D Story

Pureplay of the Day: Calm Stream

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 3:10pm

Calm down. Christmas is still two weeks away. Plenty of time to shop, wrap, decorate, cook, and prepare for invading relatives.

If the holiday rush is starting to jangle your nerves, turn on Calm Stream, a Russian downtempo electronica station. An occasional smooth jazz vibe creeps in -- but calm, always calm. There is zero holiday cheer in this station.

Even the site is soothing, with its snow-white background and minimal, no-hassle, in-line music player. This site defines elegance. It is also a social hub of a sort -- most of the page features an international chat window where you can practice your Russian. (Get out your Cyrillic keyboard.)

Pandora gets you coming and going

Monday, December 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

In and out of sleep, that is.

Pandora updated its iOS app for Apple devices, adding a wake-up alarm. The app already had a timer feature that encouraged falling asleep to Pandora radio with a timed shut-off. Now users can fall asleep to Pandora, wake up to Pandora, and fortify the “hours listening” metrics Pandora publishes every month.

Pandora is biting into two competing categories with the new wake-up feature. First, obviously, clock radios and the radio stations embedded in most of them. Second, Apple’s wake-up alarm built into all iOS devices.

That built-in iOS alarm is easily controlled by Siri, which is an Apple advantage. It is a simple use-case to poke Siri in the ribs, sleepily mutter “Set the alarm for 6:00am,” slam the phone down on the nightstand, and drop directly into delta sleep. Voice control would make Pandora’s alarm a killer feature. We tried to make Siri recognize Pandora’s alarm, but she grew annoyed, and suggested setting a “reminder to call mom.” OK, we acknowledge our negligence in that area, but still wish for a voice-controlled Pandora alarm clock.

We tested the alarm by setting it one minute into the future. Oddly, Pandora warned us to plug into a power source, as if our half-full battery was gasping its last breath. Never mind that -- the alarm worked fine, gently arousing us from a 60-second reverie with a selected custom station.

You can stop the alarm or snooze it for a preset amount of time. We respectfully request an “OK” function which turns off the alarm but keeps the music playing.

HD Radio broadcasters and OEMs sued for patent infringement

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 11:00am

In what is widely interpreted a patent trolling, some radio broadcasters using HD digital transmission technology (HD Radio) alongside their analog signals are being sued by Delaware Radio Technologies and Wyncomm LLC for patent infringement. The spate of lawsuits has recently expanded to auto companies which build HD radios into their cars.

The lawsuit targets on the radio side are reportedly large broadcasters, lending credence to the trolling theory, as that strategy often aims for a deep-pocketed settlement. HD Radio technology developer iBiquity is not named in the filings. 

RAIN spoke to iBiquity CEO Bob Struble, who cited company policy against commenting on litigation matters, but offered: “We are aware of [the lawsuits] and are working closely with broadcasters and automakers on them.”

Winamp’s Shut Down Was Inevitable

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 12:40pm

This article was originally published in Audio4cast.

The announcement that Winamp would shut down before the end of the year didn’t surprise me given that AOL had already abandoned its online radio platform, but it did make me pause. There have been several times this year that I have stopped and thought that surely this event is one of the signals that online audio has left the “niche” stage of its development and entered the reality of being a full blown mass appeal marketplace. One that a product like Winamp, free downloadable software that began as a tool to enable people to play all those songs they downloaded from Napster, couldn’t survive in.

In fact, I’ve wondered a lot over the years, why AOL kept updating it at all – given that the business model – getting users to pay for an improved upgrade to the player – was so weak. In fact, AOL didn’t just continue to update and distribute Winamp when it purchased Nullsoft in 1999 for $400 million, it also kept Shoutcast running all this time as well. And that was an even stranger conundrum, given that many of the biggest stations on Shoutcast were getting free bandwidth (at least a few years back they were). The deal was, at least back in the early 2000s, that you couldn’t run any ads if you wanted the free bandwidth. I never could figure out why that was. Didn’t that hurt AOL’s own Internet radio platform?

In any event, although Winamp and Shoutcast operated independently at AOL for lots of years, it seems that someone has finally noticed the lack of a business model in that department. Winamp will shut down later this month, although there is word that Microsoft may purchase the intellectual property. The end of an era that also signifies the arrival of a new one – the mature online audio marketplace, where you have to have a business model to compete…

Website Spotlight: Radio Sausalito

Monday, December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

From hyperlocal to global -- that is a core potential of the Internet. For Radio Sausalito, a small AM station whose signal is confined mainly to southern Marin County, webcasting is less about reaching a worldwide audience than making the signal available to local listeners wherever their daily routines take them. But for anyone who tunes in, the programming is unique and deftly curated.

Listening is accomplished via a pop-out in-browser player, or with MP3 and iTunes streams. We are hearing jazz this morning, heavy on Sinatra and other American Songbook selections, with some straight-ahead ensemble work tastefully mixed in. The program lineup is heavily slanted in the jazzy direction across several eras. Stay tuned long enough and you’ll also hear tidal reports and local music event news. There is something charming about listening to a jazz station that also discusses local migrating bird patterns.

Radio Sausalito archives and podcasts three of its non-music programs, one of which (“The Field Trip”) is an arts and entertainment review program.

The station was started by Jonathan Westerling 12 years ago in his home. The station operates with a volunteer staff, accepts CD submissions, and solicits donations in the tradition of a pureplay.

Digital audio company wins tech award

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 12:25pm

Triton Digital, a digital audio multi-dimensional platform that provides streaming, measurement, and advertising services, has won the prestigious Red Herring Top 100 Award. Derived from a pool of 1,000-plus nominations solicited over the course of the year, the award recognizes accomplishment in private tech ventures around the world.

The annual award was started in 1996. Early winners included pre-IPO or pre-acquisition Google, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and eBay, demonstrating Red Herring’s acuity in bestowing recognition.

Triton Digital’s monthly Webcast Metrics is an industry-scrutinized product reported and analyzed in RAIN. (See the September metrics here.) Triton’s digital audio ad exchange, called ax2, is marketed as the only programmatic audience buying platform for audio. 

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