I’ve been thinking about the iPod Shuffle since its introduction this week. The early critique of the newest Pod is its lack of a readout or screen — even a small one — to see what song is playing or up next.
The more I think about it, however, the more I think this (valid) criticism is misguided. It misses the point entirely. The Shuffle isn’t supposed to be replacing a full featured MP3 player. Rather, it is a substitute for a similar experience of getting music you know and like — on the radio.
Only you cannot do that anymore. McMusic dominates the airwaves, preprogrammed from some fluorescent lit, over airconditioned, windowless, soulless dreary office complex somewhere in the bowels of Texas.
You can thank the 1996 telecommunication act for radio’s massive consolidation — and really bad music on the radio.
The iPod Shuffle is yet more evidence of Radio’s ongoing decline. Recall we first discussed this last July in Radio’s Wounded Business Model. Barrons picked up the meme weeks later, running a very similar criticism.
Where does that leave the fans of music, people who used to be radio listeners?
The iPod Shuffle. Its the new radio.
Think back — back to when you used to actually used to listen to music on the radio.
What went through your head when you were selecting a radio station? Likely, you wanted to hear music you knew, and music you liked; Bands you were familiar with, songs you know and love.
You also wanted to hear new artists and songs — what you might be expected to enjoy based upon these other preferences — the previously mentioned stuff you were already tuning in for. 10 years ago and beyond, Radio didn’t quite have collaborative filtering (see for example, iRate radio). Indeed, the technology didn’t even exist . . . But stations did employ a manual predictive process, based upon the perspectives of experienced program managers and DJs.
That intelligent predictive process is now mostly deceased — it certainly is hard to find on a local basis. And radio as a source of finding new music keeps diminishing in importance. Really, it hardly matters anymore; that’s what P2P and the internet is for anyway.
So the new iPod shuffle turns iTunes users into DJs and music programmers (Part of the new Apple advertising campaign is the phrase “DJ Your Day.”
Only the ad free radio they now listen to consists of 10,000 of their favorite songs or so, in 120-150 "blocks.” Thats about 6 hours of music.
Radio’s slow bleed continues . . .
UPDATE: January 26, 2005 11:36:14 PM EST
Emmis’ Smulyan Feels iPod Threat
January 19, 2005
Last week, Emmis Chairman/CEO Jeff Smulyan told FMQB in an exclusive Q&A, "If the American public wants satellite radio, I think that’s great. The key is, at the end of the day, we’re still going to reach hundreds of millions of people every week. The best case scenario for satellite is twenty million people."
One week later, Smulyan has expanded on the satellite radio subject, stating he feels a bigger threat than the satcasters is going to be Apple’s iPod. In a Q&A posted on the company’s Web site, Smulyan said, "Despite the buzz surrounding satellite radio, I believe iPods are a bigger threat, because you have a larger number of people with an alternative source of music. That said, I can remember when people were predicting the death of radio after 8-tracks came out. Despite continually evolving technologies, nothing has replaced the local information and local personalities we give our audiences. We know our communities, and we respond to their needs. Over the holiday season alone, Emmis radio stations raised $500,000 for charitable causes in their local communities . . ."
Smulyan is right — the iPod shuffle is less of a threat to the kinds of stations he is discussing . . . but those are unfortuantely disappearing, replaced by the Clearchannel simulacra.