Friday, November 20, 2015

Google+ Revamping Again

Google+ Collections
Google+ Collections
It looks like Google+ is giving it another shot, revamping the current service to better reflect what its users were requesting.

And what did they want? The most asked-for features were Communities and Collections, which the service is now emphasizing, making it easier for people to share their passions.

It looks like Communities is indeed going to be popular, with an average of 1.2 million new joins per day. Collections is still so new that most users haven't gotten their arms around it yet (see the graphic on the left to see what it looks like).

The new G+ has streamlined other functions too, making it easier to post, search and connect as well.

The new UI change can be a shock to users, so it's possible to toggle back to the "classic" design, although it will be eventually phased out.

To get started with the new Google+, just click on the "Let's go" prompt when you first log in.

Let me know if you think this is a good idea and if you'll use it more now.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Pros And Cons Of Pandora’s Rdio Acquisition

Pandora acquires parts of Rdio
The music streaming wars just became a bit more interesting early this week when Pandora agreed to acquire some critical assets of the Rdio streaming service out of bankruptcy for a reported $75 million. This will the second strategic acquisition that Pandora has pulled off recently, following its $450 million purchase of Ticketfly a few months ago.

On the surface this seems like it could be a huge positive for the company, but there are also a few potential land mines that come with the deal. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pro: On-Demand Infrastructure Can Provide Growth
Pandora is acquiring Rdio’s streaming technology (as well as some of its staff), which could be key to its global expansion. Right now the service is only available in the United States, and to a lesser degree, Australia and New Zealand.

A real problem for Pandora until now has been its ability to expand beyond those territories, mostly due to the company not being able to come to a suitable agreement with the licensing organizations in various countries (which all seem to favor on-demand streaming).

The company is now more more likely to be able to grow, as having Rdio’s on-demand streaming infrastructure available as an integral part of the service not only makes for a more attractive package for the consumer, but may make it easier to gain approval to operate in other countries.

Pro: The Public Prefer’s On-Demand
Give Pandora credit, as it saw the writing on the wall that on-demand streaming would eventually become a clear winner with consumers over the radio-like non-interactive service that it currently provides.

This was blatantly evident with Apple’s recent entry into the market with it’s on-demand Apple Music after only offering the Pandora competitor Apple Radio previously. You could see the trend in user numbers as well, as on-demand Spotify’s numbers continue to grow while Pandora’s have been relatively stagnant.

Con: On-Demand Licensing Costs Are Considerable
While that on-demand infrastructure is important, Pandora didn’t inherit any of Rdio’s roughly 1 million customers in deal, mainly because it’s not buying the Rdio business itself. Maybe more importantly, it didn’t get any of its licenses with the record labels, which were non-transferable. That means that the company will need to negotiate these deals, which can be both costly and time-consuming. Read more on Forbes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

YouTube Debuts Its "Music" App

YouTube Music app
Don't look now but YouTube just launched another music app. This one is fittingly titled YouTube Music and is an audio-only version of its recently launched YouTube Red service.

YouTube Music is free to download, and there's a free, ad-supported tier, but you unleash its power if you become a YouTube Red subscriber for $9.99 per month.

The experience is optimized for music and allows you to search for a particular song from its 30 million licensed tracks. The key here is that when you search in the app, you'll only get music-related results.

It should be noted that the app doesn't replicate Google Play Music (which is included if you sign up for Red) as it doesn't allow you to create a playlist. What it does instead is create a playlist for you based on what you've listened to before as well as some songs that it thinks you'll like.

Of course, its ad-free if you've signed up for Red, but it's yet to be seen if that will be enough to attract new users.

If you're using either YouTube Red or YouTube Music, let us know what you think. Is it worth the money?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The RIAA Introduces A Hi-Res Music Logo And Some Confusion To Go With It

Hi-Res Music logo
While the number of streaming sites that feature hi-res audio is still limited (Tidal and Deezer come to mind), there are plenty of download sites that will happily sell you some very hi-res files for a premium price.

That said, it looks like the RIAA (the major label's lobbying organization) is trying to get serious about hi-res music with the introduction of an official hi-res logo (seen on the left). It's asking distributors to display the logo so music consumers will have no confusion over what kind of fidelity to expect, but it may end causing more confusion than it alleviates.

Interestingly, the RIAA defines high resolution music as "lossless audio capable of reproducing the spectrum of sound from recordings which have been mastered from better than CD quality (48kHz/20bit or higher) music sources which represent what the artists, producers, and engineer's originally intended."

Take notice the 48kHz/20 bit (it's not a misprint). This is a significant difference from what many online services (including Apple's Mastered For iTunes program) call "hi-res," which is 44.1kHz/24 bit.

There's virtually no recording done at 20 bit these days and that's been the case for about 10 years, so why not just make the standard 24 bit, which is what virtually everyone records at anyway? Also, why not just go and make 96kHz the true lower limit of hi-res, like in the real world?

This new logo and definition is bound to cause some confusion in the marketplace where there was little before. This just goes to show how behind the times the powers that be actually are.

According to the press release, "Retailers who have adopted the Hi-Res MUSIC logo include Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez, Blue Coast Music, HDtracks, IsoMike Recordings, ClassicsOnline HD*LL , PonoMusic, and ProStudioMasters. In addition to these digital music retailers, the logo also features on advertising and promotional materials of both independent and major record labels."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Apple Music Now Available For Android, But Will Anyone Care?

Apple Music For Android
Apple is finally letting the other half of the world in on Apple Music. A few days ago the company announced that the streaming service is now available to Android smartphone users. This now puts the service within reach of about 52 percent of the market  (that's about 1.2 billion users, according to Google) that couldn’t previously experience the streaming music app when it was relegated only to the iOS platform. The real question is, how many of those Android users are really interested in trying Apple Music?

Actually Apple Music Android can still be considered in beta, with two of its features, the family membership plan and Apple Connect videos, currently not available. Other than that, the app is same as what’s found in the iOS version. It’s currently available in over 100 countries, except for China, where the largest group of Android users happen to live.

A Look Inside The Numbers
On the surface, this looks to be a good move for increasing user numbers for the streaming service. Apple Music currently has 6.5 million paying subscribers a little more than 4 months after its launch. That’s good enough for second place behind Spotify’s 20 million paying customers, and that’s with being available to less than half of the available audience.

That said, the 6.5 million number may be deceiving, since many of those may have forgotten to turn off their subscriptions at the end of the three month trial period. This means that we won’t know the true number of iOS subscribers for some time yet.

The user number still may not get a huge bounce even with the release of the Android version though, since the new version won’t have the marketing momentum of the original launch. This may result in far fewer opt-ins to the 90 day trial period than might have otherwise been possible with a day and date launch on both platforms. Read more on Forbes.


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