10/18/13: Slacker partners with Univision for unique Hispanic American content

Brad Hill
October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

Univision Radio is the leading audio network for Hispanic America, and music service Slacker announced today a partnership that will bring some of that content to the online listening platform.

The expanded lineup plan includes five terrestrial stations based in Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Miami, and Houston. Slacker will also introduce Univision America, a “Slacker-hosted and expert-curated channel featuring a mix of highly-coveted talk content.” Univision America will be exclusive to Slacker Radio. Some or all of the live stations included in this partnership can also be found on TuneIn, but without the easy-to-find packaging that could draw Hispanic listeners into Slacker.

RAIN’s update of Slacker’s Android and iOS apps showed only Univision America available in Android, and all six channels in the Apple version. A new Univision menu item appears in both apps.

The exclusive Univision America channel is an important differentiator for Slacker, though cross-channel branding is confusing. iHeartRadio hosts a version of Univision America, with identical trademarking. Comparing simultaneous streams reveals different programming, but Slacker’s ownership of a unique show is not evident in the first version of Univision America in its mobile apps.

Brad Hill
October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

Domain extensions (the end-part of website addresses like .com and .org) can be valuable signifiers of a brand’s industry and positioning. Any website with a dot-org address represents a verified non-profit. A dot-edu address signifies an educational institution.

The addressing of the Internet is a complicated business, handled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN determines which “top level” domains (like .com, .org, and .edu) are legitimate, and assigns rights to register those domains to website owners, through an elaborate application process. The competition to administer domains that have qualification rules can be intense.

This scenario sets the stage for a controversy that affects the Internet addressing of radio-related websites. ICANN has approved a new .radio top level domain, but has not yet assigned an administrator. Dot-radio obviously relates to radio businesses, just as the .FM and .AM domains do. Dot-FM and dot-AM domain spaces are administered by BRS Media, a California company run by George Bundy.

Bundy has identified potential problems with ICANN’s management of applicants for the role of administering the dot-radio domain space. Bundy caused media ripples this week with a call to protest two developments regarding the new domain. 

First, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) was accepted into ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). This happened last summer, after the .radio domain was approved by ICANN. The GAC advises ICANN on various national regulations that intersect with the business of assigning Internet addresses. It is a helpful body for ICANN, which sets rules that apply to the virtual space of the entire planet. The EBU’s presence on ICANN’s influential advisory board sets up potential conflict of interest in the scramble to acquire administrative rights in the .radio domain space.

Second, the EBU (not unpredictably) applied for those administrative rights, according to Bundy, through a Geneva-based company called CORE, which is positioned in this drama as a service provider which would handle the day-to-day administration of dot-radio on the EBU’s behalf. RAIN spoke to George Bundy to clarify why CORE’s involvement was problematic, aside from the EBU conflict-of-interest issue.

“CORE would run the registry on behalf of the EBU. CORE has domain experience, but has no connection to, or understanding of, the radio industry. As such, what they may determine to be radio content may or may not qualify.”

Bundy is troubled by what he sees as CORE’s inevitable learning curve, and how that might create instability in the dot-radio domain space.

“CORE’s [compliance expertise] will be learned over time. This year, if you have a RADIO domain name, and you happen to be policed by CORE, you might pass inspection. Then next year, they learn over time that your content is not radio-related, and you might not be entitled to own that domain anymore.”

Bundy’s central concern relates to one aspect of EBU/CORE’s application, which hinges on classifying the .radio domain space as a “restricted community.” RAIN asked Bundy to explain what that means, why it should concern stakeholders in the radio industry.

“It’s part of ICANN rolling out all these new extensions. There is a ruling in their application process which gives [defined] communities a leg up. An example is the .catholic domain space. The Catholic church applied for dot-catholic, as a community. They were granted that aspect [by ICANN]. They are a community, and if somebody else applied for dot-Catholic, the Catholic church would get the priority for that extension [because the church represents a defined community]. The EBU [leveraged] this rule, and submitted an application that claims RADIO is a community, which has a membership. As such, they claim they should be granted the priority to run it.”

The issue goes beyond unfair application tactics, according to Bundy, whose company aspires to manage the dot-radio domain space. In his viewpoint, it is fundamentally wrong to classify an open community of radio industry stakeholders as a restricted community analogous to the Catholic church.

“The restricted ‘Community-Bias’ request [submitted by the EBU/CORE application] is flawed and discriminates against major segments of the open radio industry. Any licensed radio broadcasters, companies serving the radio industry, Web radios, licensed amateur radio and clubs, and radio professionals should be extremely concerned.”

Brad Hill
October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

The Pew Research Center has added a survey category to its ongoing study of how Americans use their connected phones. Adding to historical behaviors such as texting, emailing, browsing, downloading apps, and getting directions, listening to music is a component of Pew’s latest report.

The headline statistic is this: 48 percent of all cell phone owners listen to music on their phones. The sample size was 2,076.

Men tend toward listening more than women, 51 percent to 45 percent. Phone listening is a youth activity predominantly, with 80 percent of positive responses falling in the 18-29 year-old population. Generally, more education transfers to more listening. Likewise with more money: households with incomes above $75,000 contained 58 percent of positive responses. Urban listeners outnumber suburban listeners, which in turn use cell phone for music more than rural residents.

The survey was conducted in April and May of this year.

Brad Hill
October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

Specialization has benefits, for consumers and business. Stitcher, a listening app dedicated to podcasts and talk radio shows, announced that its mobile app has been downloaded over 12-million times, and its catalog now contains over 20,000 shows.

Other platforms include a focus on talk, including TuneIn, iHeartRadio (which has been building up its Talk section recently) and Apple’s podcast app for iOS. Stitcher’s dedication to the category is paying off in usage metrics, and also provides a more refined in-app experience for anyone for whom talk is as important as music (or more important).

The Stitcher app encourages music-style customization -- favoriting, playlisting, sharing, and a back-end intelligence that learns the user’s taste over time. The result is a high level of discovery in the talk realm, and a rewarding level of control.

Stitcher’s press release quotes an executive at Libsyn, an unaffiliated podcast hosting platform: ““From our metrics, Stitcher appears to be the largest platform for listening on Android and second largest on iOS behind only Apple." On the revenue side, Stitcher’s ad earnings have grown 75 percent year-over-year.

Brad Hill
October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

Trademark features live long lives. “I’m Feeling Lucky” appeared with the earliest versions of Google Search, giving users a fun roulette experience in search results. In those days, in the dawn of modern web-search intelligence, the “feeling lucky” feature conveyed a fun sense of shining a flashlight into the web’s enormous haystack, searching for a needle.

Google quickly built its reputation on smart and useful results -- no luck necessary. But to this day, the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button remains firmly installed below the keyword search box on Google’s home page. It is a brand identifier.

Now Google has imported the luck experience to its All Access subscription music service, with “I’m feeling lucky radio.” Based on the user’s listening history, the feature doesn’t differ in principle from personalized recommendations found in most jukebox services. It’s the capriciously blind quality which sets it apart, just as in the web search engine. You don’t get a glimpse of the playlist. The function provides a quick, no-thought, lean-back experience when you’re not in the mood to make choices.

RAIN’s test of the feature, which appeared on an update of Google Play’s Android app, has been erratic. At first, the button rotated through locally stored tracks. We turned it off and gave it an hour to settle into its new home. Trying again, it played a radio stream, as the feature promises. We feel reasonably lucky … but, being customization fiends, we’ll abandon the lucky button and resume personal choices before long.

Brad Hill
October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

Friday is a day to revive one’s energy, both to finish the week with a blast, and to shoot into the weekend. Kosmik Station is a Radionomy electronica station (find it here, or use the Radionomy mobile app) featuring old-school hard-core techno. Sub-genres include Hard Trance and Hardstyle. Get the gist? This is a merciless stream, supportive of desk-bound mental workouts.

The station’s tagline is “Pump up your volume.” The RAIN editorial office is mixing Kosmik’s high-intensity audio with industrial strength French-press coffee for a day of neuron-electrified productivity. We suggest every reader follow our lead.