RAIN 9/30: "My smartphone made my car radio obsolete," says Michael Robertson

Michael Schmitt
September 30, 2011 - 11:00pm

Today RAIN brings you a guest essay from respected entrepreneur Michael Robertson. He founded MP3.com, in 2005 launched MP3tunes and most recently built DAR.fm -- a TiVo-like device for recording radio programs online.

Michael RobertsonIn 1997 I drove a beat up Honda up to LA to meet with the major record labels. I wanted to show them the PC would become the center of people's music life thanks to the new found capabilities MP3 brought. Music fans could warehouse massive music libraries, organize their music, make custom playlists, burn CDs and share that music experience with others. Those I met with scoffed at the notion that the home stereo would be replaced by the PC remarking that "most PCs don't even have speakers!" The major labels could only see the computer as a word-processor. But, I knew that the PC would displace the home stereo and become the music hub.

I have the same feeling today about the car radio getting stream rolled by the smart phone. Today's smart phone has a virtually unlimited audio catalog thanks to the net. Much of the content is interactive (meaning users can rewind, fast forward and skip ahead 30 sec). Many in the radio industry scoff at the notion of the phone replacing the ubiquitous AM/FM car radio. They say that users don't want/need a big library of programming - just the morning DJ / sports talker / political commentator that happens to be offered in their town. If that were true, why wouldn't listeners want those same shows in the afternoon for their drive home? The radio industry sees the ability to rewind/fast forward as unnecessary. They think that radio fans are passive robots who are content to just sit and listen. But, every indication I see in magazines, on TV, Twitter, blogs, etc. tells me that users want control.

DAR.fm now allows everyone to record AM/FM radio and have it automatically downloaded to any smart phone or tablet. I've put together some videos which show how to automatically sync radio shows to an iPad, iPhone, Android, or a PC to use with other mobile devices. (iPad/iPhone users click here) Whenever I jump into my car or travel, my phone already has a few episodes of my favorite radio shows ready for me to listen to. This YouTube video shows how I mount my smart phone and plug it into my car's stereo system.

My smart phone has already made my car radio obsolete because I rarely listen to broadcast radio. I'm not alone. More than half of adults 18-24 have used a portable MP3 player or phone for audio in their car. 41% are interested in rewinding, fast forward and pause (and I think the rest don't even know it's now possible and they'll want it to once they experience it). Radio purists dismiss smart phones as a threat to the AM/FM radio, but there was a day when every house had a home stereo too.

-- MR (originally posted at michaelrobertson)

Paul Maloney
September 30, 2011 - 11:00pm

Industry news source Inside Radio polled its readers yesterday on whether the U.S. radio industry needs "a single industry-wideInside Radio logo streaming app to help defend against Pandora and other pureplays." That is, imagine a receiver as universal as a transistor radio, but that would receive every broadcast stream from every broadcast station in the nation.

Opinion was split, slightly (55% to 45%) in favor of a national online aggregator.

One supporter of the idea wrote, "We’ve created a veritable Tower of Babel for listeners wanting to use our Internet streams — they shouldn’t have to take lots of extra time figuring out how to download the correct app and player to hear us."

RadioplayerSuch an aggregator actually already exists, as you may know, in the UK. Radioplayer is a non-profit consortium of media companies (the BBC, Global Radio, Guardian Media Group, Absolute Radio and RadioCentre) that has created a standard online audio player for live, on-demand and podcast radio from hundreds of stations in the UK. RAIN reported last week (here) the 282 stations streaming via Radioplayer attracted 6.7 million unique visitors in August. Radioplayer launched in March of this year.

A critic of the idea suggested, "Competition is critical and should be encouraged — uniformity means compromising."

Subscribe to Inside Radio here.

Michael Schmitt
September 30, 2011 - 11:00pm

Rad.io's mobile app line-upToday Lifehacker spotlights Rad.io, an app for iOS, Android and webOS TouchPads that streams over 4,000 radio stations. An extension of the Rad.io website, the app lets users search by genre, city, language and save favorite stations. "If you get a phone call, the app will automatically pause and hand you off to take the call," writes Lifehacker (here).

Michael Schmitt
September 30, 2011 - 11:00pm

Hyundai's 2012 VelosterHyundai will offer Pandora dashboard integration free in all 2012 Velosters. Drivers will need an iPhone to stream Pandora to their car stereos via Bluetooth.

The car maker first announced they would support Pandora in its 2012 Veloster back in January (RAIN coverage here). You can find Pandora's press release here.