RAIN 7/24: New cars may soon "redefine technology," steal spotlight from smartphones

Michael Schmitt
July 24, 2012 - 12:00pm

Tesla Model SFor the past few years, the tech world -- much like the Internet radio industry -- has been focused on mobile. From touchscreens to apps to voice command systems, "the hottest tech" has been on our phones, GigaOM writes. "But that may be about to change...our vehicles have a brighter future. The chip industry is betting on automotive in a big way."

As RAIN readers will know, many new cars already offer somewhat easy access to web radio services. Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, BMW and others all offer in-dash apps for Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker, TuneIn and other web radio services.

But development in auto tech may accelerate. Companies like Nvidia, Texas Instruments and others are building new processors for cars to run more apps and offer more functionality on dashboards, GigaOM reports. Such developments are driven in part by "steadily rising" revenue derived from putting new entertainment and connectivity technology into cars.

"In the next year or two we’re going to see cars with services that redefine technology," GigaOM comments.

But connecting to the web may be a problem. Most car systems now rely on smartphones, but others take a different approach. The Tesla Model S (pictured above), for example, connects directly to the web -- no smartphone required. It will also come with TuneIn's web radio directory built in to the dashboard's whopping 17" touchscreen (and also happens to be TuneIn's 200th distribution platform).

Still, such systems -- regardless of how they get online -- run into the same issues of data costs and network capacity. While "the jury is still out" on such issues, GigaOM writes (here), "it's clearly a platform of interest to carriers."

Toyota EntuneCompanies like Livio are looking to make it easier for carmakers to adopt and include web radio technology in dashboards. Livio has just announced it has joined the GENIVI alliance, a Linux-based infotainment platform used by automakers as "a common framework" (more here).

For consumers though, access to such digital connectivity is getting cheaper. "The price of entry continues to drop," writes Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs. He points (here) to the sub-$18,000 Ford Fiesta (equipped with Sync) and the $27,000 Toyota Tacoma (with Entune, pictured left) as examples.

"The automakers and the after-market manufacturers are looking for ways to make the digital dashboard a cheap, easy entry point." And, as Jacobs has found in his own Techsurveys, "about one-fifth of those who have vehicles equipped with these systems [like Sync and Entune] indicate they are listening to less broadcast radio as a result."

"It all points to the need for broadcast radio to do what it does best – serve local communities with programming and personalities that you just can’t get anywhere else with a great consumer experience."

Paul Maloney
July 24, 2012 - 12:00pm

CBS Radio this month brought on Mike Gartell to manage the web properties for its five Washington, D.C. stations, including the six-month old all-news WNEW-FM.

That's significant because Gartell was hired away from Hubbard's WTOP/Washington, D.C., known not only as the nation's top-billing station, but for its exemplary online presence (among other accolades, it garnered this publication's RAIN Award for the Best Overall Digital Strategy last fall).

While WNEW-FM's on-air ratings aren't competitive with WTOP's, Washington City Paper columnist Will Sommer suggests CBS may be attacking via a different route: online. "It looks like WNEW and CBS know that there are more than one way to skin the nation's top-billing cat," he wrote. "Is WNEW trying to snag some of that WTOP Web magic?"

He hopes Gartell spends some time in his new job on WNEW's website, and says, "With too many promotional links in the top and not enough actual news, (WNEW-FM's site) lacks the melange of wire-service copy and original reporting that powered his last site."

Read more here. Also, we're one week away from the entry deadline for this year's RAIN Internet Radio Awards. Register here.

Michael Schmitt
July 24, 2012 - 12:00pm

Los BlancosEmmis' New York CHR station WQHT ("Hot 97") tomorrow launches a new web TV series called "Los Blancos." The weekly series will consist of 5-6 minute webisodes, focused on "the tale of two sisters who have taken on the responsibility of running their own family-owned cocaine business."

Inside Radio reports, "Emmis hopes to ultimately distribute season one of 'Los Blancos' as a continuous story arc for a one-hour cable TV show." Though a web-based TV series is hardly "typical fare for a radio station," it isn't new for WQHT. In 2010, the station launched "The Wizards NYC," a weekly web TV reality show starring station personalities.

"Online video is a great way to continue to curate content and create a rich media experience for our audience,” said Lin Dai, Emmis-New York and the Loud Digital Network VP of digital programming and entertainment. “Radio needs to think of itself as a cross-platform media company.”

You can find out more about "Los Blancos" from WQHT's website here. You can subscribe for Inside Radio's daily newsletters here.

Paul Maloney
July 24, 2012 - 12:00pm

Clear Channel's iHeartRadio stream directory will soon include Christian/conservative radio Salem's station streams. Salem’s 97 AM and FM radio stations in 37 markets will be available to iHeartRadio users beginning in September.

Though some station and groups have agreed to make iHeartRadio the exclusive aggregator for their streams, Salem in April entered a similar agreement with tuning service and app developer TuneIn (see RAIN here). The group also made news recently for entering a 3-year streaming deal with Triton Digital (coverage here), and in March announced that Internet revenues represented 14% of its Q4 2011 earnings (here) (though it should be noted that Salem isn't purely a broadcast radio company; it's also an Internet content provider and magazine and book publisher).

Clear Channel's iHeartRadio platform boasts 10 million registered users, and offers more than 1,000 broadcast and online-only radio stations and user-created Custom Stations. Last month (here) radio groups Cox Radio and Emmis Communications joined the iHeartRadio platform. Yahoo! Music made iHeartRadio its "preferred radio" partner (more here).