RAIN 4/20: TuneIn Radio's Windows Phone 7 app blends FM, web streams
IF FM FUNCTIONALITY APPEALS TO MOBILE USERS, DEVICE MAKERS WILL RESPOND — NO LAW REQ’DWe’ve often heard analysts foresee a future where radio platforms blend delivery methods — FM, web, satellite — to the point where listeners don’t know (and perhaps don’t care) how exactly they’re getting their content (as wrote Fred Jacobs in this blog post).
Here’s an interesting step towards that future: TuneIn Radio’s new app for Windows Phone 7 integrates the on-board FM tuner that comes standard on such devices with more than 50,000 Internet radio streams. Users can tune in to either local FM stations or online streams from around the world.
The app’s use of FM offers smartphone users two benefits that should get them drooling: improved battery life and less data usage.
Meanwhile, two U.S. Representatives have introduced a new resolution into the House that opposes the FM-in-cellphones mandate (more coverage from All Access here). The NAB has pushed for a law requiring all mobile devices to include FM receivers for “emergency alerts” (RAIN coverage here).
RAIN ANALYSIS: TuneIn Radio’s Windows Phone 7 app showcases the substantial benefits of FM — benefits that may appeal to smartphone users more than any “emergency alerts” argument. As cellular providers cap data usage and slap bigger, more power-hungry screens (and 4G antennas) onto devices, anything that saves battery and avoids data usage should be welcomed by users.
If this “hybrid” approach appeals to consumers, device manufacturers will take note and respond — without the need for legislation. — MS
RAIN SUMMIT WEST PANEL: STANDARDIZATION IN WEB RADIO DIRECTORIES “THE HOLY GRAIL”Many webcasters rely on Internet radio directories — those sites and services that aggregate the tens of thousands of Internet radio addresses and allow listeners to find stations based on genre, location, and more. But, as we learned at RAIN Summit West 2011, maintaining such databases presents numerous challenges, not only for the directory services that want to provide a helpful service, but to webcasters themselves who want to be found.
Rusty Hodge, founder of successful independent webcast Soma.fm, noted during the “Tuners & Directories” panel discussion that it’s difficult for webcasters to push their streams to all the different aggregators out there and to ensure their services are listed correctly.
Bill Moore of TuneIn Radio explained his own company’s challenges. TuneIn Radio maintains tuning software for devices, its own successful mobile app, and a consumer Internet radio guide destination called RadioTime. Moore explained that TuneIn Radio relies on users, as well as broadcasters, to spot errors. As a result they receive 10,000 update requests every week, said Moore. To sort through them, TuneIn Radio uses a 40-member editorial team and “millions of lines of code.”
Lisa Namerow, VP of AOL Music Network, explained how her company’s approach with the Shoutcast directory is more “organic.” Webcasters suppy their own data, which is automatically aggregated into the directory. Not surprisingly, that sometimes means “it doesn’t look as pretty” (as a closely-monitored guide might be). However, the guide is still well-used. Namerow said Shoutcast visitors clock in about 400 million hours of listening every month.
Moore, Hodge and BRS Media president George Bundy (who also runs the Web-Radio.fm directory) agreed that some sort of unified Internet radio directory should be the ultimate goal here. And that’s just what the Internet Media Device Alliance (IMDA) is trying to do, according to panelist John Ousby of tuning software creator vTuner (on the panel representing the the IMDA).
“When data is updated [by webcasters, updates would ideally be] sent to all subscribing aggregators so that the information can be kept fresh… there’s currently no standard way of providing this information. So that’s what we’re doing,” explained Ousby.
“This sounds like a pretty good step forward,” said moderator James Cridland of MediaUK.org. Soma.fm’s Hodge agreed. “I love the fact that we would only have to push one data feed out…standardization in directory services is like a holy grail for Internet radio right now.”
RAIN Summit West took place at the NAB Show in Las Vegas on April 11. We’ll have lots more coverage of the event in coming issues of RAIN.
SWCAST.NET STREAMS, SITE DISABLED FOLLOWING SOUNDEX TAKE-DOWN REQUESTFollowing what it terms as a failure “to abide by its obligations under the statutory license,” SoundExchange requested (and was granted) that webcasting service SWCast.net’s site and streams be disabled by the host ISP. As of press time, while the site is reachable, it’s mostly non-operational.
SWCast Network provides streaming services to small (mostly “hobbyist”) webcasters. Webcasters pay SWCast.net for the streaming, as well as royalty payment and reporting obligations. But SoundExchange, which collects and distributes royalties for the owners of copyright sound recordings says the service “did not pay anything to SoundExchange for years, and… has not even attempted to make any payment to SoundExchange for any period after 2005. SWCast [sic] has also never provided the reports of use that are clearly required…”
Randall Krause, president of SWCast Network, in a discussion with RAIN, didn’t delve into specifics regarding the accuracy of SoundExchange’s allegations. However, he insisted that the specifics are being mischaracterized, and that he wants “to insure that (his company’s) royalty obligation is fulfilled.” He says he’s been “fully willing to be cooperative,” but counsel representing SoundExchange has been unwilling to communicate with him to resolve the issue.
Several SWCast.net members forwarded to RAIN a copy of a letter from SoundExchange counsel Brad Prendergast (which you can read here). The note explained that “on March 28, 2011, SoundExchange sent a letter to the Internet service provider for SWCast.net informing the ISP that SWCast.net had failed to comply with the terms of the statutory license, was engaging and/or assisting in infringing activity and had violated the ISP’s terms of service. The letter requested that the ISP disable access to the SWCast.net site…” The letter requests that SWCast.net customers inform SoundExchange whether they intend to submit royalty payments and reporting under the statutory webcast license going forward themselves, or sign up with a different third-party agent.
SoundExchange also posted a public notice about the matter here.
Industry attorney David Oxenford (at right) blogged about the situation yesterday. In his BroadcastLawBlog he wonders, “Does this action reflect a new aggressiveness on the part of SoundExchange?.. Perhaps, with a new President, and with the last webcasting royalty proceeding done but for the appeals, this is a time when SoundExchange feels comfortable enough to act to ensure compliance with its royalty requirements.”
SWCast.net’s Krause submitted the following after our discussion: “Moving forward, I believe that it is for the benefit of our entire industry that we are able to work productively with SoundExchange to resolve these allegations in a timely manner.”
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