Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Digital Radio rolls out globally. iTunes Radio has real potential to own this.

Without a doubt, the next wave is going to be Digital Radio.

We have music streaming services on monthly subscription and we have music downloads, now we'll have sophisticated digital radio with more than 250 DJ curated stations to listen to - for free.

And Apple will own it.

They launched the service in September (same day as IOS7 so it got little PR) across all devices including Apple TV, but only in the USA, for now. Already they're announcing plans to roll it out across Europe. UK, NZ, Australia and Canada were announced only yesterday.

It features in the Itunes store and thereby, immediately putting it in front of an audience of millions. 11 million listeners tried it in the first 5 days after launch.....

What it does in part, is to build pre-made stations around your music choices. So if you hear a particularly song you like, it will tell you the stations that have just played it. Therefore, they might be your kind of stations.

Or you might just want stations that play your favourite genre - Country, Jazz - it will bring you those. The more you listen, the more personalised your station becomes as you decide to make choices - for example, 'never play that song again' - and it won't. The more you listen, the more itunes knows the stations you love and the more it can play the music you love.

So you create your own station in effect, or a pre-made one created based on music you listen to or the music you buy. But there are text and audio ads built into the music and hence it's free although you can remove Ads by upgrading through a subscription. It already has Ad deals in place with P&G, McDonalds, Pepsi and Nissan to start.

It looks too like there's no streaming limits so in some ways it's head-to-head with 13 year old Pandora (Apple are beating them in their quick roll-out and music rights buy-outs) and Spotify, although different. 

Pandora may suffer and reports are that Pandora customers are switching over. However, Bloggers are critical of Apple for simply "copying Pandora". Something Steve Jobs was so critical of other brands doing to Apple.

Of course too, by listening to ITunes Radio, if you hear a song or artist you like, you can buy it there and then.

So it's encouraging music sales by giving listeners what are, free samples. Clever.

And without any doubt, Apple have the distribution, the brand, the financial clout to own Digital Radio globally. Which will have implications for traditional, local stations especially in a young, 14-26 demographic. Those radio stations will need to wake-up to this challenge and they can, by having one big advantage - local content.

Certainly in Ireland, Radio Media owners tend to be smart, bright people but the sudden impact of an Itunes Radio launch will require a response. Now's the time to formulate that because it's coming.

Be 100% sure of that.