The big boys have arrived. Last week brought the news that YouTube’s subscription based streaming music service will launch before the end of the year, adding another massive player to the standing room only arena of streaming audio platforms. According to Billboard, there will be a free tier to the service as well, although it’s hard to imagine exactly how that will be delineated significantly from YouTube’s current free and on-demand offering of just about any music video. The subscription tier will add the ability to play full albums and cache music for offline listening, and probably playlist building as well.
YouTube has been the dominant on-demand streaming music platform in the land for a long time, although many folks didn’t think of them that way. The powers to be at Google have likely decided that the size of ad revenues and level of interest from advertisers in the streaming audio space have gotten big enough that it’s time to get serious about branding their service as a player.
The launch of iTunes Radio probably had something to do with the imminent rebranding of YouTube as well. Last week, Apple announced that their months old streaming service had 20 million users and 11 million uniques in 5 weeks. Of course, this is another service that’s self-reporting their own numbers, which to date are unchecked by third party measurement. But who expected less from an Apple launch that was well timed to sync with an OS upgrade that put the service front and center on everyone’s iPhones and iPads? The real data comes a little later when we start to see and hear metrics coming from other sources on the traction of iTunes Radio with consumers.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the much discussed Beats streaming service to launch, and keeping an eye on Microsoft’s Xbox Music, not to mention Pandora, Spotify and other significant players. One thing is for sure – the consumer has plenty of choices at this point. With minor distinctions between each one, branding has become the key factor in the streaming music game…
NPR and its affiliates have always been leaders in digital distribution of programming, innovating new ways to grow audience with streaming and podcasts. An incredible ONE THIRD of the total audience for This American Life, produced by Chicago Public Radio, listens online – either streaming or downloading the show. Now the producers of the show are creating an always on streaming channel of This American Life programs. Launching it on TuneIn Radio, the new feature will include new episodes, as well as selections from the show’s archive of more than 500 hours, streaming around the clock.
“Who left the story faucet on? We did. On purpose.” says Seth Lind, director of operations for This American Life. “We’re excited to offer this easy new way to get the show, particularly past episodes people might have never stumbled upon.”
This is an interesting approach – one that doesn’t cost much, given that it’s simply streaming existing programming. And while the listener doesn’t have much choice in selecting the specific show, the programming is presented in a format that is a lot more of a “lean-back” experience than that of listening to a podcast. My hunch is that it’s a smart move – offering some of the most downloaded programming in an online format that is easy to access. They’ll probably find a much wider audience.
Programmatic buying will capture nearly 20% of the display ad spend this year, according to eMarketer, and that’s a number that is growing more quickly than anticipated. In general, display advertising is growing more quickly, thanks to increased demand for mobile ads. Advertisers are becoming more adept at using real time buying systems, attracted to the cost effectiveness and increased targeting capabilities. Meanwhile, as mobile usage continues to expand, publishers are releasing more inventory to the programmatic buying platforms. More buyers, more inventory, more revenue.
Meanwhile Triton Digital continues to announce enhancements to their programmatic exchange for streaming audio advertising, a2x. They recently announced a partnership with Lotame to integrate its unifying data management platform (DMP) into a2x, enabling a2x publishers such as Entercom, CBS, and Univision to to collect, understand and activate audience data from any source, including online, offline and mobile.
Essentially, Triton’s a2x platform is enabling publishers to transform their largely unidentifyable inventory into units that can be targeted and sold as targetable inventory in a real time buying platform. As advertisers and their agencies become more and more interested in platforms that offer greater flexibility in targeting and real time pricing, publishers are wise to have these options in their arsenal. However, as AdAge was quick to note in this article, it’s also smart business to compliment this selling strategy with one that offers custom and sponsored ads that net a higher rate.
Last week CBS Radio introduced Audio Ad Center, a self-serve platform that enables small businesses to promote and target their products and services to their online and mobile radio listeners with customized messaging and creative copy. Small business owners can visit the website to purchase ads to run on any of the online CBS Radio stations. “Streaming audio is a very effective form of advertising and does not have to be limited to the companies with the biggest budgets,” CBS Local Media president Ezra Kucharz added. “With AUDIO ADCENTER, business owners can align themselves with the most trusted radio brands with millions of listeners between them to choose from.”
Innovative online platforms that enable advertisers to easily purchase, track and manage their ad inventory. These are the components that will drive more revenue to streaming audio platforms…
There’s been a lot of news about Rdio lately. Until recently, Rdio was a streaming platform that focused on providing an on-demand library of songs to suit users who like to choose what they want to hear, build playlists, etc.. Kind of like Spotify, except Rdio is a little more aggressive about their subscription model, giving users the chance to use the service free for only a limited time, with various subscriptions available after that.
In August, Rdio announced that they were adding personalized “radio” stations to their offerings, based on the user’s music selections, using “taste profiling” technology from The Echo Nest. This approach enabled Rdio to offer a more “Pandora” like experience to listeners. They began by offering that service, called You FM, free on the web, but just recently announced that it will be available free on mobile devices as well.
They’ve also just announced that their on-demand service is available at half off for college students. Are you confused yet? Wait, there’s more.
Big Radio Broadcaster Cumulus recently announced that they have taken a financial stake in Rdio and will sell all of their advertising. Which will run on the personalized station streams. Now, the actual terms of the deal were not announced, and I’ve heard that no money has changed hands, but apparently Cumulus will own the ad inventory on Rdio’s web based streams – plans are for mobile to remain ad-free. In exchange, Rdio will get access to Cumulus programming, and promotion on its broadcast stations, as well as a network of ad sellers. It’s an innovative deal for both Rdio and Cumulus – Rdio gets a partner that will boost its business prospects, and Cumulus gets a plug and play digital option for its customers, with very little risk.
May they thrive…
comScore has released updated smartphone usage information for August. Pandora is the 9th most trafficked web property among US smartphone users, reaching 43.2% of total US smartphone mobile users over 18. Pandora’s mobile app ranks 8th on the list reaching 43.3%.
145 million people owned smartphones, representing nearly 61% of the population. That’s a number that jumped 3% since the last report in May. Apple is the top smartphone manufacturer, followed by Samsung. Android is the top smartphone platform, with 51.6% of the marketplace, with Apple’s platform at 40.7%.
While some may question the veracity of Pandora’s ratings, there’s no doubt that their reach in the mobile marketplace is huge. Here they sit, on a list of the top 15 sites with the deepest reach among mobile users, along with Google, Facebook and Amazon, and above CBS Interactive and Twitter…
I’ve always known that my friend Sandy Smallens was smart and innovative, so it comes as no surprise that one of the most innovative ideas to come out of Spotify involves him. Smallens is co-producer of the new original content series Spotify Landmark, which is in-depth audio content that provides “the story behind some of the greatest moments in music, told by the people who made them.”
The first series went live in mid-September and tells the back story of the making of Nirvana’s “In Utero” album – to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the making of that album. The series is divided up into short segments, and “each show blends intimate interviews with artists, producers, industry figures and celebrities to create a listening history of legendary albums, concerts and events.”
This is the kind of innovative content that will set a streaming platform apart. Original content can expand that platform’s relationship with listeners as well as artists, benefiting the brand in many ways. It’s also the kind of programming that especially suits Smallens, Spotify’s head of artist marketing and original content and Spotify Landmark’s co-producer, who is both a musician and a natural born marketer with a passion for streaming. I worked with him years back when he was involved in early digital platforms at CBSRadio and then Entercom. It looks like he’s found a great way to spend his time at Spotify…
Amid all the iTunes Radio hype in September came an announcement from Songza that they have secured $4.7 million in funding. Among the investors was Amazon.com, which bought Amie Street, founded by Songza founder Elias Roman, in 2010.
Songza’s not the biggest streaming service, but they’ve been quietly innovative in the past few years, catching my attention a few times. Eric Davich, the other co-founder of Songza, recently joined the Streaming Music Trends panel at RAIN Summit Orlando and turned out to be a great addition, smart and spunky, with plenty of opinions.
Songza will use the new funding to develop its native advertising solution. “With this funding, we’re scaling our native advertising solution to make brand-to-customer interactions more engaging for customers and more successful for brands,” said Elias Roman, co-founder and CEO of Songza.
Songza’s approach to streaming music is to offer music based not on genre or artist, but on activity or mood instead. Going for a run, getting ready for a date, having a party, Songza’s got options for all of those and a lot more. The plan is to develop high impact 7 second ads that work well for both listeners and advertisers within the context of the programming.
Recent info says that Songza has 4.8 million active users. They have 24 million songs in their database, as well as a slick interface and a unique approach. And they’re concentrating on monetizing their audience in a way that benefits advertisers and listeners. All that makes Songza one to keep an eye on. For more, check out an interview that co-founder Elias Roman did on CNBC not too long ago..