Monthly Archives: January, 2011

AOL Mines iTunes For Great Programming

It was bound to happen. Adam Carolla, whose standalone podcast project consistently ranks multiple shows in the iTunes top ten audio podcasts, will join a late night video block of programming on AOL that will, no doubt, extend his reach and build his brand while contributing to increased audience and revenue for them as well.

Last week AOL announced a new late night video block of programming featuring content from “The Adam Carolla Show,” ”Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show,” and Kevin Smith’s SModcast Network. Fans will be able to both hear and see the best moments from these popular podcasts and talk shows on a nightly basis exclusively on AOL.com.

This move will feature weekly highlights from ACE Broadcasting’s “The Adam Carolla Show,” where the celebrated author of the bestselling In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks interviews celebrities, athletes and other persons of note. That programming will be paired with highlights from Kevin Smith’s Smodcast Podcast network, and Kevin Pollack’s weekly video show Kevin Pollack’s Chat Show.

Carolla, Pollack and Smith will each maintain their own online presence and continue producing their programming. AOL will feature highlights, and no doubt extend their reach. When I checked, Carolla had 3 podcast shows in the top ten audio podcasts on iTunes, with another at number 11. His show has seen over 50 million downloads, making him the most popular audio podcast of all time. Pollack and Smith are video guys. Pollack produces a weekly video show that airs on sunday nights and is available on YouTube and iTunes. Smith’s Smodcast Podcast network is a veritable treasure trove of creative online content.

Carolla’s been an advocate of podcasting, but he’s made no bones about the fact that the revenue wasn’t rushing through the door. I’m sure this deal offers him a better financial outlook. AOL meanwhile, sees the opportunity that popular content on iTunes can offer in terms of building a network. Their ability to offer a revenue solution to independent content creators is a win for them and the talent.

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Lots of Listeners Want to Know Who’s Singing Their Song

Apple recently announced ten billion apps have been downloaded from the app store. Pandora tops the list of most downloaded free iPad apps and sits at number two on the list of free iPhone apps. Pandora was also the only music app on the iPad top ten – beating out others on the list like Google Mobile, Fandango, Bible and Solitaire. Facebook, which has the only app that beat out Pandora on the list of free iPhone apps, doesn’t offer an iPad app. Yet.

More obscure were some of the apps on the paid download list which featured SoundHound at number one on the iPad list. SoundHound is an app that quickly recognizes a song that you hum, or play a few actual notes from. Once it recognizes the song, it can launch a Pandora station for you, get you the lyrics, show you a list of tour dates for that artist, list similar artists,or show you a youTube video.

SoundHound is very similar to Shazam, an app that happens to be the fourth most downloaded app of all time on the iPhone app list. But at $4.99, SoundHound must be selling a decent number of these apps to be sitting at number one. And song recognition is obviously a big hit on mobile devices…

Piracy’s Impact On Digital Music Sales

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Digital music sales grew globally by 6 percent last year to $4.6Billion. That number accounts for 29% of record company revenues around the globe. According to a new report by IFPI, consumer choice for accessing music via digital channels continued to grow in 2010. It’s recently released Digital Music Study makes a very clear case that digital music piracy has stifled and eroded the music industry.

Case studies included in the presentation cite examples such as in France, where government regulation, awareness campaigns, and even subsidized legal downloads have made headway in lowering the amount of piracy and stemmed the loss of revenues, and in Spain where a once flourishing and highly creative music scene has gone the other way, with nearly half the residents using illegal download sites to obtain music and fewer and fewer new artists are emerging.

The study calls for government action in the form of ISP regulation, consumer awareness campaigns and content protection. It’s an interesting read – certainly worthwhile for anyone hoping to do business in the online music marketplace. You can access the summary and download the study here.

A Streaming Station Is Likely More Appealing to College Students

KUSF, the University of San Francisco radio station, has been a stalwart of college free form programming for many years, but no more. The University sold the station’s FCC license for radio frequency 90.3 FM to Classical Public Radio Network, which is launching a non-commercial classical music station in the Bay Area. CPRN is owned by University of Southern California.

The call letters, music and logo were not sold and USF will continue to air the station online. According to an announcement by the University, all staff will be retained. The announcement also points out that the station can now expand its audience further: “The move to online-only distribution gives KUSF a powerful opportunity to grow its worldwide audience. Previously, the station was limited to 100 online listeners at a time, but capacity will be increased to accommodate thousands of listeners.”

“After all, to give students experience in broadcasting you don’t need an actual FM transmitter/license. For example, San Francisco State University has a decent broadcast program, and no FCC licensed station, only a streaming one.” says Rusty Hodge, Founder of San Francisco based Soma.FM.

Hodge adds that “the loss of KUSF is a big one for the community.”

While it may be a big loss for the community, it does sound like a win for the University and its students. The school gets cash and freed from expensive maintenance and licensing worries, the students pick up access to a nice streaming enterprise that gains them newer technology experience and a more global reach. And the students may well be more drawn to listening to and producing online programming than they were to broadcasting..

 

Will Pandora Go Public?

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If buzz around the Internet is to be believed, Pandora will soon announce an IPO. That’s a change from not long ago when Pandora‘s Founder Tim Westergren was saying there was no IPO in the foreseeable future.

But things change, and with their audience rocketing from 40 million to 75 million in a year, I guess Tim and CEO Joe Kennedy, along with their investors, may be thinking this is a good time to go public.

With the amazing growth in listeners and popularity, Pandora must be under pressure to expand as quickly as possible – device manufacturers from radios to televisions to cars are lining up to integrate. That’s all a great thing, making Pandora more and more ubiquitous, but each project requires a manager and developer plus time and attention and all that takes money.

In addition, licensing issues mean that as Pandora’s audience grows, so does its royalty liability. Cha-ching.

And lastly, as it is prone to do around the web, the buzz around Pandora will inevitably fade. There are lots of great streaming services out there, someday someone will de-throne Pandora, making now a great time for an investment offering.

Pandora has gotten lots of people to listen to Internet radio and lots of business folks to take notice. Their IPO, rumored to be for $100 Million will bring more attention to to Internet radio. May they thrive..

 

Cox Keeps Adding Online Assets

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Last week Cox Media made a couple of smart moves that signify their serious approach to online advertising. First they announced that they would merge Adify, a company they acquired a couple of years ago that sells online advertising across vertical networks, with Cox Cross Media to form a new division Cox Digital Solutions. Within days they added to this move, buying the IB Local Network business and advertising sales group of Internet Broadcasting. Internet Broadcasting is an online banner network company that has been around awhile. No doubt, they have well established relationships and know how to sell online ad campaigns.

With the acquisition, Cox Digital picks up the products, customers and employees, all invaluable assets to a broadcast company looking for a digital makeover. The new company will be headed by Steve Shaw, formerly a Sr. V.P. with Cox Cross Media. Shaw himself is a retooled Radio Rep executive who left Katz Radio in 2006.

“IB Local Network’s publisher relationships and media sales power are a natural fit with Cox Digital Solutions.” said Steve Shaw, President of Cox Digital Solutions. “This combination will enable us to meet a wider set of customer needs through a richer solution set, increase efficiencies, and significantly expand our opportunities for growth.”

Broadcasters have struggled to capture digital dollars from the ever increasing digital portion of advertising revenues. This move, like the earlier acquisition of Adify, is a smart approach to doing business with digital agencies by meeting them on their own terms.

Clear Channel’s Pittman on Bloomberg

“We should be wherever our listeners are.” That’s the very simple premise that former MTV Exec Bob Pittman says Clear Channel is pursuing as he builds out their multi platform strategy. According to Pittman, Clear Channel already has a great strategy and systems in place, it is just a matter of rolling it all out.

Pittman says the listener doesn’t care about what device they are listening on, but they do care what they are listening to. He points out that Clear Channel’s got a large number of those brand loyal consumers. Whereas Google has about 175 million uniques on a monthly basis in the US, Clear Channel has over 200 million. Keeping them satisfied by offering them as many ways to listen as possible is the name of the game.

What about Pandora? Pittman sort of side steps that question, simply offering the stat that “only” about 4% of listening right now is to digital or online platforms, implying he’s not really concerned – yet.. He does point out that listening online “appears to be additive” meaning that listening online adds to total time spent listening to a station, which is of course a very good thing.

Pittman has put $5Million of his own money into Clear Channel, which makes him a credible spokesperson as well. Here’s the quick interview:

Fred Wilson Makes a Few Sound Investments

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Fred Wilson apparently thinks it’s a good year to invest in streaming audio and has announced investments in two companies this week as an indication of this. His company Union Square Ventures just is heading up an $8 million funding round for digital audio advertising company TargetSpot. Other investors in that group include CBSRadio, Bain Capital Ventures and Milestone Venture Partners. It’s not Union Square‘s first money in Targetspot, nor for CBSRadio or Bain.

Wilson’s Union Square Ventures also announced an investment in Berlin based Soundcloud, which bills itself as the YouTube for audio. According to Soundcloud founder Alexander Lyung, the site had a million registered users last spring and 2.6 million by the end of the year, so it’s growing pretty fast.

“There has not been a wildly popular open audio sharing platform with simple APIs like YouTube and Vimeo in video, Facebook and Flickr in photos, Blogger and WordPress in long form text, and Twitter in short form text/link sharing.” says Wilson in his blog. “We think SoundCloud is on its way to becoming that wildly popular open platform for audio expression and sharing on the web and mobile devices. A few months ago, Union Square Ventures… invested in SoundCloud and I have joined the Board.”

Wilson is a guy that likes his music. He puts songs he likes on his daily blog, along with quotes and pictures. He also has a radio station you can stream, fredwilson.fm . Mostly, I think he’s a guy that thinks a lot about music and the Internet, and right now he’s thinking it’s a good investment…

Artists, Amazon Sell More Albums

Amazon is growing its share of the digital music download market but not at the expense of ITunes. According to NPD Group research data, ITunes has 66% of that market and Amazon has 13%. Growth may be coming instead from album sales, which dropped by 12% for 2010, according to WSJ.com. CD sales dropped by 20%, but digital album sales grew 13%.

A few artists have decided to forego selling individual songs on ITunes and insist on album sales instead. Billboard says this formula just might be working out for Kid Rock. He’s not selling his new album “Born Free” or the songs on it on ITunes. Billboard thinks he may have sold more, by a lot, by sticking to his guns, generating an estimated $3.3 million more by only selling his album in its entirety.

AC/DC and Garth Brooks are two other artists/groups that have refused to play the single song download sales game with iTunes, opting instead to only sell albums. No word on how it is working out for them.

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to try to put a dent in ITunes share of market by offering deep discounts of albums, something that may actually endear them to artists and labels by placing emphasis on album rather than song sales. They are known to absorb the price difference between the sale price and wholesale price, so it doesn’t harm actual revenues and it helps unit sales. It’s a strategy that worked for Kid Rock…

Slacker Heads North

Slacker has has announced that its ad supported free Basic Radio service is now available in Canada. This is a move that puts Slacker ahead of Pandora in offering its free streaming radio service north of the border.

A year ago, Slacker began offering free interactive channels and streaming to Canadians, but only for a 30 day trial after which listeners had to agree to pay $3.99 a month to continue.

Now listeners can freely listen to more than 100 expert-programmed genre stations or create and share customized music stations starting with either Slacker’s programmed stations or by artist’s name or song title. Interactive options include the “Fine Tune” feature which enables listeners to adjust the frequency of artists and songs and choose to hear more classic versus newer or popular versus fringe selections.

Competitively this is a nice move for Slacker. XM Canada, a streaming music extension offered by XM Canada and Sirius Canada which gave subscribers access to their favourite satellite radio stations online, was cancelled in November 2010 and replaced with an offering that forced subscribers to pay an additional fee. Pandora, the widely popular online radio platform in the US, has yet to offer access to listeners from Canada.

 

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