Ramsey

Apple's iTunes Radio lands tomorrow

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 12:00pm

The long-awaited Internet radio play from Apple, iTunes Radio, officially goes public tomorrow with the release of the company's latest mobile operating system, iOS 7.

Never before has the launch of an Internet radio streaming service been so anticipated, and perhaps rightly so. Apple's marketing power and built-in customer base are unparalleled in this space. Apple commands name recognition beyond any in the field, including leader Pandora. And even though the service's inital launch is U.S.-only, since the iTunes Music Store is all over the world, "the potential stage is global," CNet's Paul Sloan wrote.

This point is one that makes radio consultant Mark Ramsey think the fattest chunk of potential audience for iTunes Radio will be those who've never even tried Internet radio.

"The 'everyone else' who listens to music on their iGadgets and Android devices and desktops who may never have bothered with the incremental 'work' required to download and use a specialized app or platform but who nevertheless are iTunes users," he wrote. "This is particularly true in the many corners of the world where Pandora doesn’t exist."

What's more, since it's "baked in" to iTunes, there's no need to specially "acquire" this radio, which replicates broadcast radio's pathway to ubiquity: "Almost nobody ever 'buys' a radio. When you buy the clock, the radio comes along for free. When you buy the car, the radio comes along for free," Ramsey contends. "You own several without buying any, and you use them simply because they’re there and you can."

One very important way in which Apple will take a slightly different path than its predecessors may be the amount of human curation -- the programming -- of the service. Sloan's sources at music labels believe the service will rely on the tastes and insights of people, just like Apple does with the iTunes Music Store.

"Apple now will get an opportunity to recast a decade-old debate about the respective roles of man versus algorithm when it rolls out this new piece of streaming music software. Apple has built a service in its own image that, to a large degree, leans on taste makers as well as mathematics," CNet says.

We've discussed this many times before -- services' growing understanding that no matter how sophisticated their recommendation algorithms, humans still have the edge in creating compelling, unique listening experiences (see: the new Beats Music, Spotify's new "Browse," and the just-announced deal between Rdio and Cumulus).

Read Sloan's article in CNet here, and Ramsey's post for PBS's MediaShift here.

Ramsey wonders if radio's outdated web design means it's not serious about the Internet

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 12:55pm

Consultant Mark Ramsey feels strongly about "responsive design" for the web -- that is, building web sites with optimized viewing and navigation across a wide range of devices (PC, tablet, phone, etc.). So strongly, that he's redesigned his MarkRamseyMedia.com to adhere to responsive design principles (we haven't put it through rigorous testing, but we're sure it works).

But it's left him wondering if perhaps radio's failure to do the same means broadcasters "aren't serious about the Internet."

He cites Federated Media and NPR as two big exceptions. But, "if your radio brand has a website that’s intended to be pinched and squeezed on mobile devices, you are inviting your audience to go someplace else next time," he wrote. "And if you turn them off on the web it’s that much more difficult to turn them on on the air."

Read more from Ramsey here.

Watch content from today's radio and tech Hivio conference live online

Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 11:55am

You can watch video coverage of the one-day Hivio radio and technology conference happening today in San Diego.

The event is produced by consultant Mark Ramsey and founder of digital agency Spring House Jaime Solis.

The video stream is here.

Despite buzz around streaming video, streaming audio reaches far and away more Americans weekly

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 12:15pm

While streaming video content is a hot topic, its reach among all adult age groups in the U.S. is dwarfed by streaming audio and radio content.

As you can see from the chart, 40% of 18-24s listen to streaming audio or radio weekly. That reach falls as subjects age, but is still a strong 1 in 4 35-54s.

Obviously, streaming audio is technically easier (with a lower bandwidth requirement). It's easier to enjoy audio on mobile platforms and while driving. And as MediaPost points out, "Radio and any other kind of streaming can be done on the computer while working on the same device -- whether for the purpose of providing background music, sports commentary or other forms of talk-based content."

Consultant Mark Ramsey commented, "For anyone who continues to chirp that 'Pandora is not radio,' I suggest you tell that to the advertiser who sees up to 40% reach on an ad-supported audio platform."

The study was conducted by USA TouchPoints. Read more in MediaPost here and Mark Ramsey here.

RAIN Analysis: Industry's future is as much broadcasters' as Pandora's

Friday, March 9, 2012 - 11:30am

The last few days have been rather rough for Pandora. Its stock slid after its reported earnings failed to meet its own or analysts' expectations. Even soaring revenues and monumental growth couldn't overcome its expenses that are rising even faster. And while words like "gleeful" spring to mind, suffice it to say that for many broadcasters (and trade journalists), these last days weren't as rough as they were for Pandora stockholders.

At this point in the development of this next generation of radio, it can be argued that Pandora is the online radio industry. Its usage and revenue dwarf the combined achievements of the rest of the industry so far (including broadcasters' online efforts), it's had a successful IPO, it's a player in the automotive- and home-entertainment industries, and so on. For better or for worse, at this point Pandora is the Internet radio industry.

And that's why it's important to share with you a thought (or, at least, remind you of this thought). It's not an original thought. It'll be familiar to anyone who's read Jerry del Colliano or Mark Ramsey. And anyone who's listened to RAIN's Kurt Hanson deliver his "State of the Industry" address at a RAIN Summit has heard it. And anyone who's read an interview with Pandora founder Tim Westergren or CEO Joe Kennedy has heard it too.

First, take a look what financial ratings agency Fitch Ratings said today in a new report called "Broadcast Radio Industry Assessment: Near-Term Declines, Digital Potential" (MarketWatch coverage here). Radio's advertising revenue (aside from "digital") will decline each year. People will spend less time with traditional radio. Internet radio, meanwhile, will continue to grow its audiences, fueled by growing mobile use. But given all that, here's the punch line:

Digital initiatives by terrestrial broadcasters, although in early stages, could provide an opportunity to capture a sizeable portion of digital listening over the next few years. Terrestrial broadcasters' established, high-margin businesses will allow them to fund digital initiatives and provide room to absorb near-term revenue declines before any digital revenue becomes material. 

Stated another way: Internet radio is radio's future -- a future which broadcasters are uniquely-suited to dominate.

Now, if Pandora is (at this point in time) Internet radio, and broadcasters's future is Internet radio, doesn't that mean...

Let's let Mark Ramsey (left) say it: "Pandora is, by a broad definition, radio – whether you like it or not, buster. They are radio and you are Pandora – if you choose to be," he writes today (here).

See, Pandora's two significant disadvantages compared to AM/FM -- low monetization of its mobile audience and unreasonably high royalties on music -- aren't going to last. Regarding the first, Ramsey writes, "Do I really need to remind anyone... that quite a lot of traditional radio’s advertising occurs on mobile devices – namely, the mobile devices that sit in your driveway? Indeed, one of the key advantages of mobile advertising on Pandora is that it’s utterly familiar to any advertiser who has ever placed a radio ad!" As for royalties, let's hear from Jerry del Colliano (right), who writes today (subscribe here):

Pandora will not die from this disease called record industry greed because if Pandora goes under, the record industry loses its number one source of music royalty income stream. So the labels will have to relent over time and give Pandora more reasonable rates. Radio on the other hand is facing a new performance royalty that their own NAB CEO is pushing so while Pandora is likely to get royalty relief down the road, radio is about to get saddled with more royalty fees. Bet on it. 

But, the flipside of that is this: Pandora doesn't necessarily have any distinct advantage over broadcasters. There's nothing Pandora -- or Internet radio -- does, that broadcasters can't do just as well, if they put the resources behind the effort.

So, back to that thought to share: Radio's future is digital. It's online, and it's mobile. Pandora's already doing it (as are many smaller, energetic, and innovative groups). And consumers are already headed there. But Pandora needn't "own" it. Broadcasters are still in the best position to stake their claim.

Del Colliano says, "Follow the consumer and you will never go wrong."

We'll give the last word to Ramsey: "Broadcasters enjoy magnificent scale and marvelous relationships with consumers and advertisers alike. Don’t trash Pandora, learn from them. My advice: Don’t get bitter, get busy."

Read MarketWatch's coverage of the Fitch Ratings report here. Read Mark Ramsey's blog here. Subscribe to Jerry del Colliano's Inside Music Media newsletter here.

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