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'Programming' vs. 'personalized' music models compete for listeners

Posted on: 02/04/2008

From The Times Online: The days of turning on the radio to hear inane DJs rambling, or the same irritating adverts being repeated hour after hour, could almost be over.

New gadgets capable of learning your musical tastes and piping relevant songs to you via the internet have arrived.

Logitech’s Squeezebox Duet [pictured right] plugs into your hi-fi and connects wirelessly to your computer using a home wi-fi network. You will then need to set up your computer to receive songs over the internet from a “personalized” station such as Last.fm. Older Squeezebox models may also work, though a bit of tinkering may be required.

Last.fm works by tracking what you’re already listening to with your computer, whether that’s on iTunes, on CD or online. It then compares your musical choices to those of people around the world and, when it finds someone similar, automatically selects new songs that you’re likely to enjoy… creating a station tailored for you.

Other personalized radio stations, such as Mi-Xfm, need a little more interaction, asking you to rate each tune they play and altering their playlist to match.

A million Brits are now tuning in to personalized stations online every week, and many are also tuning out traditional radio

Making the leap from the PC to the living room will give a huge boost to the new radio services, believes Christian Ward of Last.fm: “The move this year is all about getting personalized radio into the home, in a simple way, and then onto mobile phones and beyond”… Taking personalized radio fully mobile, although it’s available only in the US for now, is Slacker.com’s Portable Radio Player. Launched this week, it comes preloaded with up to 40 stations containing thousands of tracks. As you rate individual tracks, Slacker learns your tastes and refreshes the player’s built-in memory with other songs, using your wi-fi connection…

Personalized broadcasts of the future will probably have either advertising or a price tag attached, just as they do today. But once your radio knows exactly what you want to hear, the idea of a human DJ – however cheeky his banter – might start to sound a little dated…

In Germany last week, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), the service that offers easier tuning and catchup facilities to radio listeners, had its funding cut because of poor take-up. One reason was that consumers were switching to listening online, a classic case of a new technology being overtaken by an even newer one before it has had a chance to take hold…

In Britain, a survey by Rajar, the research organization, revealed that one in six listeners to personalized radio were listening to less live radio than ever before [see RAIN coverage here]. Might this all signal the beginning of the end for music radio as we know it?

Read the entire story from The Times Online.

Industry expert Mark Ramsey, in a post to his Hear 2.0 blog analyzing this story, writes, “What it all adds up to is the gradual near-obsolescence of music radio, not in a blink, but by a slow and persistent siphoning of audience and attention and interest and advertisers… What a fabulous opportunity for non-music radio. What a fabulous opportunity for new non-music experiments (which may or may not be “Talk”). What a fabulous opportunity for radio to plant its flag in the future, given that so much of that future can be seen coming now.” Read Ramsey’s entire blog post here. You can get a glimpse of his latest posts (and click through to read them), as well as other industry blogs you might find valuable, in the Blogroll section of RAIN.

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