Friday, April 6, 2012 - 1:05pm
Internet radio is a "low-barrier-to-entry" industry. No FCC license is necessary, no huge tower in a cornfield. Get your content together, make a few phone calls, and you can be up and streaming.
The abundance of choice on this "infinite dial" is, more cynically, the result of that low barrier. How does your compelling and enjoyable Internet radio service find welcoming ears that have already been repeatedly disappointed by about a thousand of your well-intentioned by under-achieving competitors?
Billboard.biz offers some ideas for services "to separate themselves from the crowd." We love reading (and writing) about Internet radio, and we especially appreciate what it says about our industry that it's not at all unusual to see content like this in a music industry publication.
The article is concerned mostly with Pandora and its progeny: algorithm-driven recommendation/personalized playlist services. Billboard writes, "Already there is very little noticeable difference between the music most services play. Of course, these companies would certainly argue that differences exist between the ways services create personalized listening experiences. But from a listener's perspective they're all pretty similar. Over time, recommendation algorithm that generate playlists will advance to the point where one service's radio feature will be, more or less, indistinguishable from another."
The first recommendation is "create the best product." Duh. Actually, Billboard here is referring simply to the ease-of-use of services like Pandora and iHeartRadio, and it makes sense. People enjoy using a product the can easily manipulate, and that responds to them as they think it should.
"Additional or exclusive content" can also set you apart (e.g. SiriusXM and Howard Stern; iHeartRadio and its AM/FM streams). Again, "gee, thanks!" Certainly the cost to enter the field starts to sharply rise with big-ticket contracts with personalities, artists, and pro sports leagues.
Likely more valuable is Billboard's advice to "find a hook... try being something great to a smaller number of people... some Internet radio services will need to cede the mainstream users to the larger players and find other ways to get a firm toehold in the market." This is the magic right here, where the genius shows through. The most interesting developments in Internet radio will probably happen right here: brilliant thinking leading to unique ways for listeners to enjoy the content they love.
Finally, if you "add features," you can increase the depth of your offering to listeners who might get bored with "default" settings, and be willing to put in the time and effort to take advantage of more powerful customization (Billboard mentions Slacker and Raditaz).
The "infinite dial" truly offers a space for everyone. Only a few will have the means to offer hundreds of genres of music, or the most cutting-edge technology, or top-name exclusive content -- but any webcaster can have a great idea, a unique angle, and superb execution and focus. And that draws a crowd.
Read "Business Matters: Internet Radio Services Need To Separate Themselves from the Crowd" in Billboard.biz here.