automakers

Jacobs suggests judging new tech simply on its ROI is short-sighted

Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 12:05pm

Last week radio broadcast group Saga Communications announced that it would be cutting back on online streaming, turning off Internet access to its stations in markets outside the Top 100, and place geographic limits on its big market streams so only local listeners can tune in. Saga (and they're not the only radio owner) simply isn't seeing the return-on-investment for the money it spends in bandwidth and royalties (RAIN's coverage is here).

Veteran radio consultant Fred Jacobs suggests that broadcasters need to look at technology investments as the "price of admission" for competing in a new media world -- and not judge their value simply on whether these efforts are "revenue positive."

"We continue to have this conversation in radio about the ROI of streaming -– to the industry’s detriment," Jacobs wrote in his Jacoblog. "There are some activities that inherently generate revenue while contributing to the brand. There are other endeavors and investments that simply aren’t going to make money -– at least in the near term. Not every strategy and tactic pays off in dollars."

Jacobs reminds radio that Pandora's strategy, from Day One, has been to be "everywhere." Pandora's efforts -- with apps for every significant mobile device, Blu-ray and DVR units; partnerships with automakers, game consoles, and subscription TV services -- clearly reflect that. And while the broadcast industry has its own "Radio heard here" strategy, groups that judge the value of streaming (and Facebook, and mobile apps, and social media) strictly based on cash-flow are not sticking to the game plan.

"In our new media world, every time there’s an article about how another radio owner or operator isn’t going to stream, is ridding itself of more local talent, or cutting back on investment in content, I have to believe that financial analysts, investors, and yes, broadcast radio’s competition just shakes its head," concludes Jacobs.

Read Jacobs' Jacoblog here.

Apple's iPhone voice-control system coming to 9 automakers' dashboards within 12 months

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 11:35am

Siri in carsApple yesterday announced a series of partnerships with automakers to bring the voice-control system Siri into cars witin the next 12 months. Drivers will be able to press a button on the car dashboard, then speak a command (like "launch Pandora" or "open iHeartRadio" or "play AccuRadio").

"With the Eyes Free feature, ask Siri to call people, select and play music, hear and compose text messages, use Maps and get directions, read your notifications, find calendar information, add reminders, and more," Apple said (according to PC Mag here).

Automakers on-board with the new integration include BMW, Mercedes, GM, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda. The system will require a connected iPhone.

"By leveraging Siri's natural language voice control platform, theoretically drivers will be able to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road to minimize distracted driving," comments CNet (here).

The Verge notes that cars won't sport a custom "Siri Button," but instead Siri will just use the "already built-in general voice activation buttons." Apple also announced new features for Siri, including the ability to launch third-party apps, perfect for firing up Internet radio apps safely while driving.

The Verge has more coverage here and here.

GigaOM: Automakers' bring-your-own-connection strategy may be more beneficial to consumers

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 11:40am

In-car stereoThe current in-car Internet radio landscape is dominated by dashboard systems that let users control services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn...provided there's a smartphone connected.

Lately, Verizon has reportedly pushed aggressively for a different future, one where cars connect directly to the web via 4G LTE. GigaOM reports Verizon Wireless' parent company recently purchased a machine-to-machine telematics company, while Verizon itself has formed a 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars.

BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Kia have joined the forum, but absent are automakers from Detroit. GigaOM writes their absence "might be attributable to the fact that U.S. automakers’ visions for the connected car aren’t entirely aligned with Verizon’s."

That is, they would prefer the current bring-your-own-connection set-up.

"The logic is sound," comments GigaOM (here). "Consumer vehicles have long replacement cycles. Meanwhile consumers trade in their smartphones for more-sophisticated models every 18 months. Any radio, processor or platform technology an automaker embeds in a car could become obsolete within a few years."

But might requiring a separate device end up being a roadblock to in-car web radio adoption? Perhaps not. Nielsen recently found that more than half of mobile users in the U.S. now own a smartphone (RAIN coverage here). Meanwhile, Forrester Research has predicted U.S. consumers will own 257 million smartphones by 2016 (more here). 

As Auto Magazine commented last year (here), "Millions of drivers already pay for powerful mobile devices and data plans, and most new cars, even those as inexpensive as the Kia Forte, are set up to connect with them via Bluetooth and USB inputs."

But it will be up to automakers to make the integration between their dashboards and the increasingly diverse world of smartphones as seamless and painless as possible.

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