So the big buzz in radio late last week was this rumor that Apple is moving to get into the streaming radio business. Whether this happens with the release of the iPhone 5, it occurs later in the year, or never at all, shouldn’t change the game for traditional radio broadcasters.
Pandora has clearly done something very special in the pure-play universe, vaulting ahead of its competition, going public, and aggressively hiring radio reps who can monetize its service.
And along the way, new competition has popped up – with interesting differences and angles – all in an effort to be similar but different from Pandora. Spotify, Songza, and now perhaps, Apple Radio, see a great market for streaming radio, selling music, and taking advantage of all those ear buds, computer speakers, and car dashboards that will connect consumers to their favorite music.
So should radio fear Apple’s new venture and will it really be a difference maker?
Well, first and foremost, we shouldn’t be surprised. In the world of big tech brands, we’ve learned that the key players will continue to line extend in order to take advantage of new markets.
Apple, a computer company, starts making mp3 players, and then phones and tablets.
Microsoft, a software company, starts making phones and develops a search engine.
Amazon, an e-commerce company, starts making tablets.
Facebook is supposedly talking about making a phone.
And the list goes on.
It’s the nature of the digital beast to grow and expand.
So who might be affected by an Apple Radio product and should broadcast radio be fearful?
The big dog is always the target, so Pandora ought to feel like it’s in those Cupertino cross-hairs. Its hold on pure-play streaming radio listening could easily be impacted by Apple becoming a competitor.
But as for radio, nothing really changes. It’s just another indication that the world of audio entertainment has become more crowded. But it’s also acknowledgment of the importance of this space.
Here are some thoughts about how broadcast radio might plan its next set of moves:
- This isn’t about starting a personalized music service on your website. Pandora, Apple, and Spotify can and will do it better.
- It is about thinking how radio brands can provide a unique and welcome service that is different from what they get from pure-plays.
- This is yet another call for broadcasters to clean up and improve the streaming experience, whether it is cleaner ad insertion, less buffering, more commercial-free programming, higher bit rates, or other solutions that make radio brands more competitive – or at least on an equal footing in a streaming environment.
- Programmers need to be incentivized for their streams and they need to start monitoring them for quality and reliability.
And that leads to a series of questions that need to be asked at The Radio Show and other conferences, at company meetings, and inside every station and cluster in America:
- What are radio’s defining differences – today and down the road? What can a local FM radio station offer that consumers cannot get from a pure-play? What is broadcast radio’s “why?”
- What role does a personality/concierge play in the consumption of music – and how can radio brands leverage that advantage?
- How can a local radio brand better cater to advertiser needs and produce results in ways that global pure-plays cannot?
- How can radio better serve the emotional needs of the audience by providing programming, services, and even companionship that goes beyond what a pure-play can offer?
- How can radio offer better experiences to its audience – unique opportunities to interface with the music and those who make it?
- And finally, how can radio improve the overall CX – the customer experience – whether it’s answering the phones, social media acknowledgement, or showing up for local civic and charitable events?
Those are my questions about streaming and the potential for Apple radio.
What are yours?