pandora

iTunes Radio more of a danger to smaller players than to Pandora, analysts suggest

Monday, September 23, 2013 - 12:20pm

Industry observers who spoke with Ad Week say don't look for iTunes Radio to decimate current leaders like Pandora and Spotify.

"Remember, even on (Apple's) own devices, Amazon Kindle books are the most read eBooks despite Apple's attempt to come in a change that business," said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. However, most of these experts think the competitive presence of Apple may be enough to squeeze out some smaller players.

"iTunes has a massive user base. Even if only 5 or 10 percent sign up, they are going to affect the on-demand radio stations that exist right now," said Mark Simpson, president of digital marketing firm Maxymiser. "I think we'll see a shrinkage in the number of players, while iTunes Radio grows into a significant player quite quickly."

Lauren Russo of media buyer Horizon Media sees Apple's entrance as a "win" for companies like hers. "Greater competition in the space will lead to better pricing and/or value" for ads, she said.

ABI Research predicts 294 million consumers will use Apple’s mobile iOS, updated last week with iTunes Radio "baked-in," by year’s end.

Read more in Ad Week here.

For a company known for breaking new ground, Apple delivers "nothing new" with iTunes Radio, say reviewers

Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 10:55am

Perhaps because it's Apple, the bar just gets set unrealistically high.

Not that anyone (that we've seen) is outright panning the new iTunes Radio service, one day after what was the most anticipated launch in Internet radio history. It just seems that some folks are, well, underwhelmed.

Billboard's Alex Pham "grades" the service as "a middling student with great unfulfilled potential." The spirit of this (and other reviews) is that iTunes Radio does the basics well, but where's the Apple excitement and pizazz? Pandora's been doing Internet radio well for 10 years.

He found the interface to be great, station creation simple and intuitive. But the genres seems unoriginal, and the Siri interface isn't really "ready for prime time." Read more in Billboard here.

Gizmodo's Mario Aguilar agreed the service was competent, and even "beautiful and dead simple to use." In fact, he found it "better than Pandora —- if only because there is less repetition. For its very limited functionality, iTunes Radio is very good at what it does."

But again, there's that "very limited functionality." Apple used to revolutionize. But those days may be over.

"iTunes Radio is just a decade-old product baked into a media player that hasn't added a noticeable feature since iTunes Match in 2011," Aguilar wrote. The service is "just another path to the iTunes Store... The only significant difference between iTunes Radio and the rest of an increasingly crowded field is that every song that's playing comes with Buy link."

Read more in Gizmodo here.

What are your experiences with iTunes Radio? Is it worth the hype? How does it stack up to Pandora, or Slacker, or iHeartRadio, or any of the other hundreds of competitors (such as the winners of our RAIN Internet Radio Awards)? We'd love to get your input. Please share your comments below.

Once again, Pandora named Best Overall in RAIN Internet Radio Awards

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

(from yesterday's late edition, edited)
Nothing like ending the day on an "up" note. For the fourth straight year, leading webcaster Pandora has been named the 2013 RAIN Internet Radio Best Overall Online Radio Service.

The Awards were presented at the conclusion of yesterday's RAIN Summit Orlando.

Pandora's prize follows a series of somewhat less pleasant developments for the webcaster. For starters, today is the launch of what will very likely prove to be Pandora's greatest competitive threat yet: Apple's iTunes Radio. Monday, Pandora publicly warned share holders that the rapid listening and revenue growth it's enjoyed these past few years will likely be slowing. And Tuesday, RAIN Summit keynote speaker Entercom CEO David Field questioned the veracity of Pandora's reported listening numbers. Perhaps the kudos came at a good time.

Pandora has dominated the award the way it dominates the online streaming space, taking it all four years since RAIN began the awards in 2010 (last year it shared the "overall" award with ESPN Radio).

Congratulations to tuning/aggregator service TuneIn for capturing the Best Overall Digital Strategy prize. The award for International Excellence in Online Audio went to online radio hosting service Radionomy. Boston's WEEI-FM won the award for Best Streaming Broadcast Station. And the 2013 RAIN Internet Radio Award for Best Single Stream Webcaster went to Christian rocker The Blast.

More than 100 services entered the Awards this year. Winners were determined by an independent panel of industry expert judges.

Triton Digital, which sponsors the awards, gave its 2013 RAINMaker Award for individual achievement to Ali Abhary, CEO of Spectrum Medya in Turkey.

Look for more coverage of RAIN Summit Orlando soon.

In judgement for Pandora, court rules ASCAP can't limit webcaster's access to its stock of music

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Pandora scored a clear, and sharply worded, summary judgment from U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, enabling the Internet radio service to continue "performing" (streaming) works included in ASCAP’s entire inventory.

The ruling refutes ASCAP’s attempt to narrow Pandora’s right to perform portions of the ASCAP-represented publishers catalog, when the publishers choose to withhold certain rights. In this case, the publishing arms of EMI Music, Sony/ATV, and Universal Music tried to pull their new-media rights representation from ASCAP, in order to negotiate directly with digital platforms such as Pandora.

Cote's decision spells it out like this: "So whether ASCAP purports to categorize Pandora as an 'applicant' or a 'licensee,' Pandora's right to perform the compositions in the ASCAP repertory extends to all of ASCAP's repertory and ASCAP may not narrow that right by denying Pandora the right to play the songs of publishers who have withdrawn new media licensing rights from certain songs while keeping the songs in ASCAP's repertory to be licensed for performance by other music users."

Pandora’s response to the decision noted "the attempt by certain ASCAP-member publishers to unfairly and selectively withhold their catalogs from Pandora." ASCAP’s response noted "the true value of songwriters' and composers' performance rights, a value that Pandora’s music streaming competitors have recognized by negotiating rather than litigating with creators of music." Both notes noted.

Yesterday’s ruling is a stepping stone to the Pandora/ASCAP rate trial before the ASCAP federal rate board, in a process that arbiters the terms of a blanket license when negotiations fail. That trial starts on December 4.

Webcast industry awaits impact of Net radio's most-anticipated launch ever

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Is today the day it all changes? At some point today, Apple will release iOS 7, and with it, the most anticipated service in the history of Internet radio: iTunes Radio. And it's quite possible that the entire competitive landscape of Net radio shifts dramatically.

Leading webcasters Pandora and Slacker are doing their best to steal some of Apple's thunder today -- with updates for their services on Apple products. Pandora chose today to not only unveil redesigned company logos (left), it's speaking directly to Apple's audience with a new version of its app for Apple's iPad. The webcaster call it the "biggest redesign of the tablet app since launching on the platform when the device was first introduced in April 2010." Huffington Post covers the app and logo update here, with some nice images.

Slacker too has something for the Apple crowd, an "all-new" mobile app for iOS 7 (lower right), with what it calls the "My Vibe" feature. "My Vibe" offers human-programmed playlists for various activities (think Songza's Music Concierge or iHeartRadio's "Perfect For") like working out, studying, and driving. Venture Beat has the coverage here, along with lots of screenshots.

As impressive as these mobile app updates may be, it's hard to imagine focus being anyone but on Apple today. But how big a splash will it make, with listeners?

We have no information as to whether iTunes Radio listening will be measured by Triton Digital's Webcast Metrics (as are dozens of other leading webcasters like Pandora, Slacker, Clear Channel/iHeartRadio, CBS Radio/Radio.com, and more). Nor do we know if Apple will publish their own listening metrics, as Pandora does monthly. So it might be tough for others in the industry to gauge exactly the new service's impact with consumers.

Certainly advertisers respect the reach of Apple, and are betting big that consumers will be there. As we've reported, major brands like Pepsi, Macy's, McDonald's, Nissan, and Procter & Gamble have paid as much as $10 million to be category-exclusive iTunes Radio launch partner advertisers. AdAge reports here.

Writing in Fast Company here, commentator John Paul Titlow says that while the service is a great strategic move for Apple -- to reinforce music-purchasing behavior in a market that's clearly moving towards "music as a service" on-demand consumption -- "for users, the benefits of iTunes Radio are less apparent, especially those familiar with Pandora." Pandora's 13-year head start on refining its music recommendation, he reasons, is a significant hurdle for any service looking to best it on its merits.

That said, Kevin Tofel at GigaOm says he's enjoying iTunes Radio, at least when compared to Google Play Music All Access (which recently introducing genre-based online radio). He writes (here): "I’m shocked that iTunes Radio is offering what I think is more music that I enjoy than Google... I find that with Google All Access, I’m spending more time tuning the stations to my likes and dislikes of each song. For iTunes Radio I might have disliked two or three songs over the past week."

We'll certainly follow up with more coverage of today's launch of Apple's iTunes Radio.

Pandora to issue more stock, warns it can't sustain its rapid growth

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 12:00pm

Leading webcaster (and public company) Pandora plans to sell 10 million more shares of stock as a "follow on" offering, to raise $279 million for "general corporate purposes." The company's biggest investor shareholder, Crosslink Capital, also plans to sell 4 million shares it holds.

And though it says it has nothing in the works, Pandora may use some of the money it raises "for potential acquisitions of businesses, products or technologies."

Within its announcement of the proposed offering, Pandora warned it doesn't "expect to be able to sustain (the) rapid growth in both listener hours and advertising revenue" it has enjoyed in the last few years -- meaning it expects to continue to lose money in the near future. The company continues to battle sound recording and composition copyright owners over royalties (by far its largest expenses, consuming more than half the company's revenue), and faces perhaps its biggest competitive test yet with tomorrow's launch of Apple's iTunes Radio

Read more on this in The Wall Street Journal here, Tom Taylor Now here, and from Pandora here.

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