Category Archives: devices

What Do Listeners Want?

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I was recently asked to weigh in on radio’s future for a “crowdsourced” speech at RadioInk’s Convergence Conference. Here is what I wrote:

In 5-10 years the term “radio” will encompass all audio content that is distributed as continuous programming and delivered via various technologies including broadcast, satellite, and streaming. Radio devices will receive such programming from all of these sources seamlessly, so there will be less and less focus on which technology is delivering it. The listener will select programming from a list of presets that shows broadcast radio next to streaming radio next to satellite choices.

As they are empowered by more and more choices, the consumer will become more selective and less tolerant of mediocre programming. It will be the content offerings rather than the technologies that draw in the listener.

With so many listening options, listeners will be less tolerant of ad content that offers them no value. This will further cheapen mass appeal advertising, but it will drive the use of more targeted, relevant ad creative. Free, ad-supported stations will obtain permission from listeners who will opt to receive targeted, relevant ads. Those ads will be more valuable to them and will show a higher return on investment for the advertiser.

The ability for listeners to interact with and respond to programming and advertising will become critical, stations and advertisers will develop more and better ways to do this such as sms and online 1-click solutions that make it as easy for listeners to respond to an ad as it is to give a song “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

I’m thinking more and more these days about the large number of listening choices that consumers now have and the way that that will impact just about everything in the future. Listeners are empowered and can choose exactly what they want to listen to, on what technology and device, and how they want to hear it. I think the winning platforms will be the ones that recognize that. What do you think?

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Sales Of Internet Radio Home Devices Projected to Rise

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New info from Strategy Analytics reports that Connected Home Audio Devices sales will top $1 billion this year. Total unit sales grew by 57% in 2010 to 3.3 million.

Total active, installed units was 7.4 million by the end of 2010, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in that number. The report summary reports that the total active installed base is expected to exceed 40 million units by 2015.

“While we now have plenty of electronic devices that can play music files and stream Internet audio content, a dedicated and easy-to-use Internet audio device still has its room in the home” says Jia Wu, Senior Analyst of Connected Home Devices at Strategy Analytics. “It is a niche market, but being equipped with touch screens and Internet capability, the new generation home audio devices appeal to a decent amount of consumers that love Internet radio programs and streaming music content.”

Typical customers are young and male, similar to buyers of other electronics products. Current pricing in the category of Connected Home Audio Devices is to high for it to become a mainstream product category, but growing competition in pricing should drive the price down and sales up.

Arbitron Tells Broadcasters Digital Opportunity is Big

Radio is not in decline, it’s expanding, and that represents an enormous opportunity, according to Arbitron‘s SVP Paul Krasinski. Krasinski and SVP Bill Rose presented results of their recently updated Infinite Dial Study at RAIN Summit West last week and encouraged broadcasters to recognize the opportunity that digital distribution offers.

With 86% of the 12+ population connected to broadband and one-third of consumers owning a smartphone, it’s a different world. Embracing the fact that radio’s audience is distributed beyond the broadcast is key to future success. Access to audio has changed, has radio changed? asked Krasinski.

Online radio’s audience is expanding, with 89 million listening last month. And 89% of those listeners listen to both broadcast and online radio. Krasinski urged the crowd to alter their view of “audience” and see it across all of radio’s channels. In that regard, the audience is growing. With that growth comes a responsibility to offer great content to listeners.

A key component for radio will be developing innovative solutions for advertisers that enable them to use and measure the effectiveness across these distributed channels. Over the past few months we’ve heard hints that Arbitron is planning to step back into streaming measurement and while they have not announced anything yet, it sounds like it will be a product that enables stations to aggregate audiences from distributed channels. While their PPM product does measure streaming now, it only measures such for stations that simulcast 100% of the time, meaning that stations that sell streaming ads separately from over the air ads don’t qualify. Whether this will change is unclear.

The streaming audience measurement game is stepping up its pace – with the recent accreditation of Webcast Metrics and Arbitron beginning to talk about new plans for the space, more and better options are available to stations, which is bound to be good for the industry.

Blackberry’s New Radio App Offers Slacker, iheartradio and more

Blackberry has introduced a new radio app for its mobile devices that is innovative in that it’s not dedicated to a certain music service. Instead, the new app gives users easy listening access to a variety of music services and platforms. Clear Channel’s iheartradio, Slacker, and Corus stations are included in the Beta.

This is exactly the kind of app a manufacturer should be offering to its users – one that makes it easy for them to see, select and listen to anything they want.

In the absence of an organization to lead the way with integrating apps and devices with stations, that job has been left to leading brands like Clear Channel and Pandora. And while it’s certainly a great thing that they are doing – both with cars as well as mobile devices – ultimately what ends up in cars and on smartphones needs to give consumers access to all rather than a limited list of stations. I don’t mean to imply that it’s entirely selfless on the part of Clear Channel or Pandora, certainly they benefit from early branding and driving more listeners to their streams. But what consumers will ultimately want is the ability to choose their own preferences from a portal that offers all the choices. Something more like RadioTime’s TuneIn app.

Blackberry’s new app takes a step in the right direction by offering several brands. I suspect we’ll see them open it up even more..

Podcasting Growth Slows to a Crawl

70 million Americans have listened to or watched a downloaded podcast, according to a recently updated report by Edison Research: The Current State of Podcasting. That’s 23% of the population, a number that’s increased just one percent from a year ago.

Awareness of podcasting is sitting steady at 45%, up just slightly from last year’s 43%. That’s not the kind of growth that inspires hope that the medium will spread like wildfire. Podcast listening and/or viewing just hasn’t gone mobile – 71% of people who listen to podcasts do so on their desktop and that number has actually increased from last year, according to the study. 

So while cell phone usage has soared, podcasting usage has gotten stuck on the desktop, which is one possible explanation for the stagnant growth of the audience. Smartphone streaming has made downloading audio files for listening on mobile phones unnecessary.

It looks like streaming is taking a bite out of podcasting at this point. Online radio’s audience is 70 million monthly (Arbitron/Edison’s Infinite Dial Study).

Podcast consumers tend to be early adopters and social networkers, according to the study. They tend to respond to sponsor ads – 71% said they had visited a website because of an ad they had seen or heard in a podcast.

With wifi and 3G, and soon 4G access more readily available to consumers who want to stream and listen on demand, it’s looking more and more like podcasting is an interim audio technology that has limited long term audience growth because it’s replaceable by audio streaming.

Santa’s Shopping List

Pile of gorgeous gifts

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If you’re trying to think of a creative gift for someone this Christmas, streaming devices could be the way to go. Everyone’s buzzing about Pandora, and I find that when the topic comes up most people are interested in hearing about other ways to listen as well. Here’s a rundown of some options that are getting nice reviews.

Livio Radio. These radios are essentially plug and play Internet radio devices. You turn them on, they find the Internet and in a few minutes you’re streaming your favorite station. Pick a model that’s branded for Pandora or NPR, or one that isn’t (either way you can tune in thousands of stations). CNET and others give it high marks.

Chumby. This cute cube is really an Internet radio and more – it’s actually a tabletop internet ready device, designed to be a digital photo frame and alarm clock that also allows you to listen online, check news and weather, watch videos, play games. Sony liked it so much they licensed its dashboard for their own Sony Dash.

Motorola T505. How about a bluetooth device that enables streaming from your iPhone to your fm car radio? There are several, my husband uses this one and cancelled his Sirius XM subscription over a year ago with no regrets. Now he streams Pandora and other stations to his car stereo with this device. It clips to your visor, tells you where to tune in, and is very easy to use.

Apple TV. In case you haven’t read about Apple’s new AirPlay technology, it’s all about sending streams from handheld devices to home stereo equipment and it’s getting a lot of praise. The Apple TV costs just 99 bucks and it’s getting great reviews for easily connecting your iPhone, iTouch, iPad to your television or home stereo.

Give streaming music to everyone this year – it’s a hot gift that will make them happy and grow the user base at the same time…

In the interest of full disclosure I’d like to point out that I work with Livio Radio as a consultant. And I listen to one too!

Study: More Youth Listen to Pandora than all other Internet streams combined

There was a lot of great content at the Radio Show produced by RAB and NAB last week in DC, not the least of which was the sold out RAIN Summit which took place the afternoon before the Radio Show actually started, as an official partner event of the show. You can read RAIN’s coverage of the event here.

One excellent presentation during the Radio Show was Edison Research‘s American Youth Study 2010, which is “a significant survey of the media and technology habits of America’s 12-24 year-olds, and represents a sequel to a study originally conducted by Edison in 2000.” Sponsored by publication Radio-Info, the study looks at the media use behaviors of 12-24 year olds, and updates the behaviors of the demographic originally studied in 2000 – 22-34 year olds.

Some of the findings, bulleted:

  • Radio continues to be the medium most often used for music discovery, with 51% of 12-24 year-olds reporting that they “frequently” find out about new music by listening to the radio. Other significant sources include friends (46%), YouTube (31%) and social networking sites (16%).
  • 20% of 12-24s have listened to Pandora in the last month, with 13% indicating usage in the past week. By comparison, 6% of 12-24s indicated they have listened to online streams from terrestrial AM/FM stations in the past week.
  • More than four in five 12-24s own a mobile phone in 2010 (up from only 29% in 2000). 40% have used their phones to listen to music stored on their phones.

The American Youth Study 2010 by Edison Research

Best Buy’s New Internet Radio Device

I’m a fan of Chumby – mainly because of its name. Chumbys are tabletop internet radios and a lot more – they’re actually tabletop internet ready devices, designed to be a digital photo frame and alarm clock that also allows you to listen online, check news and weather, watch videos, play games.

Last year Sony licensed their unique dashboard for its Sony Dash. Now Best Buy has a new device – the Infocast – which uses the Chumby dashboard as well. Its on Best Buy’s house label Insignia, sells for $169, and would make a downright smart conversation starter on the desks of Internet radio executives. It looks more than a little like an iPad if you ask me.

The Infocast has an 8 inch touchscreen that is larger than the Chumby or Sony Dash screens. It has access to Pandora and Shoutcast, New York Times, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Photobucket. It even has a sharing feature that enables folks to share apps, photos and more with friends that have similar devices.

CNET calls it a best of breed, and I’m thinking it sounds like a winner for tech savvy family members this Christmas.

Pandora: We have 60 Million Users

Yesterday Pandora announced that they have hit another benchmark with 60 million registered users. Wow! Last December they announced that they had hit 40 million and then in April they hit 50 million. Now, not even 3 months later they’ve added another 10 million.

Pandora’s ubiquity is no doubt responsible for their amazing growth. Their iPhone app is enormously popular, and they’re also on Android, Blackberry, and other mobile devices. They launched an iPad app almost as soon as that device hit the market. They have a deal with Facebook that has given them enormous exposure and reach to a new group of potential listeners. They’re on Roku, which puts Internet radio on your television, lots of wifi enabled tabletop devices, and will soon be in new cars as well.

So no, they’re not done. Not nearly.

This is all great news for Internet radio. Pandora is the darling of Internet radio and the service that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. These days, lots of people are learning about online radio by listening to Pandora. But there’s plenty of room in the pool for more stations and services who are interested in building an audience by giving listeners more of what they want to hear.

Congratulations Pandora, well done indeed!

MP3tunes Sets Your Music Free

Michael Robertson thinks people should be able to listen to their digital music anywhere on any device. That’s exactly what MP3tunes sets out to do.

Robertson, the founder of MP3tunes, is a huge advocate of cloud based music services. He’s no stranger to the vengeance that record labels have when it comes to protecting digital song copyright law (as they define it.) In fact, he’s actually taken it on the chin before against the record companies – in the late 90’s he founded MP3.com, which he eventually sold to CNET after losing an expensive legal battle with Universal. His new service MP3tunes is currently involved in a lawsuit with EMI over copyright infringement issues.

“I think ownership is critical important in the digital age and worth fighting for.” said Robertson. “I think consumers should be able to choose where they want to use their digital property as they can with their physical property. I don’t want a corporation to be able revoke or limit access – as we’ve seen happening with Apple and Amazon.”

MP3tunes currently has over 500,000 registered users who upload their entire music collection to servers and access it from wherever they want. MP3tunes works on multiple smartphones platforms: Android, iPhone/iTouch, (iPad version waiting for approval) and many Internet radio devices (it’s compatible with devices that use vTuner and Reciva firmware.) This week they’ll introduce a deal with Roku that will enable access to music lockers on televisions.

Currently, the business model is a freemium model that offers listeners smaller sized lockers for free and charge a subscription fee for more storage space. But additional revenue sources like e-commerce and advertising may be in the cards as well.

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