Yesterday Pandora added some levity to its lineup, by adding 10,000 clips by 700 comedians to its offerings. The clips will be available in much the same way that songs are – searchable by artist, genome coded so that listeners can indicate some preferences and then get personalized suggestions for similar artists.
Clips that I sampled were coded for featuring anecdotes, satirical observations, 2000s era comedy, jokes about personal relationships, male perspectives, sexual jokes, jokes about government, and sarcastic delivery.
Also added are new Comedy genre channels, ranging from Today’s Comedy to Golden Oldies Comedy and lots in between – 12 new comedy channels in all. Pandora Founder Tim Westergren told The New York Times that “this is a logical step under the umbrella of personalized radio.” The launch comes complete with advertising sponsors – the free comedy streams will be supported by two Unilever brands with a penchant for comedic advertising: Klondike bars and Axe male grooming products.
All of the clips appear to be sound recordings, and thus are covered by DMCA performance royalties. That means that there’s no savings to Pandora when a listener chooses a comedy clip over a song, is is sometimes the case with talk programming.
Pandora’s not the first to offer comedy channels to its listeners. Slacker Radio has had comedy available for a while and offers two comedy channels as well as custom, user created comedy channels such as Prank Call Radio. Slacker’s most popular comedy station ranks in the top ten among their more than 140 curated (or genre) stations. “As we have had great success over the past 4+ years delivering curated and personalized comedy stations to our listeners, it comes as no surprise that Pandora is making an entrance here.” according to Jonathan Sasse, SVP Marketing. Slacker is planning soon to launch hosted stations by leading comedians to further extend their comedy offerings.
In their signature way, Pandora’s blog post about the new offerings makes it all about the listeners and the artists. “We hope that the Comedy Genome Project will let people enjoy comedy they know as well as discover new talent that they love. And for comedians everywhere we hope that Pandora can provide a great big new platform for new fans. There is surely nothing more important than helping the world laugh a little more!”
On-demand subscription music service MOG has joined the parade of online music platforms that are announcing partnerships with device and automotive manufacturers. Today MOG announced partnerships with LG for televisions and Sonos for home stereo systems. The New York Times reports they are also about to become part of BMW’s Mini lineup, alongside Pandora and others.
MOG will be pre-installed on the devices, and require a subscription. MOG is a subscription based on demand – or cloud – service that enables listening from various mobile devices.
MOG’s Founder and CEO is David Hyman, who will be appearing at RAIN Summit West on April 11th during NAB Show Week in Las Vegas. He’s not shy about his ambitions. “The car is the holy grail,” Mr. Hyman told the NY Times. “I look at the satellite-radio market in America, with 20 million subscribers, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t be 20 million subscribers.”
Pandora is already in a lot of cars, with deals for Ford, Toyota, Mini, and other automotive manufacturers in place. But MOG’s service gives listeners access to a different kind of listening – to songs on demand. Similar to cloud based music streaming services Rhapsody, rdio, and Spotify (which is not yet in the US), MOG is the first of this type of service to announce a deal to get into the dashboard of a major car manufacturer.
But not the last..
The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 2/3 of Internet users have paid for digital content. Thanks to pervasive broadband penetration in the US users can quickly and easily download software, movies, television shows, music, e-books, and news articles.
The survey asked more than 750 adults whether they had ever paid to access or download a list of 15 types of digital content, ranging from digital music to ebooks, movies, photos, games, apps, adult content and more. 33% of Internet users said they had paid for digital music online – which presumably includes downloads as well as access to premium streamed content. Digital music topped the list of items consumers were most likely to pay for.
It’s a study that validates the premium subscription revenue model and has great and positive implications for media companies that are struggling to recover revenues lost to dwindling circulation or audience for their traditional media. Beginning this month the New York Times will lock down unlimited access to its website under subscription, limiting online access to its content to online or newspaper subscribers.
Streaming music services have struggled to develop successful business models as well, with some services such as Pandora and Slacker exploring both ad supported and premium no-ad subscription platforms. Others such as Rhapsody and MOG deliver on-demand streaming songs for a monthly subscription. This seems to be a model favored by the record labels, who have refused to license on-demand service Spotify in the US for their ad-supported on-demand service. Pandora, Slacker and other webcasting services, which do not deliver on-demand songs, have a compulsory license (and associated royalties) for such.
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.
Spotify, the European on-demand music streaming service that has taken Europe by storm, will apparently delay a US launch. For several weeks now there have been reports that the major labels were putting pressure on Spotify to abandon a free, ad-supported streaming model. The New York Times recently reported that major labels, already involved as backers with free ad-supported services like MySpace and Imeem, aren’t eager to license their catalogs to Spotify on that basis.
And they have a lot to say on the matter. “On-demand services have to negotiate private deals with the labels – there is no compulsory license, and the deals are not public.” according to David Oxenford a legal expert in streaming audio licensing.
But how much is the new Google music platform impacting this? Google Music is now driving listeners to Imeem and MySpace/iLike – the two services that are licensed by the record labels to stream on-demand. With that deal in place to support the two services that the record labels are already invested in, would they want to see Spotify come in and disrupt the market for on-demand services? Given some time, and the preference they’re getting from Google Music, Imeem and iLike (owned by MySpace) should be able to build their brands as destination sites for on-demand music.
Instead, the record companies would like to see Spotify offer their service on a premium basis, to those that subscribe. “We like Spotify as our partner in Europe, but we would like them to move more toward a paid subscription environment,” said Thomas Hesse, president of global digital business at Sony Music, as reported by the New York Times. Word is, Spotify is not happy about coming to the US with a paid-only model, hence they have delayed their launch.
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…