Will Apple be competitive in Internet radio? Experts say: "Depends"

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey told The New York Times that Apple is too "late in the game" to compete in Internet radio on the level of Pandora. That is, unless they unveil a product that significanlty, and noticeably, better than what other services offer.

He said, "It’s going to have to innovate. It can’t just be Pandora with an 'i' in front of it or Spotify with an 'i' in front of it."

Oracle Investment Research chief market strategist Laurence Isaac Balter sees things lots differently. He gives Apple the advantage of Spotify and Pandora owing to "deeper control of the iPhone software and hardware" (in The Times' words), and "more data about its customers... so it can make smarter music recommendations..."

User data and preferences can later be leveraged for a potential Apple television product, Balter told the paper. He said, "There’s so much of a white canvas here for Apple to paint on. It’s refreshing to see them start to think in this area."

Read more in The New York Times here.

The Onion spotlights key features of new Apple Net radio service

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Online satire newspaper has a very funny and characteristically clever list of "top features" of the new Apple Internet radio service today.

They are:

  • Each song preceded by 45-minute Tim Cook presentation
  • Option to play a different song in each earbud
  • Tons of Floyd
  • A daily morning zoo show with Siri and her rowdy friends
  • Ability to lower volume is disabled whenever a really good song is playing
  • Is eager to please
  • Audiobook chapters from Steve Jobs’ biography constantly sprinkled in throughout users’ listening sessions
  • Access to millions of songs readily available on Pandora, Spotify, and Google Play

See it at The Onion here.

Apple Net radio service to offer both curated and user-generated stations based on listening, downloading habits

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Apple has officially announced iTunes Radio, its free customizable streaming online radio service.

As the name suggests, iTunes Radio will be integrated into iTunes and feature over 200 curated channels, plus algorithmically-generated channels based on listeners' favorites songs, artists, and more. All the stations can be fine-tuned by the listeners, and the company says the service will "evolve" based on listening and downloading habits.

If you already have a history using iTunes, "iTunes Radio will offer you an incredibly personalized experience on day one," says Apple.

TechCrunch writes, "Apple really has essentially taken its Genius jukebox-style feature, which combs your library and builds genre-based playlists, or suggests recommended artists and tracks based on what you’re currently listening to. The difference with the new service is that it can access the entire iTunes catalog, which, at this point, is well over 26 million tracks." (At this point it seems Apple's licensing for iTunes Radio is limited to holdings from the major record labels and publishing groups. So while unlike Genius it'll now play lots of music you don't own, it probably doesn't have access to everything that's in iTunes.)

Apple engineers even integrated it with Apple iPhone voice-recognition technology, Siri: "Ask Siri 'Who plays that song?' or 'Play more like this' and Siri will make it happen. Say something like 'Play Jazz Radio' or ask for any of your existing favorite stations and genres. Shape your stations by telling Siri what you like and don’t like, or tell Siri to pause, stop or skip. You can also have Siri add songs to your Wish List to download later."

The free ad-supported service will launch in the U.S. in fall (other countries later) and will be built into iOS 7, iTunes on OS X, and AppleTV (it'll also be available on the web for PC users). Customers of the iTunes Match cloud storage service will get iTunes Radio ad-free.

Read Apple's press release is here. TechCrunch's coverage is here.

AdAge says better targeting of iAds on Apple net radio service will make them more lucrative

Friday, June 7, 2013 - 10:50am

Apple and Sony Music have reportedly reached an agreement to license Sony-owned sound recordings for Apple's upcoming Internet radio service. Sony Music was the final major label holdout; Warner Music and Universal (including EMI) are already in.

"As of earlier this week, the company had yet to sign up Sony/ATV, Sony’s music publishing arm," All Things Digital Peter Kafka wrote today (here), meaning it's not yet full-steam ahead for what the press has called "iRadio."

"But the gaps between Sony/ATV and Apple were supposedly smaller than the ones Sony Music and Apple were looking at a few days ago."

It's expected that Apple will announce the service at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, and make the service public later this year. As an Internet radio service, it's most obvious competitor out of the gate would be webcasting giant Pandora.

Paul Resnikoff at Digital Music News points out (here): "So, kill Pandora, kill? Not exactly: just recently, Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy noted that Pandora's extremely-huge audience makes it nearly-impossible for Apple to boot the app off its iOS deck. Then again, that's what they said about YouTube."

The new Apple service will compete with Pandora not only for listeners, but for advertisers as well. Earlier this week we reported (here) that Apple was retooling its underperforming iAds program to support the webcasting service. AdAge says (here) using the iAd service for the Net radio product will allow Apple "to retain a higher percentage of that ad revenue compared with other iAd inventory. Currently, 70% of iAd revenue is given to publishers who monetize their apps using the service, according to Apple's iOS developer program." According to sources, Apple's deal with music rights holders calls for the company to turn over 10% of ad revenues.

AdAge also reported Apple's service will allow advertisers more accurate consumer targeting than would-be rival Pandora. Pandora steers appropriate ads to listeners based on age, gender, and area code (as supplied by listener). "If a Pandora user changes his or her permanent residence and fails to update their zip code in his or her Pandora account, the ability to target ads based upon location is nullified," AdAge wrote. "Using iRadio on an iPhone will give iAd the ability to more precisely target ads to users based on location." And better targeting can command higher advertising rates.

Research firms says a third of Net radio listeners say they'll immediately flock to iRadio, because it's Apple

Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 12:05pm

More than a third (34%) of respondents in a GroupM Next study say they would immediately switch from their current Internet radio provider to a new Apple service, sight-unseen. Just barely under half (49%) say they'd at least be interested in checking out the still-unreleased Apple Net radio, dubbed "iRadio" by the tech press.

AdWeek reports, "The GroupM Next study concluded that Apple's radio service could be 'potentially disastrous' for its Internet radio competitors, because of the likelihood of current Internet radio users jumping ship to Apple's service." (We weren't able to find out anything about the one-thousand respondents. Were they Apple product owners? iTunes customers? Simply self-described Internet radio listeners?)

GroupM Next's Jesse Wolfersberger wrote, "Consumers express faith in a product experience that steps outside of Apple's mainstream product offering, based on brand name alone. Apple has the competition to thank — Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify and others — for delivering a marketplace and services that have gained adoption the world over... Should Apple decide to flip the switch on this product, it will be an absolute game-changer in the digital audio market, and likely another big win for Apple."

Read more in AdWeek here.

Apple Internet radio entry may catch the attention of antitrust regulators, experts tell Washington Post

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 12:35pm

Music publishers and labels may not be the only bumps in Apple's road to launching its upcoming Internet radio service.

Some experts, according to The Washington Post, say federal antitrust laws may gum the works for Apple as well.

Apple's share of the music download business with iTunes is above 60%, which reportedly "means regulators are likely to monitor any move into a related business to ensure that the company isn't improperly using its muscle to squeeze out competitors," writes the paper.

The key issue, according to the experts with whom the paper spoke, would be if Apple's licensing deals with labels and publishers took advantage of the company's size and market share to unfairly box-out companies like Pandora or Spotify in the competition for customers.

The company is currently embroiled in antitrust legal proceedings involving e-books.

Read more from The Washington Post here.

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