Pandora, the darling of the US online radio marketplace, recently rolled out genre stations – format based listening channels that enable fans to simply choose a channel and listen to a professionally programmed stream of music. The channels have been in the background for a while but have recently been given more prominence online. Apparently, Pandora is finding out that some listeners want the simple option. Interactivity may be too much work for some listeners.
“I think there’s a huge percentage of the population that will always love what the Pandora brand stands for, which is an approach where you start with some artist names and song votes and build your own channel.” says Kurt Hanson, Founder and CEO of AccuRadio, an Internet radio service that offers channels that emphasize professional programming and some, but less interactivity. “But there’s another segment of the market — an older segment, more mainstream — that will prefer an approach that doesn’t take as much effort.”
A factor that may be driving Pandora’s new promotion of “genre stations” is the prospect of Internet radio in cars. Pandora has b een leading the industry into automobiles, announcing deals with Ford, Pioneer and Alpine this year. In car listening is the final frontier for Internet radio – the place where broadcast radio dominates and lots of folks tune in. It remains a huge untapped potential for audience growth for Pandora and other Internet radio stations.
Several recent articles have questioned the survival of broadcast radio in the face of Internet radio. In an article last month, the NY Times pointed to the fact that Internet radio stations like Pandora, Slacker and Last.fm allow listeners to customize their listening experience as one reason that Internet radio has grown in popularity with listeners. New devices that enable in-car listening will make listening even easier – Pioneer and Alpine are two manufacturers that have introduced new in-car devices. Other companies have introduced apps that make it easier to use your iPhone to stream your favorite Internet radio station in your car.
Perhaps the most ironic article I have read about the growing challenge that Internet radio presents to traditional AM/FM listening is one in AutoTrader.com, owned by Cox Enterprises – the same company that owns 86 radio stations. The article asks:
“are we witnessing the gradual death of traditional broadcast radio? Far from being shackled to, say, Clear Channel’s corporate playlist or a DJ’s whims, Internet radio stations put users in the driver’s seat and allow them to create unique channels based on criteria such as artist, genre, or song. Yet, a savvy, $4.99 app from Livio Radio, which turns the iPhone into a digital receiver capable of receiving over 42,000 AM/FM and Internet stations, will give users access to more broadcast radio stations than ever before, right down to tiny local stations clear across the country.”
While it’s a little strange that this article appears in a Cox owned publication, the point is right on – if streaming technology is viewed as simply an additional channel to the AM/FM dial, then Internet radio presents not a threat but an opportunity to radio broadcasters. Already in the business of producing audio content, stations now have the opportunity to extend their audience base and increase both listeners and time spent listening on a new channel.
Here’s the thing. Internet radio isn’t going away.
But that doesn’t have to be a threat to broadcasters who are willing to extend their platform and offer streaming as an option to their listeners. The mistake broadcasters make is thinking that they have a choice when it comes to streaming, and proclaim streaming as too expensive. If a station’s listener wants to listen online, and that station is not offering its programming online, they will find another station online to listen to.
Isn’t that a good enough reason to stream?