personalizable

Social Radio develops online "side channels" for South Bend rock station

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 11:35am

Federated Media's WRBR/South Bend, IN ("103.9 The Bear") has launched a series of customizable online music streams powered by Social Radio, called "My Bear."

The service enables listeners to choose from seven different niches of rock music, and personalize their listening by skipping, banning, and voting on the songs they hear. Federated chief strategy officer James Derby told Inside Radio he thinks the "My Bear" service could potentially convert "P3 and P4 listeners" into "P1s" by way of more individually-tailored listening experiences.

Federated Media plans to add liners from the jocks as well as "interactive commercials" (the streams are just music and general sweepers now), according to the news source. The station says it will soon launch mobile apps and a social media presence. And should Federated deem the project a success, look for personalized versions of the company's other stations.

Social Radio powers the new Balut Radio, launched by TV5 New Media in the Philippines (RAIN coverage here).

SiriusXM launches customized streaming to mobile devices, powered by The Echo Nest

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 3:20pm

Satellite radio broadcaster SiriusXM yesterday officially launched its "personalizable" streaming radio component, MySXM. The service had been available on the web for a few months, and had pleased some early reviewers (in RAIN in February here and March here).

As of this week, it's also now available on Android and iOS mobile platforms.

MySXM listeners can customize 50 music or comedy streams by adjusting three "sliders." The sliders scale the proportion of material in the stream according to the slider settings. For instance, a listener may lean towards different levels of "Popularity,"  different "Eras," "Styles," and more.

The service uses music intelligence from The Echo Nest, which also powers custom streaming services like iHeartRadio.

Coverage from TheNextWeb is here.

Slacker, Echo Nest, iHeartRadio, Rovi execs debate role of "human touch," listener data during "Personalizable Radio" panel

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 11:00am

Personalizable radio panelCustomizable radio, like the offerings from Slacker, iHeartRadio, Pandora and others, is a "combination of art and science," members of the "Personalizable Radio" panel at RAIN Summit West explained. The discussion was one of the most popular and thought-provoking of the conference.

The "art and science" metaphor was first put forward by Owen Grover, SVP of iHeartRadio. On the one hand, there's the "science": data from companies like The Echo Nest and Rovi about what artists are similar to other artists, what vocalists sound the same, what guitar solos are related and so on. 

But then there's the "art" of also taking into account the much more complicated "cultural" factors, explained Rovi Director of Architecture & Innovation Michael Papish. That is, linking artists and songs that don't necessarily relate to one another scientifically, but that are tied together in popular culture. "There's a lot more going on than just saying 'these two songs sound alike, therefore we should play them together.' There's a lot more behind why humans like different types of music," said Papish. 

Both Grover and Slacker CEO Jim Cady spoke to the power of having an emotional connection within the stream as well. "There has to be humans behind it," said Cady. Slacker employs 75 programmers to give their streams that human touch. Otherwise, "there's a missing emotional connection." He says most users want that "lean-back," curated experience (as long as they can "lean-forward" when need be to customize the stream). Grover said Clear Channel has seen their Custom Radio service actually push new listeners to the traditional AM/FM streams (which are all curation and virtually no personalization).

Michael PapishBut Papish (pictured left) challenged the idea of the power of the human touch. "We think there's something magical being done by the DJ song-to-song, but maybe it's all in the listener's head," he said, referencing studies that found that listeners prefer a random assortment of music just as much as a carefully-crafted playlist. "There may not be a way to measure whether a playlist is 'good' or not."

Whether the playlist has a human behind it or not, "The idea of uniformed playlist given a seed artist is unacceptable," argued The Echo Nest's CEO Jim Lucchese. It must be customized to each listener's individual preferences, and the process of discovering what those preferences are may be the next big challenge for personalizable radio services and the engines that fuel them.

Indeed, data about artist similarity can only take you so far, said Grover. "You don't want to start making too big leaps of faith around data," he explained. "A thumbs down on a Lady Gaga song doesn't necessarily tell you much of anything about that song, that listener, or Lady Gaga." Perhaps the sequence of songs wasn't quite right, or the time of day had an impact, or the listener may have just heard the song 50 times already. More information is needed.

"We may have hit the wall in terms of what we can do with either thumbs up/down, or ratings," mused Papish. "We need to figure out new, better ways of actually asking our listeners what they like." That process is still on-going. "We are just getting started identifying the individual listener," said Lucchese. Papish shared that Rovi, for example, is looking for better ways to have the listener explicitly share preferences with music services. One idea is to use gamification elements to make sharing that information more fun and engaging.

Jim Lucchese and Owen GroverAll this shows that the entire realm of personalizable radio is still "in the exceptionally early days," said Lucchese (pictured first on the right, beside Grover). But it's already changing how consumers think about radio, as the panelists explained.

Cady shared the anecdote of driving with several 10-year-old boys who asked him to skip the song currently playing on FM radio. Grover shared his own experience of a 9-year-old asking why he couldn't go back to the beginning of an AC/DC song playing on the radio. "There's a change that's happening," said Cady. Radio is being redefined and the industry "can't hold on to these old conceptions."

But, in Grover's opinion, the idea that these new customizable services will destroy traditional radio is "nonsense." Papish agreed: "We can't lose that one-on-one feeling," that DJ-curated experience. Not everyone wants that kind of experience all the time, but "we can't lose it."

That said, Grover argued, "If you aren't where your listeners are, with the features and content that they expect, you're nowhere... Be where your listeners are."

You can watch the "Personalizable Radio" panel, moderated by Radio-Info's Sean Ross, from RTT News here.

"SiriusXM is targeting the likes of Pandora and Spotify," says Billboard

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 11:40am

SiriusXMFor those keeping score at home, there are now at least four major music companies looking to emulate Pandora-like personalized Internet radio. The latest addition is SiriusXM. Though the satellite radio company has for years now been hinting at some kind of "personalization" features (RAIN coverage from November 2010 here), details were nowhere to be found. Until now.

CEO Mel Karmazin said during SiriusXM's earnings call that, "Late this year, we plan to debut a SiriusXM version of personalized music online, allowing subscribers to tailor their favorite SiriusXM music channels to their tastes."

The web radio stations will be available to SiriusXM's Internet radio subscribers. And they will of course be commercial-free.

"Free and freemium competitors online will have a tough time matching the commercial-free aspect of SiriusXM-branded music combined with the unique sports and talk content we offer," argued Karmazin. Clear Channel's own personalized radio service is commercial-free, while Pandora and others offer to remove commercials for paying users.

"Make no mistake, SiriusXM is targeting the likes of Pandora and Spotify," writes Billboard. "SiriusXM's entry into personalized Internet radio shows this is a very competitive space." In just the past few weeks, its bee reported that Spotify, Rdio and Turntable.fm are also developing Pandora-like Internet radio services (RAIN coverage here, here and here).

Karmazin also took the opportunity to attack streaming radio royalty rates, which he says are "extraordinarily high." And Billboard writes (here) we can expect SiriusXM "to become even more vocal about the webcasting royalties paid by services such as Pandora and iHeartRadio."

SiriusXM is already unhappy with its current royalty rates. The company has been trying to secure direct licenses with rightsholders, thereby avoid SoundExchange and the statutory license (RAIN coverage here). Then SiriusXM sued SoundExchange and A2IM for allegedly interfering with its attempts to obtain those direct licenses (RAIN coverage here and here).

Finally, SiriusXM recently updated its Android app to include more interactive features. The upgrade allows mobile users to replay up to 5 hours of content, start songs and shows from the beginning, skip ahead and access SiriusXM's new 2.0 channel line-up. You can find out more here.

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.

ESPN RADIO CONTENT NOW AVAILABLE TO SLACKER USERS

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 11:00am

CNet reports ESPN Radio on Slackerthat starting today, ESPN Radio content will be available on Slacker. The partnership between ESPN Radio and Slacker was announced six months ago (RAIN coverage here).

Slacker users can now create custom sports radio stations "based on the type of sport, teams, or ESPN programs," writes CNet. They can also add hourly SportsCenter updates to their music stations. Slacker provides other non-music programming thanks to a partnership with ABC News (more here).

Find more coverage from CNet here.

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