6/10/13 late edition: It's official: Apple's iTunes Radio coming in fall

Paul Maloney
June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Apple has officially announced iTunes Radio, its free customizable streaming online radio service.

As the name suggests, iTunes Radio will be integrated into iTunes and feature over 200 curated channels, plus algorithmically-generated channels based on listeners' favorites songs, artists, and more. All the stations can be fine-tuned by the listeners, and the company says the service will "evolve" based on listening and downloading habits.

If you already have a history using iTunes, "iTunes Radio will offer you an incredibly personalized experience on day one," says Apple.

TechCrunch writes, "Apple really has essentially taken its Genius jukebox-style feature, which combs your library and builds genre-based playlists, or suggests recommended artists and tracks based on what you’re currently listening to. The difference with the new service is that it can access the entire iTunes catalog, which, at this point, is well over 26 million tracks." (At this point it seems Apple's licensing for iTunes Radio is limited to holdings from the major record labels and publishing groups. So while unlike Genius it'll now play lots of music you don't own, it probably doesn't have access to everything that's in iTunes.)

Apple engineers even integrated it with Apple iPhone voice-recognition technology, Siri: "Ask Siri 'Who plays that song?' or 'Play more like this' and Siri will make it happen. Say something like 'Play Jazz Radio' or ask for any of your existing favorite stations and genres. Shape your stations by telling Siri what you like and don’t like, or tell Siri to pause, stop or skip. You can also have Siri add songs to your Wish List to download later."

The free ad-supported service will launch in the U.S. in fall (other countries later) and will be built into iOS 7, iTunes on OS X, and AppleTV (it'll also be available on the web for PC users). Customers of the iTunes Match cloud storage service will get iTunes Radio ad-free.

Read Apple's press release is here. TechCrunch's coverage is here.

Paul Maloney
June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Michael Robertson suggests it isn't Pandora that'll feel the pressure from Apple's new service, but rather broadcast radio and higher-cost on-demand music services.

Robertson is the serial music tech entrepreneur behind MP3.com, MP3Tunes, and Dar.fm. He called Apple's new offering "a frontal attack on FM radio and will accelerate the deterioration in their business... FM cannot compete with the benefits of internet delivered music."

Apple's presence in the space, as many have suggested recently, should actually help the streaming radio industry by educating consumers on its inherent advantages, wider selection, personalization, and more. And that includes one area in which AM/FM has been king for a long time: in the car.

"A new feature in (Apple's) new iOS 7 which mirrors your iPhone display on a car's dashboard could have a bigger impact on driving net radio adoption... because it makes your smartphone a better car radio," Robertson wrote.

He also suggests Apple's visibility and offering of a free service will put price pressure on music subscription services that don't offer a free tier, like Rhapsody. "There's still value in those offerings," he says, "but those providers will have to work hard to keep delivering value."

Read Robertson's essay in Hypebot here.

Paul Maloney
June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Online satire newspaper has a very funny and characteristically clever list of "top features" of the new Apple Internet radio service today.

They are:

  • Each song preceded by 45-minute Tim Cook presentation
  • Option to play a different song in each earbud
  • Tons of Floyd
  • A daily morning zoo show with Siri and her rowdy friends
  • Ability to lower volume is disabled whenever a really good song is playing
  • Is eager to please
  • Audiobook chapters from Steve Jobs’ biography constantly sprinkled in throughout users’ listening sessions
  • Access to millions of songs readily available on Pandora, Spotify, and Google Play

See it at The Onion here.

Paul Maloney
June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey told The New York Times that Apple is too "late in the game" to compete in Internet radio on the level of Pandora. That is, unless they unveil a product that significanlty, and noticeably, better than what other services offer.

He said, "It’s going to have to innovate. It can’t just be Pandora with an 'i' in front of it or Spotify with an 'i' in front of it."

Oracle Investment Research chief market strategist Laurence Isaac Balter sees things lots differently. He gives Apple the advantage of Spotify and Pandora owing to "deeper control of the iPhone software and hardware" (in The Times' words), and "more data about its customers... so it can make smarter music recommendations..."

User data and preferences can later be leveraged for a potential Apple television product, Balter told the paper. He said, "There’s so much of a white canvas here for Apple to paint on. It’s refreshing to see them start to think in this area."

Read more in The New York Times here.

Paul Maloney
June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Here are some new developments from industry firms (who aren't Apple) we think you may find interesting:

Livio has announced Livio Keys and the FM Traffic Button, two new products they say can generate new revenue for car manufacturers and app developers. Livio Keys is a "communication solution" that links carmakers and software developers with tools and customizable services. The FM Traffic Button uses code added to an embedded app on an in-dash infotainment system to provide up-to-the-minute, on-demand traffic reports for U.S. markets.

Abacast has announced a new partnership with Cue.AD, the first Israeli ad network for digital radio. The deal, says, Abacast, will provide that nation's first solution for digital radio broadcasters and advertisers along with a complete online radio streaming and monetization service.

Industry research firm Reportlinker has a new study out called "Global Internet Radio Industry," which it says provides comprehensive analytics for the U.S., Canada, Japan, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and more, with annual estimates and forecasts for 2010-2018. The report covers 45 companies like Pandora, Clear Channel, Slacker, Rhapsody, SomaFM, Digitally Imported, and AccuRadio. Read more (and purchase the report) here.

StreamGuys will now support the open-source Ogg Opus codec, which it says will give webcasters more options for high-quality, low-latency audio streaming. The Ogg Opus codec is free to use, offers broadcast-quality reproduction, and doesn't lag behind real-time broadcasting (like streaming MP3 can).

Triton Digital announced it's successfully deployed its Advertising Platform including Ad Injector to Sao Paulo, Brazil-based broadcaster Kiss Telecomunicações LTDA.

Marketron has expanded its partnership with Saga Communications. The broadcaster will now use Marketron's Insight reporting product, Proof of Performance, and Network Connect.

Paul Maloney
June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

[From Monday's early edition:]

Today's the day -- Apple is widely expected to unveil its long-awaited Internet radio product to developers today at its Worldwide Developers Conference. The service is expected to launch for consumers in September, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Launch of the new service was delayed by negotiations with music labels and publishers, and the final deals weren't finalized until late last week (see RAIN here) (the final publishing holdout, Sony/ATV, has apparently reached an agreement with Apple -- see CNet's reporting here).

The Journal reports that two of the tougher matters to settle were "the point at which Apple must begin sharing ad revenue with the labels and the minimum guarantee it would offer as an insurance policy." There was also disagreement over "whether Apple will have to pay for songs listeners skip — it won't under some deals — and how well it should compensate music publishers."

All Things Digital's Peter Kafka writes today that "If Apple wants to generate real ad money for iRadio, then that means it has to try to crack the market for radio ads. And that is a very, very un-Appley business.... It doesn’t really matter what kind of precision targeting the Internet offers — the bulk of that $14 billion comes from local ad sales," he wrote. "And it’s a slog." Read more from Kafka here.

According to the paper's sources, Apple will pay the labels about half of the ad revenues, with publishers getting only 10% (which is actually more most webcasters and broadcasters pay).

Read more from The Wall Street Journal here.