Apple's iTunes Radio lands tomorrow

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Issue Date: 
Sep 17 2013 - 12:00pm

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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.

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Yes, but will it include the

Yes, but will it include the all important feature for the real internet stations out there, the actual iTunes Radio Tuner ???

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