Slacker reportedly will become "completely different" following imminent "major overhaul"

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 12:25pm

Slashgear is reporting webcaster Slacker Radio will soon hold an event "to reveal a complete overhaul of the service."

Slacker, one of the country's leading webcasters (after Pandora, Clear Channel's iHeartRadio, and now Cumulus stations), has made the effort to widen access to its service (see RAIN here), including deals with Microsoft for the Xbox 360, Sprint for the "Entertain Me" app bundle on mobile devices, and Chrysler with Uconnect. Yet Slacker hasn't seen major audience growth since it picked up the Aol Radio channels (see RAIN here), in October of 2011.

"A PR representative for Slacker told us that the company will launch a major overhaul of the radio service in order to better compete with Spotify and other popular music-streaming services," Slashgear reports. "The service will see a refocusing of its efforts, and the redesign and restructuring will be completely different than what the service is currently all about."

Read more here (and, h/t to Tom Taylor, who covers it today here).

New Sprint app bundle "Entertain Me" adds iHeartRadio, Slacker, Spotify to some Android phones

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 1:45pm

U.S. wireless carrier Sprint announced that select new Android and Windows phones will enable FM radio listening by way of the NextRadio tuner app.

To be clear: the phones will receive on-air, FM broadcast content (as opposed to streaming via the data network).

The NextRadio app, developed by Emmis Digital and announced in November, will enable "backchannel" data that will allow broadcasters to supply additional information ("now playing data," images to accompany ads, for instance). This data link will also allow communication in the other direction (for the listener to interact with programming).

Unrelated to the FM radio news, Sprint also announced a streaming app bundle called "Entertain Me" for the "Sprint Zone" on Android phones. "Enterain Me" will include apps for iHeartRadio, Slacker, Spotify, and Sprint Music Plus (downloads and ringtones) -- as well as other entertainment options.

Election season may have driven broadcasters' October streaming growth

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 1:00pm

The Webcast Metrics October Domestic Ranker shows top streaming broadcasters all posting low double-digit percentage AAS (average active sessions) growth in the past month. Pureplay webcasters showed either modest growth of were flat.

One theory is that this growth was spurred by increased interest in political radio in the lead up to the November federal elections.

Cox Radio AAS jumped 30% since September in the M-Su 6a-12M ranking, and NPR Member Stations were up 28% (in the case of NPR, this is likely attributable to new stations's addition to the measurement panel). Cox and Clear Channel are both showing healthy growth over the past 12 months (AAS up 50% for Cox, and 87% for Clear Channel) and in calendar-year 2012 (49% for Cox; 40% for Clear Channel). (Note: Last late year, Clear Channel had just added other major broadcasters' streams to iHeartRadio, like Cumulus').

Pandora continued to pad to its enormous listening lead over the rest of the entire panel (Pandora's mere 3% increase in October represents a 40,742 AAS, which by itself is nearly twice the AAS of this ranker's current #6 webcaster). The leading webcaster is also up 35% this year.

Most other pureplay webcasters' performance wasn't nearly as impressive. Slacker is up 31% in the past 12 months, but that period began before it completely absorbed the AOL Radio streams. Note that former top pureplay webcasters and Digitally Imported are no longer in this ranking.

See the complete Triton Digital October Webcast Metrics report (with its cool new look) here. For comparison purposes, our coverage of the October 2011 rankings is here; and here for September 2012.

Billboard top current music charts will start using data from select streaming services, as well as download sales

Friday, October 12, 2012 - 12:35pm

Billboard is now factoring streaming data and digital download sales into its rankings for major music charts. Billboard announced yesterday that rankings for five of its top current music charts will take into account plays on streaming services like Slacker, Spotify, Rhapsody, Muve, Rdio, and Xbox Music.

The 50-song charts will still include radio airplay data from Nielsen BDS. This is the same formula Billboard uses to create its "all-genre" Hot 100 songs ranking. The Billboard charts Hot Rock Songs, Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Latin Songs, and Rap Songs will now factor plays on select streaming services, as well as digital download sales tracked by Nielsen SoundScan.

Additionally, as Billboard explains, the new methodology "will reward crossover titles receiving airplay on a multitude of formats. With digital download sales and streaming data measuring popularity on the most inclusive scale possible, it is only just the radio portion of Billboard chart calculations that includes airplay from the entire spectrum of monitored formats."

"The way people consume music continues to evolve and as a result so do our genre charts, which now track the many new ways fans experience, listen to and buy music," says Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard Director of Charts. "We're proud to be offering updated genre charts that better reflect the current music landscape..."

Leading Internet radio outlet Pandora wasn't specifically mentioned, but the press release does read "among others" when listing participating streamers.

Read more in Billboard here.

Taking a side in "man vs. machine": Slacker employs radio programmers to craft stations

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - 12:05pm

In the company blog, Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs suggests "the human element" -- something that's been a part of broadcast radio since the beginning -- might be key for pureplay webcasters like Slacker to compete against the 600lb. gorilla that is Pandora.

As Jacobs mentions, Slacker’s senior radio program manager Mat Bates, a veteran of broadcast radio, spoke at our RAIN Summit Midwest event at The Conclave last month. Bates spoke of lessons learned in broadcast, and how they could benefit a pureplay webcaster like Slacker: namely, music presentations crafted by knowledgeable and passionate human beings, and not computer algorithms.

The first wave or two of online music services seemed to us to be a reaction to everything bad that broadcast radio had become: lowest-common-denominator playlists with no surprises, an overload of commercials, and air talent relegated to reading promos. The (largely) non-radio people (quite often from the tech world) were the entrepreneurs of the first generation of online music and radio services, and they developed products that that renounced the "evils" of commercial broadcasting. Some would argue that in doing so, their services were prone to veer in the opposite direction: they often had unfocused playlists, no clear plan for monetization, and lacked any sense of "humanness."

And it really brought to the fore the question: Does the human insight bring something to music programming that we can't (yet) replicate with algorithms and machines? And, what we think is more interesting: does the consumer truly benefit? Is the listening experience so improved as generate increased (and monetizable) listening so as to justify the costs of employing human music experts? And, is this a worthwhile branding advantage (in other words, does the listener realize and care whether her music is "curated" by a passionate musicologist, or cranked out by an algorithm and a database?)? 

Naturally, radio programmers will cling to the notion that what they do with a 300-song playlist simply can't be replicated electronically; likewise, technophiles will smugly chuckle at them. Slacker's strategy seems to acknowledge the value of broadcasting's human element. The service employs experienced broadcast radio programmers (some still working in radio), and they even insert occasional brief "jock" breaks between songs on some channels. What we find interesting is that Slacker doesn't explicitly promote this to the consumer. We can't find anything on the site, nothing in the programming itself, that makes it plain to the listener that "Hey, you're hearing this song or artist because we like it, and we think you'll like it too."

Has Slacker concluded that human curated music programming is so superior to algorithms as to be self-evident -- simply, the proof is in the listening? And that promoting the fact that "hey, we have humans crafting your listening" is just more promotional noise? 

Read Fred Jacobs blog post here.

Former EA, Meebo execs join Slacker management ranks

Friday, August 3, 2012 - 1:10pm

Personalized webcasting and on-demand music service Slacker has added to its management team with former Electronic Arts and Warner Music Group executives.

Slacker's new Chief Marketing Officer, Craig Rechenmacher, held a number of different roles at video game developer EA, most recently VP/Marketing and Business Development for EA's Origin platform. While there, he led global marketing efforts for many of the company's top titles. He's also held senior level positions at THQ and Sony Computer Entertainment.

Carter Brokaw (pictured), now Chief Revenue Officer for Slacker, is a veteran of digital media and marketing platforms with Fortune 500 companies. A former Warner Music Group VP of Digital Media, he was most recently Chief Revenue Officer for Meebo, an ad-supported embedded social media platform acquired by Google in June.

Slacker also announced the appointment of board member Steve Wadsworth to Executive Chairman. Wadsworth has 17 years of experience at The Walt Disney Company as a pioneer for Disney's digital media and technology business and more than 11 years as Disney's chief executive overseeing Internet and digital media, and serving as president of Disney Interactive Media Group.

Slacker is similar to Spotify these days in that it offers a range of streaming music services. It features AOL Radio's more than 200 programmed channels, plus customized channel options with music but also content from ESPN, ABC News, and comedy. Slacker Premium Radio also includes on-demand access to the entire Slacker music library.

Read Slacker's press release online here.

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