on-demand

Cumulus acquires stake in Rdio, will launch free, ad-supported music service

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 10:55am

Major broadcast radio group Cumulus and online subscription streaming service Rdio have forged a deal that gives Cumulus a significant online outlet, and not only affords Rdio access to the broadcaster's music programming, but allows it to launch a free, ad-supported service in the U.S.

Cumulus will sell ad inventory for the free service. The new service will likely feature a combination of Internet radio and on-demand listening.

No cash changes hands in the new deal. According to a press statement, "Cumulus will obtain a significant equity stake in Pulser Media, Rdio's parent company, in exchange for exclusive content, media and on-air promotional commitments over a five year period."

"This is our digital play," Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey told The New York Times in a joint interview Friday with Rdio chief Drew Larner.

Cumulus operates 525 AM and FM stations. Cumulus station streams are available on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio platform.

Dickey told the paper, "We’re trying to be much more active in the audio ecosystem than just passively handing our streams over. That has severe limitations in terms of our ability to monetize."

Rdio launched in 2010 by Janus Friis, the co-creator of Skype. It's available in 31 countries. Its most direct competitors are services like Spotify, Google Music All Access, Rhapsody, and Mog.

The New York Times has more here.

Rhapsody VP Maples finds expert-curation key to minimizing audience churn

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 11:20am

We've read (and written) lots on the increasing importance of "music curation" (what radio pros call "programming") for music subscription services.

It's great to offer tens of millions of songs, but how does a listener start? Millions have grown up with the radio and developed the habit of "lean-back" listening -- flip a switch, and "music!" Music subscription services are doing more and more to offer customers effortless experiences of music they'll enjoy (we've recently covered Spotify's new "Browse," Rdio's "Stations" -- and Beats Music's very mission as a service "heavy on curation").

Jon Maples, who's VP of product-content at musis service Rhapsody, today shares some of what his company has learned about how music programming impacts customer usage.

Beyond solving what Maples calls "the catalog problem" for the user ("What do I listen to?"), good music curation can help maintain an audience by minimizing "churn."

Churn is that rate at which customers abandon a service. Since it's expensive to constantly acquire new users, business naturally want to minimize churn. Maples says the key is to keep listeners active -- give them reasons to keep coming back and using the service.

"It seems obvious, but if a customer uses the product more, they are less likely to leave. In fact, we've found if we can get a customer to play more than 50 tracks a month, the churn rate drops in the double digits," he writes. We've "utilized curation as a driver, so that every time our members fire up the service, they're going to get something new to play."

He points to Rhapsody's "Featured" section, and the prominence of the service's curated playlists, stations, and posts. And it's important to apply that expert programming across as wide an offering as possible -- "speaking to a wide variety of tastes and interests," as Maples puts it. "Our best customers listen to more than 200 subgenres a year."

Rhapsody SVP/Product Paul Springer will speak on the "Streaming Music Trends" at RAIN Summit Orlando on September 17. More information and registration is here.

Read more from Rhapsody's Maples in Hypebot here.

Powered by The Echo Nest, new Rdio Stations includes automatically generated customized You FM

Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 12:25pm

On-demand music service Rdio is making a big push towards delivering music in a personalized radio style, with its "new and improved" Stations feature.

Many have made the case that while a true on-demand, "pull" service allows listeners maximum flexibility (you simply choose whatever you want to hear), a more "radio-style" presentation makes for an easier "lean back" listening experience, and can introduce a listener to new music relevant to their tastes, couched within familiar favorites. As on-demand music services have evolved their offerings in the past few years, we've seen them paying more attention to improving their radio-style services

Rdio's new Stations is powered by data from The Echo Nest, which also announced the new service in its blog.

One cool feature is called "You FM." It's a custom stream based on an Rdio user's listening history, song ratings, Facebook likes, Twitter follows -- which is constantly updated as this data changes. It can also be manually customized. Similarly, "Friend FM" uses a listener's Rdio friend's tastes to generate a streaming music stations.

Rdio Stations also offers more than 400 of the traditional genre- (and what it calls "sub-genre") radio stations. Users can also generate stations based on a favorite artist of song (in the Pandora vein). Finally, if a listener chooses to listen to something "on-demand" (say, a full album), the "AutoPlay" radio function will continue to play music similar to the choosen piece after that piece is complete (competitor MOG can do this as well).

All Rdio stations allow users to skip songs, and replay songs as well (this is an on-demand subscription service, after all). But they allow further customization by way of a five-position setting that ranges from "Popular" (well-known songs) to "Adventurous" (deeper cuts). Finally, Rdio is using a "full-screen" takeover for the player, with a very simplified control icons in favor of huge, colorful CD cover images.

In a blog entry, The Echo Nest explains how its data helps power the new Rdio Stations. "We've spent over a decade researching and developing ways to understand Musical Identity. For each person, we develop an individual Taste Profile. To build You FM and Friend FM, Rdio worked closely with The Echo Nest to extend each user’s Taste Profile across the entire world of music, creating a radio representation of your taste, or that of any of your friends."

The Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese will moderate a panel at the September 17th RAIN Summit Orlando. More details soon.

Read more from The Echo Nest here; more on Rdio's Stations in Engadget here.

New Spotify "Browse" adds "programmed radio" style experience

Monday, August 5, 2013 - 10:55am

Perhaps acknowledging the importance of "aided discovery" and music programming -- as well as some customers' desire for "lean-back" listening -- Spotify has introduced a new feature called "Browse" to its mobile apps. The feature spotlights expertly-curated playlists designed to accompany specific moods or activities ("romance," "jogging," "commuting") -- similar to both webcaster Songza and iHeartRadio's "Perfect For" streams.

According to CNet (who spoke with Spotify VP of product development Charlie Hellman), a staff of 35 "musicologists," music editors, and writers not only create custom playlists, but monitor usage data for the more than a billion user-created Spotify playlists to find the most popular.

A traditional differentiator between on-demand music subscription services like Spotify and true online radio has been "programming" -- the human-created selection of songs that fit together to create a listening experience.

In the past, Spotify has offered both a "custom radio" feature (a stream of music similar to a listener-supplied artist or song based on data from The Echo Nest) and basic radio genre listening ("Country," "Classic Rock," etc.).

The new "Browse" feature is available on Spotify mobile apps now, and will gradually be introduced to other platforms.

Read more in CNet here.

New iHeartRadio Talk includes customizable channel "Daily Pulse"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 12:35pm

Clear Channel today beta launched iHeartRadio Talk, a platform that offers on-demand professional and listener-created talk content -- which the company calls "audiosodes" -- through a partnership with Spreaker.

The centerpiece of the new system is called "Daily Pulse." This is a customizable channel of talk content with news and "culture highlights," to which listeners can add their favorite content.

The Spreaker partnership licenses that company's technology to enables users to capture, process, and upload their own created audio content to iHeartRadio Talk. An editorial staff will run a "quality control" on submitted content.

Featured exclusive iHeartRadio Talk content will sourced from The Huffington Post, Ryan Seacrest, Univision, and The Wall Street Journal. Clear Channel says iHeartRadio Talk will be the exclusive digital radio platform for ABC's "Good Morning America," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and "The View."

TechCrunch also covers the launch here.

NPR CEO says goal of digital efforts to be "Pandora for news"

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 8:05pm

NPR has long set the pace in radio in this country when it comes to adapting to the new media landscape. Interestingly, in a new Wall Street Journal interview, NPR CEO Gary Knell characterized NPR's online content efforts as trying to be "a Pandora for news."

NPR's website and apps brim with on-demand news, music, photos, and other features. Knell told the paper the idea is "to allow listeners to customize a playlist, available through the cloud, live. We want to have serendipitous listening, not knowing what the next story is..."

Knell verified that that NPR's efforts in digital media have been effective in bringing new, younger listeners into the fold -- as some figures show commercial broadcast radio listening cratering among teens and young adults. While the average age of NPR's on-air listener is 53, that drops to 37 for iPhone listening. The average age of "NPR Music engagers" is 28, he said.

Without the on-demand options and other features enabled by new media technology, Knell fears, listening is lost.

"We're all over this, because if we don't do this we're not going to last," he admitted. NPR has to offer "the option of a la carte listening, or they will turn to other places."

Read interview excerpts in The Wall Street Journal here.

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