9/18/13: Today is iTunes Radio day

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Is today the day it all changes? At some point today, Apple will release iOS 7, and with it, the most anticipated service in the history of Internet radio: iTunes Radio. And it's quite possible that the entire competitive landscape of Net radio shifts dramatically.

Leading webcasters Pandora and Slacker are doing their best to steal some of Apple's thunder today -- with updates for their services on Apple products. Pandora chose today to not only unveil redesigned company logos (left), it's speaking directly to Apple's audience with a new version of its app for Apple's iPad. The webcaster call it the "biggest redesign of the tablet app since launching on the platform when the device was first introduced in April 2010." Huffington Post covers the app and logo update here, with some nice images.

Slacker too has something for the Apple crowd, an "all-new" mobile app for iOS 7 (lower right), with what it calls the "My Vibe" feature. "My Vibe" offers human-programmed playlists for various activities (think Songza's Music Concierge or iHeartRadio's "Perfect For") like working out, studying, and driving. Venture Beat has the coverage here, along with lots of screenshots.

As impressive as these mobile app updates may be, it's hard to imagine focus being anyone but on Apple today. But how big a splash will it make, with listeners?

We have no information as to whether iTunes Radio listening will be measured by Triton Digital's Webcast Metrics (as are dozens of other leading webcasters like Pandora, Slacker, Clear Channel/iHeartRadio, CBS Radio/Radio.com, and more). Nor do we know if Apple will publish their own listening metrics, as Pandora does monthly. So it might be tough for others in the industry to gauge exactly the new service's impact with consumers.

Certainly advertisers respect the reach of Apple, and are betting big that consumers will be there. As we've reported, major brands like Pepsi, Macy's, McDonald's, Nissan, and Procter & Gamble have paid as much as $10 million to be category-exclusive iTunes Radio launch partner advertisers. AdAge reports here.

Writing in Fast Company here, commentator John Paul Titlow says that while the service is a great strategic move for Apple -- to reinforce music-purchasing behavior in a market that's clearly moving towards "music as a service" on-demand consumption -- "for users, the benefits of iTunes Radio are less apparent, especially those familiar with Pandora." Pandora's 13-year head start on refining its music recommendation, he reasons, is a significant hurdle for any service looking to best it on its merits.

That said, Kevin Tofel at GigaOm says he's enjoying iTunes Radio, at least when compared to Google Play Music All Access (which recently introducing genre-based online radio). He writes (here): "I’m shocked that iTunes Radio is offering what I think is more music that I enjoy than Google... I find that with Google All Access, I’m spending more time tuning the stations to my likes and dislikes of each song. For iTunes Radio I might have disliked two or three songs over the past week."

We'll certainly follow up with more coverage of today's launch of Apple's iTunes Radio.

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

After we recover from the rush of yesterday's successful RAIN Summit Orlando event (and today's iTunes Radio launch), we'll get cracking on our own coverage of the Summit. In the meantime, our colleagues at news sources like Tom Taylor Now, Inside Radio, Radio Ink, and AllAccess were at the event, and all have published coverage of their own.

One of yesterday's most compelling Summit panel discussions addressed the contentious issue of online "simulcasting" versus the use of ad-insertion technology (Taylor, Inside Radio, and Radio Ink all led their coverage with it). The panel consisted of Saga's Steve Goldstein, Triton Digital's Mike Agovino, OMD's Natalie Swed Stone, AdsWizz's Alexis Van de Wyer, and Greater Media's Tom Bender.

The speakers on the panel -- broadcasters included -- acknowledged the attraction of customizable pureplay webcasts with few (or no) commericals, and agreed that broadcasters need to offer more than "an extension of the tower."

At least as "buzz-worthy," judging by the coverage, was Entercom president and CEO David Field's keynote address. A few contentious points may have been expected, what with a broadcast group head keynoting such a conference. Field, as you can read, insisted that the audio consumption "pie is growing," and that's for broadcast radio too. More controversially, he challenged the veracity of Pandora's self-described 7% share of overall U.S. radio listening, and contended that the webcaster's granular ad-targeting actually makes them a less efficient advertising vehicle. He says radio gets the "bonus weight" of delivering ad messages to non-targeted demos.

A research presentation from GroupM Next caught industry journalists' attention -- notably their finding that nearly half of Pandora and iHeartRadio users say they plan to switch to Apple's iTunes Radio product when it launches today -- even before testing it. Also making news was the strong the desire for a "connected-dashboard" car among younger demos. Newly-appointed RAIN managing editor Brad Hill moderated a discussion panel on this very topic. Read his coverage of "The Race to the Dashboard" here.

Also, please see our coverage of the 2013 RAIN Internet Radio Awards here.

Thanks to our colleagues for their coverage of RAIN Summit Orlando. Read more from Tom Taylor Now here, Radio Ink here and here, in AllAccess here, and at InsideRadio.com here.

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

BY BRAD HILL
Marketplace demand is growing for digital interactivity in the car. This trend has longer legs in the navigation/traffic category, but the headlines now are turning to the infotainment section of automobile control, driven largely by the penetration (if not saturation) of smartphones and the streaming-audio apps that live on them.

The changing configurations of "car radio" touched down several times, in several sessions of yesterday's RAIN Summit Orlando, including Entercom CEO David Field’s keynote address, a research presentation from GroupM Next ("The Internet Radio Marketplace") (see more Summit coverage here), the rapid-fire Pecha Kucha dazzler from Harman's Toby Trevarthen, and the "Race to the Dashboard" panel which provided a topical deep dive on the topic.

Toby Trevarthan set the table by declaring that 2013 was "ground zero" for development of connected car solutions. Of course, many ad hoc solution have been underway, cobbled together by users from one direction, the car companies from the other direction, and the aftermarket sitting between them. One of the most important questions in this space is whether a standardized infotainment platform is possible in the car, and if so, when. And how. And whether all stakeholders agree on its desirability. In other words, the big question mark is as fragmented as the present-day solutions.

The "Race to the Dashboard" session feature perspectives from Ford (Scott Burnell), Pioneer's aftermarket products (Ted Cardenas), Pandora (Geoff Snyder), TuneIn (Kevin Straley), and Slacker (Steve Cotter). Ford’s Burnell articulated Ford's plug-and-play dashboard philosophy, represented by the company AppLink functionality built into many popular streaming apps. The solution transfers control of a music-streaming app, for example, from the smartphone to the more accessible and safely-accessed dashboard.

Safety is a persistent issue, not an easily solved one, dependent as it is on state laws that form a regulatory patchwork sanctioning when and how phones can be used in the car. (More fragmentation.) Initiatives are underway, though, in the product development of app code from both the providers and the car companies -- e.g., blacking out the phone when control is transferred to the dash.

One of the most powerful built-in advantages of broadcast car radio is its intuitive, time-tested, push-button ease. Ideally, users want access to a big PLAY button in the car that picks up the station/stream/programming where the driver left off. Furthermore, also ideally, a standardized experience with similar essentials across all car types and models. After a day of circling around this topic, that holy grail of unification seems a long way off, as car builders, mobile service providers, streaming music companies, and the aftermarket innovators each pursues its individual path to stakeholding a piece of the digitally connected car of the future.

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Pandora scored a clear, and sharply worded, summary judgment from U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, enabling the Internet radio service to continue "performing" (streaming) works included in ASCAP’s entire inventory.

The ruling refutes ASCAP’s attempt to narrow Pandora’s right to perform portions of the ASCAP-represented publishers catalog, when the publishers choose to withhold certain rights. In this case, the publishing arms of EMI Music, Sony/ATV, and Universal Music tried to pull their new-media rights representation from ASCAP, in order to negotiate directly with digital platforms such as Pandora.

Cote's decision spells it out like this: "So whether ASCAP purports to categorize Pandora as an 'applicant' or a 'licensee,' Pandora's right to perform the compositions in the ASCAP repertory extends to all of ASCAP's repertory and ASCAP may not narrow that right by denying Pandora the right to play the songs of publishers who have withdrawn new media licensing rights from certain songs while keeping the songs in ASCAP's repertory to be licensed for performance by other music users."

Pandora’s response to the decision noted "the attempt by certain ASCAP-member publishers to unfairly and selectively withhold their catalogs from Pandora." ASCAP’s response noted "the true value of songwriters' and composers' performance rights, a value that Pandora’s music streaming competitors have recognized by negotiating rather than litigating with creators of music." Both notes noted.

Yesterday’s ruling is a stepping stone to the Pandora/ASCAP rate trial before the ASCAP federal rate board, in a process that arbiters the terms of a blanket license when negotiations fail. That trial starts on December 4.

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Ad solutions tech provider AdsWizz announced yesterday its named longtime Skype exec Don Albert as its new North American President. Before Skype, Albert spent five years at eBay.

Additionally, AdsWizz has added pureplay webcaster Online Radio Solutions to its global client roster. Other AdsWizz webcast clients include Idobi, 1.FM, Digitally Imported, 181.fm, Fusion Radio, Futuradios (France), Hits & Fun (France), Rautemusik (Germany), and TraxxFM (Switzerland).

AdsWizz CEO Alexis van der Wyer spoke yesterday at RAIN Summit Orlando.

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Clear Channel has announced its 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival will stream live via Yahoo Music and the Playstation 3 gaming console (It will also be broadcast live via Clear Channel terrestrial stations nationwide).

The fest will also be televised as a two-night primetime special on September 30 on The CW Network.

Now in its third year, the festival takes place in Las Vegas this Friday and Saturday. Musical acts booked to appear include Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, J. Cole, Elton John, Muse, Tiësto, and more.

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Katz Media Group's interactive division Katz 360 is being relaunches as PROXi Digital (Katz had made its rebranding intentions public by November of last year, see RAIN here). PROXi will reportedly offer online, mobile, and audience-targeting ad products both in partnership with Katz Media Group's radio and television divisions, and as a third-party network.

A new streaming audio ad product from PROXI, called the Secondary Action Unit, will allow advertisers to employ native advertising with additional custom content in digital radio campaigns. After a regular audio ads runs, the Secondary Action Unit follows up with additional relevant and entertaining content, reports MediaDaily News.

Interestingly, as Katz drops the '360' name, broadcaster Radio One's digital arm Interactive One has picked it up. Interactive One will soon be using Radiate Media's Radiate360 digital marketing for a service aimed at small business in 15 U.S. markets.

"The partnership will give Radio One’s small business radio advertisers access to an array of digital marketing products from Radiate360, including social media, mobile marketing, local search, reputation management, and directory management," reports MediaDaily News. Radiate will train and support Radio One local sales teams for the implementation.

Read more in Mediapost's MediaDaily News here.

Paul Maloney
September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

(from yesterday's late edition, edited)
Nothing like ending the day on an "up" note. For the fourth straight year, leading webcaster Pandora has been named the 2013 RAIN Internet Radio Best Overall Online Radio Service.

The Awards were presented at the conclusion of yesterday's RAIN Summit Orlando.

Pandora's prize follows a series of somewhat less pleasant developments for the webcaster. For starters, today is the launch of what will very likely prove to be Pandora's greatest competitive threat yet: Apple's iTunes Radio. Monday, Pandora publicly warned share holders that the rapid listening and revenue growth it's enjoyed these past few years will likely be slowing. And Tuesday, RAIN Summit keynote speaker Entercom CEO David Field questioned the veracity of Pandora's reported listening numbers. Perhaps the kudos came at a good time.

Pandora has dominated the award the way it dominates the online streaming space, taking it all four years since RAIN began the awards in 2010 (last year it shared the "overall" award with ESPN Radio).

Congratulations to tuning/aggregator service TuneIn for capturing the Best Overall Digital Strategy prize. The award for International Excellence in Online Audio went to online radio hosting service Radionomy. Boston's WEEI-FM won the award for Best Streaming Broadcast Station. And the 2013 RAIN Internet Radio Award for Best Single Stream Webcaster went to Christian rocker The Blast.

More than 100 services entered the Awards this year. Winners were determined by an independent panel of industry expert judges.

Triton Digital, which sponsors the awards, gave its 2013 RAINMaker Award for individual achievement to Ali Abhary, CEO of Spectrum Medya in Turkey.

Look for more coverage of RAIN Summit Orlando soon.