Thursday, June 21, 2007

Web Radio Tries To Go Mobile

Monday's Wall Street Journal carried a piece describing how web-based radio is now aiming to go mobile, rivaling XM and Sirius.

According to the article,

"Unlike satellite radio, Internet radio offers the potential for greater personalization without the cost of monthly subscriptions or satellite receivers."

Additionally, it notes that Internet radio uses stored program material which is 'pushed' down to the receivers. That makes it essentially a playlist of songs.

So, unlike XM and Sirius, or most 'radio,' Internet radio doesn't have a "live" component. It's just a unique mix of music, or other program material. Call me old-fashioned, but when I think of "radio," I think of news, live voices/commentary, and maybe some weather and traffic.

Internet "radio" is really just another digital music download method which can play through your radio.

How does this differ from my nearly-limitless capacity iPod?

From my limited experience with Internet radio through my PC, I know it can be soothing and enjoyable to listen to a stream of pre-programmed tunes while working. But I would not envision paying for that type of pablum on a hand-held receiver, or in my car.

Further, using those Internet radio stations prevents me from hearing other audio on my PC.

Unless I'm mistaken, XM and Sirius are, or were, trying to merge, because the market for their services hasn't been growing sufficiently quickly to give their business model a reasonable chance for profitability anytime soon.

Now we have an ostensibly cheaper, less value-added version, Internet radio, which is simply a glorified playlist.

I know there is at least one MP3 player, Sansa Connect, about which I wrote here, that allows 'rental' of music, pushed via WiFi. And I can always buy music for 99 cents per track from iTunes, and use my iPod. With the addition of a relatively inexpensive wireless accessory, or an older-technology cassette-based adapter, I can listen to my iPod in my car.

So, remind me why I want to buy another expensive electronic device, and probably pay a monthly fee, in order to have yet another collection of music, and process to learn. But I don't actually own the music.

As I opined in my Sansa Connect post, perhaps it's just that I'm not the target market for Internet radio. However, it really doesn't seem to add much more to my life than another method of downloading music to a portable digital player. Doesn't almost everyone now have access to a PC, high-speed access, and iTunes?

Who needs Internet "radio," when it's really just another means of playing digital music.

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