There’s a lot of buzz about Internet radio in cars at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Pandora is in the middle of most of it. They have announced a deal with Pioneer that will make it easier for Pandora listeners to use their iPhones to listen in their cars. Pioneer will market a Pandora enabled navigation system that will detect iPhones and iTouches and put the user’s Pandora settings on the nav screen. The system will cost about $1200.
Ford announced several new apps for its Sync connected in-car communication system. Openbeak will read twitter messages while you drive (and enable steering wheel controls like skipping forward or going back). Stitcher “allows listeners to create personalized, on-demand Internet radio stations with news, talk and entertainment programming. Within the Stitcher app, users choose the programs they want “stitched” together, and the app then streams that content to the user’s mobile device. Pandora, according to the press release, is ” the most popular Internet radio service in the world. Users simply enter a favorite song or artist into Pandora and the app quickly creates personalized radio stations, based on that musical style.”
Pandora Founder Tim Westergren told WSJ.com “Maybe a year ago people would have said Pandora is a computer thing, Now, “they’re beginning to realize that Internet radio is an anytime, anywhere thing.”
Good news about Pandora at CES wasn’t just about the car though. Sony is debuting a personal Internet viewer called the Dash, which resembles the Chumby, and enables more than 1000 Chumby apps as well as Youtube and Pandora.
Some 30% of mobile phones are smartphones now, and that’s been a boon to streaming music services like Pandora who developed great apps for iPhone and watched them soar to the top of the most downloaded apps list. But what about the 70% of the mobile phones that aren’t smartphones, and aren’t connected to a 3G network via a data plan?
UpSNAP is a mobile platform that offers streamed audio content to mobile phones via a “click to call” option which can easily connect any phone to an audio stream. Here’s how it works: the phone dials out and connects to any streaming channel on the Upsnap platform. The charges are based on the minutes used, so lots of the programming is short form, but can also be longer, especially at night when many phone plans offer unlimited free calling.
It’s basically an alternative mobile platform for stations who want to reach “feature” phone customers according to Tony Phillip, Founder of UpSNAP. The stations themselves promote the offering to their listeners and drive the traffic. The listener can text the name of the station to *xxx, for example, and they get a return text message with a link to click on to listen to the station. The more traffic a station gets, the more impressions they have available.
Upsnap has developed a nice revenue channel around this model as well – Phillip says UpSNAP is the largest direct response network on mobile phones, serving a quarter billion ad impressions a month – revenue that is shared with the station. Setup is free, it scales endlessly, and offers entry into an untapped mobile audience.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that the web is moving to mobile devices. The US mobile web audience grew by 1/3 in a year, according to Nielsen Online. Pandora’s Joe Kennedy recently revealed that Pandora sees half a million listeners a day just on its iPhone and BlackBerry applications, tuning in for an average of an hour and 45 minutes a day. Bill Goldsmith, founder of Radio Paradise, another online station with substantial following, said 8 to 10 percent of his station’s audience is listening on mobile devices.
The new battlefield of online radio is streaming to mobile devices, according to Vincent Grenier, VP of Marketing for Stream The World. With a mobile app, you can build a new environment around your brand and leverage new ways to monetize says Grenier.
Recent studies have shown that consumers are interested in receiving location based advertising on their mobile devices. Restaurants, weather, clearance sales, and pizza all qualify as items consumers would like to hear about on their mobile devices. Delivering locally relevant ads is a perfect fit for radio, says Grenier. “Stations should become a reliable source of information … by providing on-time, on-place advertisements as SMS, direct messages, and displays….delivering mobile alerts as a service. It’s a perfect fit for your local advertisers.”
It’s important for stations to have mobile platforms in place that can deliver audio programming, interactive elements, and advertising. As the mobile audience surges over the next few years, mobile web spending will outpace online ad spending. Radio – particularly online radio, is poised to grow exponentially as a medium that is as mobile as the devices themselves. It’s never been more important to have a mobile strategy to take advantage of this imminent growth.
Flycast is a lot more than a mobile platform for streaming Internet radio stations. According to their press release this week, deploying Internet radio content on the mobile web is just a piece of what their technology is built for. Their new ADdapt platform was built for radio and video content broadcasters, musicians, labels, sports entities and distribution networks, concert promoters and other pay per event content and advertisers seeking branded channels/apps.
This new Flycast platform can create branded mobile destination websites and apps for mobile devices and provide ad management services like insertion, trafficking and reporting. More sophisticated technological goodies include a mobile personal media recorder (PMR) and time shifting capabilities.
Flycast’s ad platform enables delivery of audio, video and various display ad formats. Other monetization options include site sponsorships, content subscription services (one-time or renewing), pay per event/pay per view services, app sales, in-app upgrade sales (freemium concept) and product and content sales. They have also integrated Google’s DoubleClick DART for Publishers platform for trafficking and reporting our ad insertions.
Flycast is redefining itself as more than a radio-specific streaming mobile platform, which is a fine thing. There’s been a trend among broadcasters to do business only with vendors that were willing to spoon feed radio packaged technology to the stations. It’s nice to hear a vendor assimilate streaming radio stations with many types of entertainment content providers instead.
The mobile web audience grew by a third in the past year. Global mobile advertising is expected to climb 19% to $3.3 billion in 2010. And that’s before it accelerates in 2011. It’s a good time for Flycast to introduce a revenue focused mobile solution, and a good time for stations to rev up their streaming mobile strategy.
Flycast’s mobile broadcast platform seems to be getting better and better. Last week they announced “the next stage of their evolution” with advanced station caching capabilities. This means that listeners will be able to continue to listen to their selected stations even when they are not connected – such as on planes, trains, or even, as the announcement says, on submarines or African safaris!
It’s clever, sophisticated technology too – the stations cache wirelessly, so you don’t have to be “tethered via USB” to use the caching function. Caching and playing a station also uses less battery than streaming, (an appealing feature for those of us that know how quickly streaming depletes battery life on iphones).
All of this new technology does come with a price – Flycast is offering a trial period, and then pricing per device, which seems pretty reasonable, given that the original mobile app is free: Users will be able to try the station caching for 7 days, after which they will be able to purchase the 5 hour cache version for a one-time fee of $9.95 and the 20 hour cache version for $19.95. This fee is good for the life of the device.
Flycast has added some other features that should be attractive to their broadcast partners, such as the ability to offer premium content for micro payments, some new, cooler player features, and more.
Kudos to Flycast for their new launch. The caching feature is great – and I love the way they’re monetizing it, offering a free standard version and a paid one with significant upgrades. These improvements should bring them continued placement in top ten lists like this one for best free Blackberry apps…
The New York Times’ Bob Tedeschi recently wrote an article comparing his experience listening to Pandora and Slacker on a Blackberry Storm and an Apple iPhone – the goal being to compare the music services, rather than the phones. Slacker won for several good reasons that are a quick lesson in what listeners are looking for in mobile streaming services.
Slacker has 2.4 million songs in its library, which “dwarfs Pandora’s roughly 700,000” says Tedeschi. Both Pandora and Slacker offered up personalized music channels based on the selection of a single artist or song, and then refined those channels as the user indicated likes and dislikes of songs as they played.
Slacker offers the ability to download an entire station onto the Blackberry’s SD card, for listening without a cell connection. Atechnology that Pandora does not have. Both services offered easy ways to click and purchase songs.
Slacker’s sound quality was better, mainly due to the fact that Pandora adjusts sound quality to the user connection, minimizing sound files when the user is connected to 3G or 2G, and expanding them for wifi connections. But there’s a cost associated with that for Slacker…the better sound quality results in battery drain, whereas Pandora “hummed along happily”.
There are pros and cons for each service, and they’re both pretty good. But the takeaway here is that user awareness of mobile streaming technologies is expanding. Services that offer good user experiences are already out there and catering to the listeners. Want to play in the mobile streaming game? Make sure your platform and interface can keep up and keep your listeners happy…
Last week there was lots of industry buzz about Microsoft’s Zune adding HD Radio technology. Broadcasters saw this move as 1) an indication of growing interest in HD Radio technology, and 2) as a move that would help raise awareness and build audience for HD Radio. While the move may very well build audience, the Microsoft Zune isn’t exactly flying off the shelves and it won’t be the savior for digital radio. As I wrote in an article last week, Zune and HD Radio are kind of made for each other – both are weakish technologies that aren’t cutting it against competing alternatives.
This week’s big news is that Apple will not follow Microsoft’s lead and put an FM radio in the new iPhone. Why would they? Apple is all about the Internet. They sell music via the Internet, and watched a streaming radio app (Pandora) reach the top position as the most popular iPhone app last year. Pandora’s iPhone app is selling lots of music downloads as well.
I doubt that Apple’s wireless partner AT&T, and soon other carriers are very interested in FM Radio capabilities. They want people loving their mobile broadband connectivity. This new iPhone will have faster connections, a video camera, and – my favorite – a fingerprint resistant case.
I worry that the stories reporting that Apple’s not building FM radio into the new iPhone are indicators of the kind of blind, wishful thinking that broadcasters have engaged in for too long already. Getting HD Radio onto Microsoft’s Zune was a nice win, but I don’t think it’s an indicator that digital radio is about to take off.
Apple isn’t about to put an FM tuner on the iPhone, HD Radio isn’t about to take off, and Internet radio is where it’s at. Broadcasters that can focus on that fact are the ones that will flourish.
Flycast, a mobile broadcast streaming platform, has launched a new ad platform that can target ads by various criteria such as gender, age, location, and even mobile device. More importantly, Flycast announced that their ad serving platform will utilize Doubleclick‘s ad services platform. Doubleclick (owned by Google) is one of the digital industry’s most widely used ad serving and accounting platforms. Doubleclick’s ad serving and reporting platform, called DART, is widely used and accepted by interactive agencies.
Flycast says that through it’s platform, mobile ads can be delivered to anyone, anywhere, anytime. They offer audio ads and display ads, and offer ad opportunities on “three of the most popular smartphone platforms – the Apple iPhone, the new BlackBerrys (Curve, Bold and Storm) and the T-Mobile G1.”
Their newly announced mobile ad platform integrates some advanced listener features as well, like allowing users to continue to listen to a station even during extended periods without a connection; the ability to skip back to early segments or the beginning of news, talk and sports radio shows, skip to the next song on certain webcast stations and pause on all stations. The BlackBerry smartphone version of FlyCast supports background play, allowing users to listen while they use their handset for other functions, and also supports playback through Bluetooth® stereo headsets.
All of this sounds pretty nifty to me, and certainly makes the Flycast streaming mobile ad platform a nice option for stations that are looking for a way to make their streams interesting to mobile listeners and monetize the impressions.
Blackberry chose Slacker, Best Buy picked Napster – recently there has been some interesting movement with major brands preparing to offer dedicated music services with their devices.
Blackberry devices will have a Slacker player and access to Slacker’s services. Slacker offers 100 channels of programmed internet radio, along with the ability to personalize your experience by rating songs. They’ve been portable for a while with their own device, but this agreement with Blackberry will greatly expand the service. It’s unclear whether Blackberry shares ad revenue with Slacker in this deal, but I suspect they get something for handing over all those listeners.
Best Buy announced this week that they plan to purchase Napster with plans to offer the service, with music downloads and Internet radio, along with all the portable devices that they sell. Napster’s a questionable partner, the name once belonged to the very popular illegal music download site, and was reborn when Roxio bought the name and created a legal service. According to the LATimes, Napster recently posted a quarterly loss and said its subscriber base shrank to 703,000 from 760,000. Revenue fell 6% to $30.3 million. So Best Buy pays $121 million for a familiar but tarnished name that’s losing money. The upside for Best Buy is that they already sell LOTS of portable devices, so why not channel the use of those devices into traffic they can benefit from.
Portable devices are a promised land for Internet radio, and the folks who make and sell those devices see that. With Blackberry and Best Buy pushing audience to Internet radio, awareness of the medium will grow, audience will grow. Listeners may start out listening within the walled garden that their devices put up, but they’ll also discover how to listen to other online services.