Big Data Is Smart Data For Online Audio

The streaming marketplace is becoming increasingly segmented, with big new brands like iTunes Radio and Beats Music competing with Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Rdio and a multitude of others for listener’s ears. Many of the streaming services offer similar options – personalized song recommendations based on a listener’s likes and dislikes, playlist building, social features, etc.. Some offer on-demand song plays as well.

Big data – the term used for collections of data that are so big that special processing is needed in order to use it – is a key component of these customized listening features. Services like Pandora, with 200 million registered users, collect information from listeners that includes their age, location, and gender. That basic information is useful for targeted ad campaigns. But there’s a lot more to big data than that – and that’s the stuff that music personalization is made of. Each time you like or dislike a song, skip an artist, type in an artist’s name, that’s more information that can be processed.

Key to effective use of big data are services that specialize in processing that information. Companies like The Echo Nest (recently sold to Spotify) and Gracenote (owned by Tribune Company) work with many of the platforms, creating data sets that enable Pandora, Spotify and others to better understand their listeners.

Big data processing is important on the advertising side as well. Companies like Pandora and iHeartRadio employ their own fleet of programmers to keep their data proprietary and make it understandable and useful. Third party providers like Triton Digital work with many companies to process their data and create identifiable audience characteristics.

Using a combination of zip code analysis and an individual’s music tastes, Pandora has begun creating audience profiles based on political affiliation. Exploring similarities between music choices and movie preferences, The Echo Nest concluded, among other things, that “if you like crime movies, you most probably enjoy listening to Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, The Who, Bob Dylan, and Pink Floyd in that order.”

From selling tickets to the Carole King musical “Beautiful” on Broadway by targeting listeners who like her music, to selling flowers for Mother’s day to guys of a certain age who tune in to kid programming so their kids can listen, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities that big data can offer to streaming audio.

 

 

Rdio Signs Deal with Big Brazilian Media Company

rdio-logoIn a deal similar to the partnership they announced with Cumulus last fall, Rdio and Grupo Bandeirantes have announced a joint venture and powerful strategic partnership encompassing marketing, distribution, content and promotions that will significantly expand Rdio’s presence in Brazil. It’s a nice move on the part of the smallish streaming service. Under the leadership of CEO Anthony Bay, the company has been pursuing aggressive marketing tactics and forming alliances like this. 

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and the second largest in the Western Hemisphere. It’s also the seventh largest economy in the world, and growing quickly. Music and culture thrive in Brazil, making it an attractive play for streaming services. Spotify and Deezer are both streaming in Brazil, and Rhapsody has a carrier deal with the country’s largest mobile phone provider Telefonica while Muve, owned by Cricket Wireless has a deal with the country’s second largest ISP, TIM. (Of course, youtube claims its share of streaming music listeners as well.)

While mobile technology and adoption is strong in South America, challenges such as low credit card penetration make subscription services without a carrier or other mass billing backbone a potential challenge to Rdio’s plans. This deal  will support their marketing and brand awareness efforts as well as lend credibility.

“Global expansion and localized customer experiences are key focuses for Rdio. Brazil is one of the most dynamic countries in the world with a vibrant music culture. In fact, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the top cities for Rdio users in the world,” said Anthony Bay, CEO of Rdio. “We’ve had success in establishing a unique customer value proposition with our partners in other territories, and this partnership allows us to create a more diverse, all-encompassing listening experience in Brazil that travels from radio to TV to online to mobile.”

In the global streaming game, Rdio’s unique strategy of partnering with existing traditional media companies seems like a good idea, giving those companies an online audio extension, and helping Rdio extend its share of the streaming market.

Pandora Is a Top 5 Smartphone App

Digital measurement firm comScore released new data on mobile and smartphone usage last week, showing that more than 163.2 million Americans own a smartphone. That number represents 68.2% of the mobile market and is up 7% over 3 months before. Apple ranked as the top smartphone manufacturer with 41.3 percent share, while Google Android led as the #1 smartphone platform with 52.1 percent platform market share.

As the smartphone audience expands, streaming music apps continue to benefit. While the most widely used app is Facebook, two streaming apps – Youtube and Pandora – are in the top five, with 48 and 45% reach into the mobile app audience.

top 15 apps
Pandora’s mobile strategy is the key to the streaming platform’s amazing success. It was the 9th most downloaded app in the iTunes app store last year – a stat that is particularly impressive given that it’s been around a long time, and many people already have it. By way of reference, Facebook is number 8, and Spotify is nowhere to be seen.

Earlier this week at RAIN Summit West, keynote speaker Jason Calacanis talked emphatically about the importance of mobile, saying that it is the only thing that is important. Those that develop winning mobile platforms win consumers. With more than 70% of their listeners on mobile, Pandora understood that concept early and capitalized on it…

Momentus Momentum

Last week we learned from the Radio Advertising Bureau’s 2013 Revenue Report that digital dollars continue to increase at a much faster rate than other revenue segments for radio broadcasters. Up 16% over 2012, and 18% for the last quarter of the year, the digital sector for radio is picking up steam and promising to top a billion dollars this year.

One of the obvious reasons why the digital sector is growing quickly is that the streaming audience is growing in all the right ways – more and more of the 12+ population listens weekly and monthly, the time spent listening is increasing year over year, and the younger demographics are listening in much greater numbers than older generations – signalling promise for the future of the medium (and marketability to advertisers as well). All of these trends are recently documented by the updated Triton Digital/Edison Research Infinite Dial Report.infinite dial 2014

At the same time, radio broadcasters are tuning in to the huge growth opportunity that digital audiences represent. They’re refining their online offerings, improving their ad platforms, and becoming more savvy at managing and selling their inventory. All of this is creating a more sophisticated online marketplace – impacting radio’s ability to capture more digital dollars.

One of the things we do really well at RAIN Summits is examine trends and tools, and discuss best practices that the online audio industry is employing. We create panels that highlight opportunities in the industry – hoping that our attendees will engage and learn about ways that they can maximize their opportunity. We don’t restrict our topics to broadcasters only – instead, we sit broadcasters who stream side by side with online only platforms, and place the focus entirely on online audio.

I think we have a fantastic lineup of panels and speakers on our agenda for our flagship event, RAIN Summit West, on Sunday April 6th in Las Vegas. If you haven’t made plans to join us, you should. There’s a tremendous amount of momentum in our industry right now, and we need all hands on deck to join the conversation and feed the buzz. I hope to see you there.

Are Your Listeners For Sale?

Earlier this week, RAINNews reported that an FM station in Boston – WKLB – is running spots for iTunes Radio. The spots are live reads, done by radio station personalities, and they sound like this.

When asked, the station, owned by Greater Media, issued some statement that kind of sounded like: “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” This doesn’t seem like an especially well thought out strategy for a company that owns a bunch of nicely branded radio stations with loyal listeners. Apparently, the requirements for the ad campaign from iTunes Radio included guaranteeing first in a commercial stop-set placement, and live reads (also known as endorsements) by radio station personalities.

The first time I listened to the live ad, I could barely believe my ears. I played it for  my husband (who is not in the industry), and he couldn’t believe it either. A radio station personality literally encouraging its listeners to listen to something else, going on and on about how great it is!

Years ago, I worked at WTIC AM in Hartford, one of the best AM radio stations in the country. At one point, that radio station’s morning show with Bob Steele had a 60 share of the market. When I worked there, Steele was retired, and we ONLY had about a 20 share in morning drive. We charged a lot of money for those spots, and live reads went for a huge premium, because we understood the value of them. Live endorsements by radio station personalities are very effective. So I’m guessing that iTunes is paying a lot for these spots.

Yesterday Edison Research and Triton Digital did an initial webinar release of their Infinite Dial update. iTunes Radio makes its debut in the study, having launched just last fall. And they’re off to an impressive start, with 8% of persons 12+ in the US saying they listened in the past month.

And that’s before broadcast personalities started telling their audiences how swell it is…

 

Almost All New Cars Will Be Connected In Five Years

By the end of this decade, 93% of new cars will offer streaming music as part of the built in entertainment system. That’s the prediction of new research out from ABI Research in the UK, which forecasts that global shipments of streaming music enabled automotive infotainment systems will top 66 million by the end of 2019.

The study says that Digital and HD Radio formats will never scale to replace FM, and auto manufacturers will continue to include FM receivers in cars for many years. But listening to FM will gradually be replaced by streaming radio and music services as more and more cars become connected.connected dashboard

Car manufacturers know that in car entertainment systems are important to consumers, particularly younger ones. The race to integrate connected dashboard technology is on. As carmakers search for innovative platforms to call their own, fragmentation is high at this early stage. Streaming services like Pandora, iHeartradio and Spotify, looking for ubiquity, must integrate with each platform individually, an expensive challenge.

The impact of connected dashboards on the future of radio is high. A connected driver can receive highly targeted messages based on what they are driving, and where they are located, offering greatly enhanced value to advertisers, and higher net cpms for the music services.

We’ll be discussing all of the developments, challenges, and impacts that the connected dashboard presents for our industry, with George Lynch, VP Automotive Biz Dev at Pandora; Michael Bergman, Senior Director, CEA; Jake Sigal, Founder, Livio; and other smart folks at RAIN Summit West on Sunday April 6th in Las Vegas. Join us and become part of the amazing buzz surrounding our industry at our biggest event of the year. Early registration rates end soon.

Have You Heard The News Today?

There’s a lot going on with streaming audio talk platforms that’s intriguing. I don’t mean podcasts, although there is certainly a growing demand and interest in that form of on-demand streaming talk programming.

Swell is a smartphone app that allows you to hear interesting content and like or dislike it, personalizing your content as you listen. It’s similar, but different from Stitcher, which gives you the opportunity to design your listening experience by selecting programs, but it doesn’t go beyond that to suggest more content based on your interactive likes and dislikes.  NPR’s mobile app offers a nice way to listen to their own programming, while Tunein gives you a chance to pick your programs and listen to them archived or live. swell

Meanwhile, Spoken Layer is a new startup that offers publishers the option of converting their articles to professionally read audio. Scalable narration and content distribution, as they describe it on their site. The platform enables publishers to turn any text into spoken audio in just minutes, enabling audio delivery of their content. In fact, while Spoken Layer does have partnerships already with several well-known publishers, including The Atlantic, National Journal, Engadget and TechCrunch, any journalist can use the platform to create an audio offering of their piece, or record it themselves.

spoken layerI like to listen to talk programming, particularly in the car, so I’m pleased to investigate options that help me get more of what I find interesting. Talk programming can be highly engaging and entertaining, making it a good format for advertisers. News/talk is a “lean forward” format – listeners are generally tuned in and listening actively, as opposed to music formats, which listeners listen to in the background. Years ago, I sold ads on a news/talk station in Hartford, and was often amazed at the response that an advertiser would get from a live read done by the morning drive personality.

Jason Calacanis, a very smart digital media entrepreneur, has just launched a new site called Inside, which offers readers a curated news feed that emphasizes excellent journalism on topics that the reader can choose. While it doesn’t offer an audio platform, it’s interesting to note that Calacanis is an investor in Swell also. Calacanis, whose career highlights include founder of Weblogs, a network of professional blogs that included Engadget and Autoblog, which he sold to AOL, will be the keynote speaker at RAIN Summit West on April 6th during NAB Show Week. He’ll deliver his annual State of Media speech there, and I expect it to be one of the most interesting speeches we’ve ever hosted at a RAIN Summit event.

The world of news/talk audio programming is changing, impacted by online offerings that enable a seemingly limitless listening experience. Choice is the name of the game, and consumers are in the drivers seat…

Viral Audio

Last week I read an article on Digg about audio on the Internet that really has me thinking. The article, which is well worth reading, examines the reasons why audio is less apt to be shared than video online. Why is audio less viral?

This is a great question, and answers abound. Video has youtube, and youtube has video, making sharing so easy, for starters. Cameras are everywhere. People like to share and look at pictures, still or moving. It’s more fun to look than listen.

But wait, is that true? Not necessarily. I think it’s easier to look than it is to listen. And it’s also easier to make something entertaining when there is a visual element. Audio has to work harder to be good. But when it is, it’s almost better.

Have you heard the audio interview “The Worst Haircut Ever”? It’s an interview that father/journalist Jeff Cohen did with his two daughters, ages 3 and 5, after the older one cut the younger one’s hair. It’s a great illustration of how audio can be as engaging (or more) than video. I listened to it, chuckled, and then played it for my daughter, who loved it too. After, she said: “I wish I could see what her hair looked like!”

I think that’s just it – audio works so well for this bit, and the bit works so well on audio because we can only imagine what the haircut looked like. We’re more engaged because we can’t actually see it.

What are the elements that make great audio that people will want to share online? How can we make sharing of audio mainstream? Platforms like Soundcloud make it easy to upload and share audio.

I’m making it a mission for 2014 to share audio in my social networks, and I invite you to do the same. #audio

RAIN Summit NYC: Pureplays and Podcasts

RAIN Summits have an exciting calendar in 2014, beginning with a first ever RAIN Summit NYC on February 5th. The event will take place at The Greene Space in Soho, and the focus of the agenda will be “pureplays and podcasts”. It’s going to be an exciting afternoon and evening of discussions and networking among streaming audio entrepreneurs, with topics dedicated to platforms that are not using streaming to supplement their broadcast platforms, but are originating their programming online. NYC_EARLYBIRD2

The list of speakers, and panel topics, are available on the website. Speakers include a unique list of folks who haven’t joined us before like Deezer, 8Tracks, Songza, and Earwolf (to name but a few). Panel topics will cover both streaming and podcasts. We’ll also talk about licensing and also hear a panel of investors in the space.

It’s an afternoon event, beginning at 1:30 and ending with a cocktail reception from 6-7. Registration is very reasonable – and until Monday you can get the early bird rate of $49.

It’s going to be a great event, and it will be better if you join us. February 5th in NYC. Hope to see you there!

Streaming Services Put Focus On Advertising Innovations at CES

It’s press release week – err, I mean CES week – in our industry this week, a time when lots of folks gather in Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, and announce innovative products and projects. I don’t mean to belittle the announcements, some of which sound very promising. But it’s kind of a shame that it all has to be condensed into one week.

In any event, two announcements in particular caught my attention yesterday. First, an announcement by AdsWizz and Aha by Harman, who have partnered to deliver ads. Aha has a strong foothold in the automotive market – in some 50 car models by 14 manufacturers. The AdsWizz piece enables audience targeting based not only on the usual age/gender demographics, but also including location, make and model of the car.

Pandora‘s announcement yesterday concerned similar innovations – rolling out in-car audio advertising that enables advertisers to target listeners who are listening in their cars. Ford, BP, State Farm and Taco Bell are national brands that are targeting Pandora listeners in their cars. More than 4 million unique users have activated Pandora through a native integration in a car.

Streaming audio services continue to refine their ability to deliver ads to consumers with precision, enhancing advertiser impressions by doing so. Increased targetability creates increased value for the advertiser by boosting an ad’s return on investment, and that’s a great place for our industry to focus innovative energy..

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