GigaOM

Is iTunes Radio meant to bolster download sales, or replace them?

Monday, July 22, 2013 - 12:55pm

Nielsen reported last week U.S. music download sales for the first six months of this year are off slightly (2.3%) from what they were at the same point last year. However, streaming music volume is up 24% over the same period, however. (Nielsen's report summary is here.)

Sources like GigaOm say this data indicates a trend, and is exactly why Apple is launching iTunes Radio.

"Attitudes toward music ownership have shifted drastically over the last few years. And (the Nielsen report)... makes it very clear why Apple, which upended the music business a decade ago with its iTunes Music Store, had to start its own streaming music service," wrote GigaOm.

Interestingly, it was GigaOm itself, in an earlier analysis, that suggested Apple's move may be more than just jumping on the streaming bandwagon. We reported in April (here) on GigaOm's suggestion that Apple's iTunes Radio launch isn't necessarily designed to compete with Pandora, but to bolster its music sales business.

Author Janko Roettgers wrote in the earlier GigaOm piece, "The goal is not to kill Pandora, but to actually bring that type of radio service to more users, and keep them from switching to a full-blown access model," like Spotify.

This seems to be what Wall St. Cheat Sheet sees as well. Apple's "market dominance bodes well for the success of iTunes Radio since Apple has created a strong link between its music streaming service and the iTunes Store," it wrote.

Read GigaOm here, and Wall St. Cheat Sheet here.

In-car tech development may soon speed up as prices "continue to drop" for consumers; radio should take note

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 12:00pm

Tesla Model SFor the past few years, the tech world -- much like the Internet radio industry -- has been focused on mobile. From touchscreens to apps to voice command systems, "the hottest tech" has been on our phones, GigaOM writes. "But that may be about to change...our vehicles have a brighter future. The chip industry is betting on automotive in a big way."

As RAIN readers will know, many new cars already offer somewhat easy access to web radio services. Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, BMW and others all offer in-dash apps for Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker, TuneIn and other web radio services.

But development in auto tech may accelerate. Companies like Nvidia, Texas Instruments and others are building new processors for cars to run more apps and offer more functionality on dashboards, GigaOM reports. Such developments are driven in part by "steadily rising" revenue derived from putting new entertainment and connectivity technology into cars.

"In the next year or two we’re going to see cars with services that redefine technology," GigaOM comments.

But connecting to the web may be a problem. Most car systems now rely on smartphones, but others take a different approach. The Tesla Model S (pictured above), for example, connects directly to the web -- no smartphone required. It will also come with TuneIn's web radio directory built in to the dashboard's whopping 17" touchscreen (and also happens to be TuneIn's 200th distribution platform).

Still, such systems -- regardless of how they get online -- run into the same issues of data costs and network capacity. While "the jury is still out" on such issues, GigaOM writes (here), "it's clearly a platform of interest to carriers."

Toyota EntuneCompanies like Livio are looking to make it easier for carmakers to adopt and include web radio technology in dashboards. Livio has just announced it has joined the GENIVI alliance, a Linux-based infotainment platform used by automakers as "a common framework" (more here).

For consumers though, access to such digital connectivity is getting cheaper. "The price of entry continues to drop," writes Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs. He points (here) to the sub-$18,000 Ford Fiesta (equipped with Sync) and the $27,000 Toyota Tacoma (with Entune, pictured left) as examples.

"The automakers and the after-market manufacturers are looking for ways to make the digital dashboard a cheap, easy entry point." And, as Jacobs has found in his own Techsurveys, "about one-fifth of those who have vehicles equipped with these systems [like Sync and Entune] indicate they are listening to less broadcast radio as a result."

"It all points to the need for broadcast radio to do what it does best – serve local communities with programming and personalities that you just can’t get anywhere else with a great consumer experience."

Public radio programs raise funds directly using Kickstarter, GigaOM writer sees trouble for local affliates

Monday, July 23, 2012 - 11:30am

99% Invisible on KickstarterIf you're a regular RAIN reader, you're probably familiar by now with crowdsource funding web service Kickstarter. We highlighted several radio services taking advantage of Kickstarter in April (here) and then later wrote about the online-only Q101's Kickstarter campaign to bring back the Jamboree music festival (here).

Now GigaOM pens an article explaining how Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services could "change public radio forever." Kickstarter could replace the "recurring nightmare" that are pledge drives, GigaOM writes. In fact, several radio programs are already doing this.

GigaOM points to Blank on Blank (a show that "resurfaces 'lost interviews'") and design show 99% Invisible -- both distributed by Public Radio Exchange (PRX) -- as examples. Blank on Blank recently raised $11,337 on Kickstarter. 99% Invisible's Season 3 Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $100,000 as of publication, with 18 days left.

"The potential Kickstarter has for shows like 99% Invisible and Blank on Blank is indeed exciting, because it gives the audience a new way to support them at a much earlier stage," writes GigaOM.

Wired writes, "Because it’s cheaper for local radio stations to play national content than to produce original programming, the projects that get funded are hour-long, weekly, high-production value shows... But the growth of the Internet as a distribution channel is beginning to level the playing field."

Said PRX CEO Jake Shapiro: “It’s a new way to bootstrap new programs, new voices."

"I guarantee that independent public media will never be the same," 99% Invisible producer Roman Mars writes.

Blank on Blank"Mars’s success may end up opening the floodgates for other independent radio producers eying Kickstarter as a funding source," comments Wired.

Both shows are also great examples of how radio programs can innovate on platforms other than the radio dial. Blank on Blank hopes to turn their interviews into animated YouTube videos, while 99% Invisible has created products "so cool, you’d want them even if you weren’t a fan of the show" to raise money on Kickstarter.

GigaOM ponders if this burgeoning trend may spell trouble for public radio local affiliates. "Crowdfunding threatens to further circumvent the local affiliates and their pledge drives — and the effect could be dramatic. What if listeners stopped giving to their local stations and instead just spent all their money to directly fund producers via Kickstarter?"

“They have to rethink their relationship with their audiences,” said PRX's Shapiro.

You can find GigaOM's coverage here and Wired's article on 99% Invisible here. You can also find 99% Invisible's on-going Kickstarter campaign 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.

Audiogalaxy returns with P2P Internet radio/music locker service

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 12:15pm

The newly-relaunched Audiogalaxy.com is designed as a "hybrid" of two popular online music models: (1) an online "locker" to store and remotely stream users' private music collections, and (2) customizable, algorithm-based "music discovery" streams -- in other words, personalizable Internet radio.

But more than this particular combination, what's interesting is the delivery structure. The music isn't even streamed by Audiogalaxy in the conventional sense -- what the user hears is actually streaming directly from user to user, without ever being saved on the company’s servers: peer-to-peer streaming. Logically, this arrangement greatly reduces Audiogalaxy's bandwidth bill while quickly growing their library of available music. 

"Our service offers music fans a tunable music experience - play your own tracks anywhere without uploading, copying, or syncing, or lean back and start discovering music you don't own via Mixes," Michael Merhej, the company's founder, said in the launch announcement. The company calls the music discovery streams "Mixes;" they're playlists of recommended songs pulling not from a library Audiogalaxy had to build itself, but from all of Audiogalaxy's users' collections.

Because of the peer-to-peer architecture, the locker service doesn't require users to actually upload their music files. Instead, up to 200-thousand songs on your computer are simply scanned and made available for instant streaming.

(While this is reminiscent of iTunes Match or the MP3Tunes.com "Beam-It" feature (here), its fundamental difference is that Audiogalaxy isn't serving the file back to the user.) 

The streams are ad-free and cost nothing for desktop listening. Mobile streams are $4/month.

Janko Roettgers, in GigaOM, wrote, "I had a chance to play with both the Web as well as the mobile version of the service Monday, and I liked what I saw. Pandora tends to gear towards the mainstream when listening to niche channel stations, but Audiogalaxy served up tons of music I hadn’t heard before. The local stations are also a nice touch. However, the Android app seemed a bit too cluttered to be useful, with too many options to access information about playlists and stations."

See more, including an introductory video, here. Read Roettgers reporting here.

Live P2P streaming protocol could potentially vastly improve audio streaming efficiency

Friday, February 17, 2012 - 10:00am

This week, at the SanFran MusicTech Summit, BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen demonstrated "P2P live streaming," which could potentially enable real-time video and audio streaming to millions of users without the need for a costly and high-performance central infrastructure.

While the focus for the P2P live streaming protocol is to make the heavy data loads of video events managable for Internet streaming, it could also potentially mean enormous savings for pure audio streaming, greatly reducing costs and allowing for higher bit-rate content (thus higher fidelity), more channels (for surround), etc. It should be noted that there have been other technologies that used a peer-to-peer style structure to decrease streaming costs and improve efficiency. But Cohen says he's rebuilt his technology from scratch, so his efforts may indeed the most advanced yet.

As you may know, BitTorrent was invented to make it easier to quickly distribute large files over the Internet. Instead of downloading an entire file from a single server, with BitTorrent, everyone accessing the file becomes (in BitTorrent parlance) a "swarm" of hosts, downloading and uploading fragments of the file from and to each other at the same time, until everyone has the complete file. GigaOm reports that BitTorrent (Cohen's company) is running "field tests" of weekly streaming live music events using the P2P protocol.

Read GigaOm's coverage here.

Syndicate content