Last week in an interview with CNET, Michael Robertson talked about how his TiVo-for-radio service DAR.fm is good for the radio industry. DAR.fm lets subscribers record shows from a listing of 5000 stations and 20,000 programs. Those shows are then streamed or downloaded to a personalized list of devices.
Robertson’s goal is to build a better distribution platform to keep radio relevant. No stranger to the idea of ruffling a few feathers, Robertson is well known to the industry as the guy that built MP3.com and got sued by all the major record labels for copyright infringement. He later sold the service to Vivendi Universal for $385 million.
Now Robertson’s pursuing his vision with DAR.fm, focusing on the intersection of technology and the radio industry. “It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens in the radio business over the next three to five years,” Robertson said last week in an interview with CNET. “This is a car accident waiting to happen. You have traditional broadcast radio, Sirius XM (satellite radio), and the Internet start-ups such as Pandora. They are all approaching the audio business with different assets, different royalty structures, and they’re going to realize that they’re all in the same business. They think of themselves as separate right now but everything is going IP.”
On April 15th RAIN Summit West will take place in Las Vegas and host an entire day of interesting conversations about topics like this. Michael Robertson will participate on a panel called The Streaming Music Landscape. Other interesting panels include Innovating the News/Talk Format Online, Personalizable Radio, Charting Digital Audio Ad Dollars, and others. You can get a look at the complete agenda here. See you there!
Michael Robertson is one of the most active entrepreneurs in the digital audio space. He’s started, funded and sold several online companies, including digital music company mp3.com to Vivendi/Universal, and VOIP/telecom Gizmo5 to Google. He’s the founder and CEO of mp3Tunes, a cloud based music storage and streaming service.
Now Robertson has launched a new business aimed at listeners who want to timeshift online listening. DAR.fm is a service that allows listeners to store audio from their favorite Internet radio streams via its Digital Audio Recorder, and then stream it back on demand. Users can schedule using just a web browser and then listen from a PC, iPhones, Android, internet radios and other devices. There is currently a list of 600 stations to choose from, no doubt this will expand as the service gains traction.
“Radio hasn’t changed much in 100 years and young people are listening to radio less.” says Robertson. “My hope is that DAR.fm modernizes radio by making it on demand, interactive and available on more than just your am/fm devices.” He adds that this is an “alpha” service that may “stop working or behave oddly” while they are fine-tuning the service.
Robertson is right – making traditional radio more flexible for listening could have a revolutionary impact on radio listening. A tool like this could essentially give listeners some of the control that online only stations have been able to build into their platforms. Broadcasters in particular could benefit – since their streams are often simple retransmissions of their over the air broadcasts and don’t offer listeners any interactive options, adding the ability to skip, playback and pause the recorded material.
There is one twist – while the service itself is legal, there’s a part of the DMCA that prevents streaming stations that use the webcasting compulsory license from promoting the recording of their streams. This was probably adopted, as were many of the other DMCA restrictions on streaming, to make it harder to slice up the streams into song segments – to prevent digital piracy (though, these days, there sure are easier ways to pirate songs if one is so inclined). It shouldn ‘t mean that Robertson and DAR.fm can’t operate or listeners can’t use the service, but it could impede stations from promoting it. Which would be a shame since it’s an interesting tool that could grow audience. On the other hand, perhaps the record labels will understand this and let it be…
Digital music sales grew globally by 6 percent last year to $4.6Billion. That number accounts for 29% of record company revenues around the globe. According to a new report by IFPI, consumer choice for accessing music via digital channels continued to grow in 2010. It’s recently released Digital Music Study makes a very clear case that digital music piracy has stifled and eroded the music industry.
Case studies included in the presentation cite examples such as in France, where government regulation, awareness campaigns, and even subsidized legal downloads have made headway in lowering the amount of piracy and stemmed the loss of revenues, and in Spain where a once flourishing and highly creative music scene has gone the other way, with nearly half the residents using illegal download sites to obtain music and fewer and fewer new artists are emerging.
The study calls for government action in the form of ISP regulation, consumer awareness campaigns and content protection. It’s an interesting read – certainly worthwhile for anyone hoping to do business in the online music marketplace. You can access the summary and download the study here.
NOTE: I made a major error in this analysis, failing to see that the Ando chart represents total listening hours in a week (in millions), not average time spent listening per week. My apologies and thanks to Larry Johnson of Paragon Media Strategies for bringing it to my attention. I then looked around to see if I could provide any data comparing TSL of broadcast to TSL of Internet radio. It turns out that AndoMedia’s monthly rankers provide TSL per session, but not TSL per week, which is what Arbitron makes available in its Radio Today Study.
Listeners to broadcast radio spend about 15 hours per week listening, according to Arbitron‘s 2009 Radio Today Study.
Most Internet radio stations measured by AndoMedia see listeners average sessions lasting 1-2 hours, although that does not factor in how many sessions they are logging per week and so cannot be compared to the data above.
Although it’s remarkably close in time spent listening to both platforms, that listening takes place in very different locations, with most online listening occurring at home and work, and most broadcast listening taking place in the car, followed by home, other, and work.
While broadcasters gathered in DC last week, digital folks were in NYC at the Interactive Advertising Bureau‘s annual MIXX Conference, part of Ad Week in that city. (It’s a shame that the two events are at the same time.) During their event, the IAB released its “Digital Audio Advertising Overview” Platform Status Report, a first ever effort by that organization to define the digital audio space and make it easier for digital advertisers to understand it.
The document “defines the digital audio category and provides a snapshot of the marketplace audience size and demographics as well as outlining the players in the market, the vehicles currently used to deliver content and advertising formats, and some of the most important metrics for measuring success.” It’s a white paper that provides a nice overview of Internet radio in terms of audience and measurement, ad opportunities and standards. While the report calls itself an overview of the digital audio space, in fact it concentrates solely on Internet radio – I saw no references to podcasting, on demand streaming, HD, or any other types of what I consider to be audio of the digital variety.
The paper provides research from Nielsen, Bridge Ratings, AndoMedia as well as Edison Research/Arbitron’s comprehensive annual Infinite Dial Study to define the market size, provide listening data and identify the ad units typically available. It also lists major advertisers such as Chevrolet, Ford, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, American Express and Home Depot (the list is longer), and includes a case study of OnStar on the Katz Online Network as well as Pandora.
With this white paper the IAB, the main ad association for the digital market, is finally acknowledging digital audio as a digital ad option for advertisers, so it’s a great thing. With all due respect to those involved, it’s long overdue. While there is little that’s new in the report, it’s all pulled together very succinctly into a credible presentation that sellers can use to educate advertisers. It should be particularly useful with digital ad agencies who have been slow to spend on Internet radio. Having the IAB stamp of approval means a lot.
Congrats to Brian Benedik of Katz360 and Andy Lipset of TargetSpot, co-chairs of the IAB’s digital audio committee, and the companies that are on the committee: AndoMedia, Google, Clear Channel Radio, Comcast, comScore, Cox Cross Media, ESPN, Pandora Media, and others. Hats off for a job well done.
You can download the report here.