RAIN 5/4: New ESPN Radio app will feature "live" rewind, personalized channels

Paul Maloney
May 4, 2012 - 11:00am

ESPN Radio is scheduled to update its industry-leading mobile app on May 15th, and keynote speaker Traug Keller shared details on some of the new features with RAIN Summit West attendees.

First, though, we were thrilled and honored to welcome Keller, ESPN SVP/Production & Business Divisions, to our recent Las Vegas event (more info here).

[We're very happy to announce that on Monday, we'll offer video of each RAIN Summit segment! Be sure to see Monday's RAIN.]

In his address, Keller described the transformation of ESPN Radio's content culture as an "evolution from 'radio' to 'audio,' and emphasized the word "wherever" (from the company's mission statement: "To serve sports fans, wherever sports are watched, listened to, discussed, debated, read about, or played") as the key to ESPN Radio's innovation. In other words, getting the content sports fans care about on to any available platform is paramount.

He vehemently stressed that the idea of spreading content to the web, mobile, and satellite might cannabalize more traditional outlets as "a myth!" He equally strenuously drove home the importance of relentless promotion of the content you offer: "You have to tell people, in this very complicated digital world with a multitude of options and choices, where to find your content," Keller advised. Equally important to success, according to Keller, is attracting quality people to your team. "Man do we need to attract good people. It doesn't happen without it."

While some in the industry have written seem to have written off podcasting as an early dead-end, Keller seemed enthusiastic. In fact, he called podcasts "a whole new business." ESPNRadio, according to Keller, is now producing 80 podcasts every month, which get downloaded 50 million times. When ESPN columnist and podcast Bill Simmons publishes a new podcast, it's downloaded 1.8 million times within the first 24 hours, Keller claimed.

So, about that app update! Keller says the ESPN Radio mobile app, at its May 15th update (for iOS and Android, Windows will be later), users will be able to create their own stations (in much the same way users of ESPN partner Slacker can now), focusing on news from their favorites sports, teams, and players. Very exciting will be the "rewind live" feature, which will allow users to access a show or a game from its beginning -- even if the user tuned in after it had already begun. The app will have expanded "social" capabilities to enable users to share content (Keller called radio "the original social fuel, especially when you're talking about sports"). Finally, the app itself will know the teams and players you like, and customize access to content to fit your preferences. (By the way, you may want to see that SiriusXM's new Android app has some of these same features -- see our coverage here.)

Look for full videos of each RAIN Summit West segment soon.

Michael Schmitt
May 4, 2012 - 11:00am

Pandora -- haters gonna hateRAIN readers are well aware that Pandora -- like any prominent company -- has its fair share of critics. But The Street columnist Rocco Pendola argues there has lately been "an all-out assault" on Pandora.

"An entire old guard establishment -- terrestrial and satellite radio -- is up in arms or critical over every move a supposed inferior being makes," writes Pendola, who points out a few examples from Pandora's most vocal critics (like Clear Channel, Arbitron, Katz Media Group VP Mary Beth Garber and SiriusXM).  

"Not only do these folks, especially in terrestrial, talk Pandora down, but they provide the most sincere form of flattery by imitating the very features Pandora has made popular."

Indeed, Clear Channel launched its customizable iHeartRadio service late last year (RAIN coverage here) and SiriusXM now says it will launch a personalizable web radio service later in 2012 (RAIN coverage here).

So why the "hate" and emulation? Three reasons, argues Pendola:

1) Pandora is growing and continues to do so "unabated... the company continues to create scale that terrestrial and satellite radio could never dream of achieving."

2) "Pandora appeals to 18-34 year olds," a demo that -- according to Pendola -- satellite and AM/FM radio have trouble attracting.

3) Pandora can target ads more effectively and deliver ads "that are social, relevant and interactive."

You can find Pendola's article here. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments!

Michael Schmitt
May 4, 2012 - 11:00am

TargetAnalyst Mark Ramsey offers an interesting model for broadcast radio today in his blog: Target. He points out that, like radio, Target is combating online rivals. But it's Target's solutions that grab Ramsey's interest.

Target is reportedly looking to develop "exclusive merchandise" and wants to match "rivals' online prices."

Translated into radio terms, that means creating original, "one of a kind" content, says Ramsey. And for non-exclusive content, radio must "match rivals' online prices." Meaning, "make the experience that surrounds it just as good as any other experience consumers can get from anybody else," writes Ramsey.

"So think like Target: Increase your 'exclusives' and match the value proposition of your alternatives."

You can find his blog post here.

Paul Maloney
May 4, 2012 - 11:00am

Step back with us (and the Smithsonian Magazine blog) to the 1938 issue of Short Wave and Television. A story in that issue, "Radio to Print News Right in Your Home," was a report that developers were testing a system to deliver data over radio waves to print a newspaper right in your home! (The image shows the cover of the same publication, but from an issue 4 years earlier. We particularly enjoy the idea that the cover story was apparently on page 590... pity the postman delivering that magazine.)

Certainly such an invention would decimate the traditional newspaper industry. (In fact, it's our opinion that if you didn't buy it from a one-legged paperboy on the corner, it's really not "news.")

Smithsonian writes, "This invention of a wireless fax, as it were, was credited to W.G. H. Finch and used radio spectrum that was otherwise unused during the late-night hours when most Americans were sleeping. The FCC granted a special license for these transmissions to occur between midnight and 6am, though it would seem that a noisy printing device in your house cranking away in the middle of the night might have been the fatal flaw in their system. It wasn’t exactly a fast delivery either, as the article notes that it takes 'a few hours' for the machine to produce your wireless fax newspaper."

Also, "battles between formats would continue right on into the 21st century as the fight over newspaper paywalls, cord-cutters, and ebooks continues to dramatically shift our media landscape."

There's more, and some great images, in Smithsonian here.