Is today the day it all changes? At some point today, Apple will release iOS 7, and with it, the most anticipated service in the history of Internet radio: iTunes Radio. And it's quite possible that the entire competitive landscape of Net radio shifts dramatically.
Leading webcasters Pandora and Slacker are doing their best to steal some of Apple's thunder today -- with updates for their services on Apple products. Pandora chose today to not only unveil redesigned company logos (left), it's speaking directly to Apple's audience with a new version of its app for Apple's iPad. The webcaster call it the "biggest redesign of the tablet app since launching on the platform when the device was first introduced in April 2010." Huffington Post covers the app and logo update here, with some nice images.
Slacker too has something for the Apple crowd, an "all-new" mobile app for iOS 7 (lower right), with what it calls the "My Vibe" feature. "My Vibe" offers human-programmed playlists for various activities (think Songza's Music Concierge or iHeartRadio's "Perfect For") like working out, studying, and driving. Venture Beat has the coverage here, along with lots of screenshots.
As impressive as these mobile app updates may be, it's hard to imagine focus being anyone but on Apple today. But how big a splash will it make, with listeners?
We have no information as to whether iTunes Radio listening will be measured by Triton Digital's Webcast Metrics (as are dozens of other leading webcasters like Pandora, Slacker, Clear Channel/iHeartRadio, CBS Radio/Radio.com, and more). Nor do we know if Apple will publish their own listening metrics, as Pandora does monthly. So it might be tough for others in the industry to gauge exactly the new service's impact with consumers.
Certainly advertisers respect the reach of Apple, and are betting big that consumers will be there. As we've reported, major brands like Pepsi, Macy's, McDonald's, Nissan, and Procter & Gamble have paid as much as $10 million to be category-exclusive iTunes Radio launch partner advertisers. AdAge reports here.
Writing in Fast Company here, commentator John Paul Titlow says that while the service is a great strategic move for Apple -- to reinforce music-purchasing behavior in a market that's clearly moving towards "music as a service" on-demand consumption -- "for users, the benefits of iTunes Radio are less apparent, especially those familiar with Pandora." Pandora's 13-year head start on refining its music recommendation, he reasons, is a significant hurdle for any service looking to best it on its merits.
That said, Kevin Tofel at GigaOm says he's enjoying iTunes Radio, at least when compared to Google Play Music All Access (which recently introducing genre-based online radio). He writes (here): "I’m shocked that iTunes Radio is offering what I think is more music that I enjoy than Google... I find that with Google All Access, I’m spending more time tuning the stations to my likes and dislikes of each song. For iTunes Radio I might have disliked two or three songs over the past week."
We'll certainly follow up with more coverage of today's launch of Apple's iTunes Radio.