (see Figure 1). Use the menu bar at the top of the page to access stations by location, format, or name. (To search for a specific station, enter the call letters into the search box at the top of the page.)

Figure 1 TuneIn home page

To view all your local radio stations, click Local in the menu bar. You now see a list of local stations, sorted by FM and then AM. Scroll down farther and you see something else cool about TuneIn: local police and fire radio stations. That's right, you can use TuneIn to listen to your local emergency broadcasts! A nice bonus.

To find a specific station in a different city, click By Location and then drill down by continent, country, state (in the U.S.), and city. It's only a few clicks to RTL Radio Luxembourg, if that's what you're looking for.

To browse stations around the world by genre, click Music in the menu bar. This is the way to go if you want to find the best jazz, folk, hip hop, or other types of stations from around the world. Just click until you find the station you want, wherever it happens to broadcast from. (You can also browse sports, news, and talk broadcasts by clicking the corresponding menu items.)

Once you find a station, click it. A page for the station opens, such as the one in Figure 2, with the station's daily schedule and what's currently playing (if that info is available). Click the Play button to start listening—you can then use the playback controls at the bottom of the window to stop (but not pause) playback; add the station to your favorites list; comment on the station; or share the station with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

Figure 2 Listening to RTL Radio Luxembourg via TuneIn

The TuneIn mobile app offers pretty much the same functionality with a smartphone-friendly interface. The Home screen, shown in Figure 3, displays recommended and favorite stations. To find a station, tap the Menu (three bars) button in the top-left corner and then tap Browse. You now see the Browse menu, which lets you tap to view Local Radio, Recents, Trending, Music, Sports, Top Podcasts, and more. Scroll down and tap By Location to drill down to stations anywhere in the world.

Figure 3 TuneIn app on an Android phone

Tap a station to view its screen, like the one in Figure 4. Scroll down to view more info about the station (including upcoming programming) or tap the Play button to start listening.

Figure 4 Listening to a local radio station with the TuneIn app

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