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iTunes Radio vs Pandora: Let the Battle Begin

Tuesday was Apple’s annual October launch event, which includes the introduction of the new iPad Air, retina iPad Mini, OS X Mavericks, updated Macbook Pros and a newly designed cylindrical Mac Pro. Although I was excited to hear about all the new and updated products coming from Apple, I was most interested in discovering how iTunes Radio had performed in its first month on the market.  Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook revealed that 20 million users have played 1 billion songs in iTunes Radio’s debut month.  This is quite an accomplishment, but still pales in comparison to Pandora’s 72 million monthly active users. (Pandora has recently surpassed 200 million overall users.) The question on everyone’s mind is whether iTunes Radio is a threat to Pandora’s market share.

iTunes’ entry into the predictive playlist market pits their 27 million songs under license to the hand-crafted 1 million song library of Pandora, whose “music genome project” involves one or more music technicians rating the song against a matrix of attributes, so that each song has its own genetic code, so to speak.  An individual song may have as many as 4-500 “genes”, which are used to categorize the song and weigh its similarity to other songs.  The results are then fed into a listener’s queue, with each song “liked” by the listener further improving the queue.

iTunes has the advantage of starting with their customers personal song libraries, which in my case would be several thousand.  While Pandora takes the boutique approach of weighing and analyzing each individual song, iTunes Genius appears to be largely driven by algorithms, and one suspects a similar algorithmic approach is at work here.  iTunes Genius (and presumably iTunes Radio) tracks volume and crowd […]

Tectonic Shifts in the Digital World

When Millenial Media’s (MM – $6.54) acquisition of privately-held JumpTap is completed, they will become the biggest company no one has ever heard of – just behind Google and just ahead of iTunes.  I’m talking about the business side of the business, which is all about serving ads to mobile devices.  Google remains the undisputed king, but the space Millenial Media occupies is huge, and about to get a lot bigger.
That’s because Millenial Media has been building an ad platform aimed at the world of mobile apps, a patchwork community consisting of literally hundreds of thousands of individual app developers. What makes Millenial so important is that they already have signed deals to serve ads to more than 45,000 of these apps. With the addition of JumpTap, they’ll add a whole new layer of cross-screen technology that will pull  tablets, smartphones, laptops and PCs into the same ad buying matrix.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. 
Companies like Campaign Grid have great tools for cookie-targeting voters online (“cookies” are footprints we leave when we use browsers to visit sites), but despite their penetration through Facebook, LinkedIn and AT&T’s Mobile Network, for example, a huge majority of mobile device users (and that’s most people) are using apps on those devices, not browsers.  Cookie-tracking is great for targeting the web browsers.  For app users?  Not so much.
That explains the mad scramble among aggregators and cookie-trackers to constantly broaden the reach of their targeting.  Very smart move, but no one online ever arrives, the most you can say is that they’re headed in the right direction.  Take a look at a couple of the factoids that Millenial Media notes, in passing: 70% of the most active iPhone states lean […]