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.
Bubba The Love Sponge has left satellite radio in favor of Internet radio. In case you’re inclined to downplay this news due to Bubba’s renegade reputation, I’ll say that I think this is big news for Internet radio.
Bubba The Love Sponge was a well known and highly fined shock jock of the Howard Stern genre. In 2004 he was fired for indecency, soon after to end up at Sirius XM where he hosted the #2 show after Stern’s for years. In 2008 he reappeared on broadcast radio in several markets, that show also continued to air on Sirius XM. Unhappy with the terms of his contract renewal at Sirius XM, Bubba left the satellite station at the end of 2010 and announced to his listeners that he would begin streaming his show on Radioio on January 3rd.
Few, if any, radio personalities with a following the size of Bubba’s (reported to be around 3 million) have made such a move. Bubba has earned bragging rights as an Internet radio pioneer. But he says it wasn’t a risky move given the way Internet radio is growing. More people have smartphones than satellite radios, he points out, so more people can listen to Internet radio than Sirius XM, and more potential listeners for his show.
“The way to deliver content changes by the minute” Bubba said during my phone conversation with him. “While this may seem revolutionary today, tomorrow it won’t.”
Content distribution is what Bubba The Love Sponge is really focused on. He’s been producing and distributing his own content – to Sirius XM and a small number of broadcast stations – for several years. Was there a deal that would have kept BTLS with Sirius XM? Not exclusively. “No amount they could have offered would have kept me off of Radioio,” he says.
Bubba has been watching Internet radio and Radioio closely for years. It was in 2004 that he first met with management from the station. At the time, his friend and mentor Randy Michaels advised him to sit back for awhile. BTLS’s agent Tom Bean is also the CEO of Radioio, something that came about as a result of Bubba’s early interest in the station.
The Bubba The Love Sponge show is available now on Radioio for free. In March, Radioio will add an additional second channel of Bubba programming – one will stream a free rebroadcast of the show produced for terrestrial radio and the second will offer an exclusive, unregulated version to subscribers for $9.99 a month.
“We view this launch as the next evolution in Internet Radio,” said Thomas Bean, CEO of IO World Media. Radioio Founder and Consultant Mike Roe calls it a historic event for the medium. I have to say I agree. With this move, Bubba becomes the first major radio personality to move his programming and huge and passionate audience online. While I can’t say I’ll be listening, I’ll definitely be watching…
There’s buzz around the Internet that Howard Stern will leave Sirius XM at the end of his $500 million contract at the end of this year. Stern has hinted at ending his run with Sirius and turning to the Internet as his next frontier. He’s not alone. Dr. Laura Schlessinger recently announced she will leave terrestrial radio at the end of the year and has hinted that she may head for an Internet based audio platform where she can “say what’s on her mind”.
Howard Stern is arguably the most popular, most listened to radio personality ever. His move to satellite radio revved up Sirius and enabled them to eventually win the battle against XM and gobble them up.
Rumors that he’ll move his show to Internet radio next are exciting. Internet radio could provide a multi-media platform that would be entirely compatible with his larger than life image. Imagine Howard Stern apps, streams, in-studio videos, side channel audio and video programming, all wrapped into one online platform.
If he’s smart, and I think he is, he’s not just thinking about an audio stream, he’s thinking about how his audio show gets unleashed from corporate control and becomes a mega brand, a huge online destination the likes of which Internet radio has yet to see. Yeah, I think Howard Stern would be good for Internet radio. And Internet radio would be good for Howard…
In the UK radio listening is booming. Radio listening in the UK has reached an all time high of 46.5 million adults, or 90.6% of the UK population (15+), according to new data released by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research).
AT&T has launched a new mobile music platform that delivers “song and album downloads, streaming radio, song match, lyric search and an enhanced music player – into a single, cohesive experience for AT&T mobile phones.” AT&T will charge customers $6.99 a month on top of a data plan fee, with song and album purchases charged a la carte.
The service will extend streaming music capabilities to “quick messaging phones”, also sometimes called feature phones, or non-smartphones. It’s currently available on three popular devices – LG Xenon, Samsung Solstice and Samsung Impression. It will soon be available for downloads on other phones and AT&T will begin pre-loading it on new devices this summer.
AT&T has clearly identified streaming music as a popular application for mobile devices, and created this platform to offer customers who are not using smartphones those capabilities. I’m sure they’re hoping those customers will see a good reason to purchase unlimited data plans so they can stream.
Meanwhile, Nielsen recently reported that smartphones will overtake other mobile devices by the end of next year as more and more customers choose to upgrade. The use of Wi-Fi increases from 5% for feature phone owners to 50% for smartphone users because smartphones give users more ways to utilize a broadband connection. Now AT&T has created a platform that enables feature phone customers with some of those capabilities.
Meanwhile, it’s all a good thing for the growing Internet radio audience…
Radio is well positioned for a transition to a digital future, according to a new study by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. Radio has the ability to maintain and grow its audience through several digital audio platforms and is doing a better job than other traditional media such as television, newspapers and magazines.
Radio is on its way to becoming a new medium called Audio, according to this study. Listeners are tuning in via many channels including Internet radio, podcasts and satellite radio, which are contributing audience growth. Not all newer digital audio technologies are growing audience however — the study notes that HD Radio continues to struggle both with the lack of audience and a static number of stations converting to the HD platform of delivery.
Radio is experiencing an “intriguing fragmentation” across other audio platforms, which are also providing broadcasters with opportunities to grow revenue. Over the next five years, Internet radio and mobile revenues will continue to increase.
The main focus of the study is the impact of new media on news, and the appetite for radio news is dropping on AM/FM stations. But 24% of adults 18+ indicated they had listened to a newscast online – either streamed or downloaded. A stated conclusion is that the slow increase in online listening corresponds to a simultaneous loss of broadcast radio audience.
All of this emphasizes the wisdom of broadcasters who are distributing their audio content across multiple channels. It’s more important than ever to strategically develop a diverse digital audio platform that feeds the digital audio audience’s diverse appetite.
Online radio industry magazine Radio Business Report recently polled key network radio supervisors around the country to get their perspective on the 2010 upfront. RBR’s Carl Marcucci asked each person to discuss their ad spends on streaming/digital media as well, and those answers were very upbeat.
Horizon’s Maja Mijatovic, who spends for Geico as well as other clients, gave the most positive feedback, saying her agency’s spend will be “much stronger than 2009. Sellers have been working diligently in providing interesting solutions which in turn peaked agency/clients’ interest. Overall bringing more accountability to the overall audio buy. Excellent job on the part of the sellers.” OMD’s Natalie Swed Stone noted that dollars from that shop will increase as it (Internet radio) “becomes more mainstream.” Kim Vasey of MediaEdge and Eileen Casey of Zenith both indicated that spending levels will increase to match a growing audience and more digital offerings.
I contacted Brian Benedik of Katz360, one of the firms responsible for developing Internet radio dollars at these agencies, to get his perspective on network radio dollars moving to Internet radio. He said they’re definitely seeing a move to invest more dollars into online radio. “They have seen the growth on the consumer side,… the emerging mobile audio consumption… It’s become more mainstream and they want their clients aligned with it,” says Benedik, adding that some network buyers who have been reluctant to put dollars into Internet radio earlier are influenced by what others are doing as well as by their clients’ interest.
Satellite radio and HD Radio did not fare so well in Marcucci’s poll. While some indicated that spends on satellite radio will remain the same next year, no one showed much interest in investing in HD Radio, with Swed Stone noting that it “hasn’t achieved critical mass.”
Internet radio has taken several giant steps this year, including arriving at a uniform standard for audience measurement that makes it easier for agencies to recommend it. At the same time, the medium benefited from the leap of streaming radio to mobile devices such as iPhone and Blackberry, increasing public awareness and interest, and grabbing the attention of advertisers and their agencies. Combined with years of groundwork, these factors have provided momentum that should help grow the flow of dollars to Internet radio.
According to a Marketwatch report this morning, Satellite company EchoStar, which owns Dish Network, is buying up Sirius XM debt, prompting speculation of a takeover. The report summarizes the severe negative impact that the poor economy, drastic drop in automotive sales, and competition from iPod and Internet radio as the difficulties that the newly merged Sirius XM faces. EchoStar would be looking for an additional revenue source to its existing satellite television product, and could enjoy some efficiencies by combining two satellite companies and sharing assets and operations.
A recent survey of consumers found that satellite radio was considered to be a luxury expense that was highly expendable – more than 90% of those asked said they would eliminate it along with high end handbags, housecleaning services and facials. The same survey found that 80% of those asked considered Internet service essential and would not cut it, and 60% said the same for cable television service.
As the future for satellite radio continues to look bleak, Internet radio appears to sitting safe and pretty, poised for audience and revenue growth in 2009.