Monthly Archives: February, 2013

Pandora Limits Listening

In a move that will affect less than 4% of its users, Pandora announced yesterday that it will begin limiting listening on mobile devices to 40 hours a month. As they approach that limit, the listener will hear from Pandora, and be offered a couple of options. They can choose to pay 99 cents for unlimited use of the service for the rest of the month, or they can sign up for Pandora One for $3.99 a month, which gives them unlimited, commercial free listening to the service.

In a blog post yesterday, Pandora founder Tim Westergren explained that ” this is an effort to balance the reality of increasing royalty costs with our desire to maximize access to free listening on Pandora.”Image representing Tim Westergren as depicted ...

In addition to helping cover royalty and other expenses, this will get the attention of the heaviest users of Pandora. I’m sure Tim would like to mobilize those listeners to help persuade their congressional representatives to pass the Internet Radio Fairness Act. As he points out in his post, “Pandora’s per-track royalty rates have increased more than 25% over the last 3 years, including 9% in 2013 alone and are scheduled to increase an additional 16% over the next two years.”

It’s a strategy that could work well for Pandora, as they could win in one of two ways, either by inspiring their most dedicated listener base to join them in lobbying Congress, or by converting a portion of those listeners to paying subscribers. It’s also a move that may please investors, who have been concerned about Pandora’s ability to monetize mobile impressions.

All in all, this is sounding like a pretty good strategic move..

In A Flatbed Ford

Connected audio in cars may be last year’s news, but the level of interactivity is challenging auto manufacturers to work with developers to create some pretty inventive applications. Enter Gracenote, an independent division of Sony, that collects data points on millions of songs and provides backend services that enable song recommendations to streaming services (for example).

Now Gracenote has found a way to tap into the Control Area Network of a Ford Focus and use the data to create song recommendations based on the way you are driving. For example, when the windshield wipers are on, you might hear a bluesy tune to match the rainy road, but when you’re driving fast down the highway, your playlist may serve up a song like the Beach Boys, and high beams might trigger Ray of Light by Madonna.

More than anything, this puts a whole new meaning on the “connected car” concept. Your car is not just connected to the Internet, it’s connected to the weather, and traffic conditions and the way that you are driving. Really, you have to marvel at the concept (while you kind of wonder about it’s usefulness).

The demo took place at Music Tech Hack Day in SF recently, and I read about it in GigaOm. Here’s a video that demonstrates it:

 

Cloud Based Ad Insertion Enhances Targeting for Streaming Broadcasters

abacastAbacast has announced a new cloud based ad insertion technology that offers significant enhancements to streaming broadcasters. Generally, broadcasters deliver their online audio product in a single stream where all listeners are hearing the same thing at the same time. This is different than the technology that more interactive services like Pandora use, where each listener is hearing a personalized stream. The single stream approach, while cost efficient, has offered limited targetability of ads. With Abacast’s patent pending cloud-based ad insertion, each listener can receive individualized in-stream audio ads.

ESPN’s Digital Audio division will use the system to enhance the targetability of audio ads across its platform, “targeting listeners by device, location, age and gender in real time across live national broadcasts.” Abacast’s targeting capabilities make it possible to choose options that, for example, include “all smartphone listeners,” “all listeners in the top 20 DMAs that are on iPhones,”  “all male listeners in the 25-34 age range in a group of zip codes,” “all listeners listening on the TuneIn player,” and more, according to Rob Green, Abacast CEO. Abacast’s cloud-based ad insertion is specifically designed for all broadcaster sizes and is deployed on the Abacast streaming network as well as on Akamai and Amazon.

“This was a huge hole in the radio industry,” ESPN Digital Audio senior manager Blair Cullen told Adweek. “Before, it was one stream to thousands of people, and it didn’t make sense that we were targeting women with a lot of the ads that were running. Now, hundreds of thousands of people are going to get different ad breaks. You could be in the same car as your friend wearing different headsets, and you’ll still be served a different ad than that person,” he said.

This is impressive news from Abacast that has game changing potential for single stream broadcasters with large, geographically or demographically diverse audiences. More targeted ad delivery nets higher cpms, and positions those services to better compete for digital dollars.

 

Radio’s Digital Revenues Up 8%

Digital revenues generated by US radio broadcasters shot up 11% in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year, and pushed the full year over year increase to an impressive 8%. Spot dollars increased a mere 1%, further emphasizing the brightness of the digital horizon for radio.

“The continues stellar showing of the Digital sector…underscores the fact that th eRadio industry is finding additional ways to monetize these streams and that advertisers are taking advantage of new platforms to reach our listeners,” said RAB President and CEO Erica Farber. The digital revenues category represents revenues generated by websites, Internet/web streaming and HD Radio including HD2 and HD3 stations.

RABrevcomp2012Q4

As the overall contribution that digital revenues makes to radio’s revenue edges closer to 5%, Internet advertising revenues are hitting record highs. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that Q3 of 2012 was up 18% over a year earlier, with Q4 numbers yet to be released. With spot radio dollars stuck in barely positive territory, digital solutions that enable broadcasters to unlock a portion of that pie become an important piece of the radio economy.

RAB president and CEO Erica Farber will deliver a keynote speech at RAIN Summit West on April 7th, offering her perspectives on radio’s digital initiatives and prospects for the future.  Other panels will explore online options to capture more revenue as well. For more information and to register, click here. (Early bird registration ends next week.)

 

Streaming Music On Smartphones Is Popular

Smartphone users like to use the devices to listen to music, and that’s a trend that is on the upswing, according to new information from NPD Group. 56% of smartphone users listen to music on their devices, with 39% of them doing that daily. Of those, they mostly listen to Internet radio (65%), but also stream on demand services like Spotify or Rhapsody (30%) and listen to their own music (it’s not clear whether it’s on the device or streamed from a cloud service) as well.

Music listening on mobile devices extends to tablets as well, with 40% of tablet users listening to music on those devices.

Ovi Music - on the go

Ovi Music – on the go (Photo credit: Nokia RSA)

The Audio Consumption study done by NPD Group also observes that hardware of products that enhance wireless local playback of streaming services on mobile devices, like wireless speakers and headphones, are growing as a result of this trend. “With both local music storage and the ability to connect to any number of online music services, tablets and smartphones are actually contributing to a net increase in their owner’s use of internet radio and personal music collections,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD.  “As a result, we are seeing sales growth in products that compliment playback on mobile devices, particularly those that feature wireless local streaming.” Wireless streaming speaker sales more than tripled in 2012, and wireless headphones grew by 34 percent.

NPD Group’s Russ Crupnick is a featured speaker at the upcoming RAIN Summit West on Sunday April 7th at the Las Vegas Hotel. For more information and to register, click here.

Streaming Music On Smartphones Is Popular

Smartphone users like to use the devices to listen to music, and that’s a trend that is on the upswing, according to new information from NPD Group. 56% of smartphone users listen to music on their devices, with 39% of them doing that daily. Of those, they mostly listen to Internet radio (65%), but also stream on demand services like Spotify or Rhapsody (30%) and listen to their own music (it’s not clear whether it’s on the device or streamed from a cloud service) as well.

 

Music listening on mobile devices extends to tablets as well, with 40% of tablet users listening to music on those devices.

 

Ovi Music - on the go

Ovi Music – on the go (Photo credit: Nokia RSA)

 

The Audio Consumption study done by NPD Group also observes that hardware of products that enhance wireless local playback of streaming services on mobile devices, like wireless speakers and headphones, are growing as a result of this trend. “With both local music storage and the ability to connect to any number of online music services, tablets and smartphones are actually contributing to a net increase in their owner’s use of internet radio and personal music collections,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD.  “As a result, we are seeing sales growth in products that compliment playback on mobile devices, particularly those that feature wireless local streaming.” Wireless streaming speaker sales more than tripled in 2012, and wireless headphones grew by 34 percent.

 

NPD Group’s Russ Crupnick is a featured speaker at the upcoming RAIN Summit West on Sunday April 7th at the Las Vegas Hotel. For more information and to register, click here.

 

UK Subscribers Give Streaming Services High Marks

A newly released report takes a look at the digital music landscape in the UK. The British Recorded Music Industry reports that over the past ten years digital music has become a key part of the record industry in the UK, with revenues from downloads and streaming accounted for more than 50% of record label income last year for the first time.

What’s more, consumers are highly satisfied with streaming music services – 93% of those subscribing to a streaming service are satisfied with it. Access to an extensive music collection, music discovery, and mobile access are some of the key values that streaming services offer that consumers don’t mind paying for. BPI report

This is a dense report that’s a must read for folks in the streaming business. While it’s focused on the UK, the analysis and strategic discussions are comprehensive and applicable to other markets as well. Here’s the link.

SiriusXM Plays Defense With MySXM

siriusWhile the connected dashboard is a concept that holds lots of promise for streaming stations, it’s no secret that it poses a point of concern for platforms that already own the dashboard real estate – like broadcast and satellite. Last year Sirius XM added 2 million net subscribers, and a lot of those came from folks who bought cars with the product already installed. That’s a big source of new audience for Sirius XM. While the streaming industry is busy declaring victory with every new car that integrates Pandora, iHeartRadio, Aha or TuneIn, Sirius is busy thinking about protecting its turf from the new dashboard.

Enter MySXM, the satellite company’s streaming option for listeners. CEO Jim Meyers  positions the new streaming platform as a defensive move, pointing out that SiriusXM will have an advantage by offering both satellite and IP options in the dashboard. “Listeners also don’t need to constantly lean forward to create a tailored listening experience. They can just tune to the music channels they already like and adjust the channel’s unique slider controls and set them once for good or change them any time they want….This new feature will further enhance our IP offering, which has been greatly improved over the past year and now includes the ability to time shift up to five hours on many stations, start songs at the beginning when tuning to a music channel and the ability to play thousands of hours of talk and entertainment from over 300 shows from our library of on-demand content.

Though there is no official launch date for MySXM yet, information from the call yesterday was that the platform will be available across all platforms and devices.

 

Aha Radio Is Making Car Connectivity Easy For Consumers, Stations

The connected car, once a concept, is now a reality and one that offers significant promise for the audience growth to online stations. One company that’s really driving the integration between your car and connectivity is Aha Radio. By the end of 2013, Aha will be installed into vehicles by more than 10 auto manufacturers which in total represent more than 50 percent of all cars sold in the USA/Canada and up to 30 percent in Europe.

Using a cloud based platform, Aha lets the consumer organize their content on their phone and then integrate it with their car. Aha has content partnerships with more than 30,000 stations, including names like AccuRadio, Slacker, Rdio and Deezer. The also are integrated with innovative audio content from location based weather service Custom Weather to targeted content from Men’s Fitness and TV Guide, to Storynory, a service that offers audio content for children.

“Aha lets consumers access their favorite Web content as audio preset buttons wherever they go,” said Robert Acker, VP of Connectivity for Harman. “By connecting people to the web in way that makes sense at 65 MPH Aha is delivering the next-generation of driver connectivity in a format as familiar as radio. We look forward to the day when drivers of any vehicle can safely access their favorite Web content using Aha.”

%d bloggers like this: