12/05

Here’s what IHeartRadio and TuneIn are Missing

Lots of blood, sweat, tears, and treasure have gone into making radio’s alternatives to Pandora et. al., yet I think both IHeartRadio and TuneIn are missing perhaps their greatest opportunity.

And it’s staring them in the face.

To be sure, these are terrific apps – as good as anything out there. So what are they missing and why does it matter?

Let’s step back.

If you’re going to provide an experience rooted in the radio stations listeners already know and love, then you should add value to that experience that corresponds to the problems listeners have with radio and how they would like those problems solved. Otherwise you’re either adding features without solving problems, or you’re solving problems better solved by somebody else’s app.

For example, TuneIn’s ability to record what you listen to is nice, but how often have you heard a radio listener say “I wish I could record the next hour of programming as I listen to it”?

Likewise, it’s great that IHeartRadio can simulate Pandora if a user so desires. But I already have Pandora for that problem, and I don’t need another app for that (which probably explains why that particular feature of IHeartRadio is likely to be little used).

So what problem do radio listeners have that an app featuring radio stations can solve?

Well, one obvious problem is to lighten up on or eliminate commercials, since that’s a big pain point with listeners. But that’s not new, and we can only go down that path so far before we gut our business model.

It turns out there’s another problem, and it’s almost as obvious.

It’s the problem of skipping songs.

What the makers of IHeartRadio and TuneIn may not understand is that when a radio listener is in her car punching buttons, the only reason she is switching to another station is because our limited radio technology gives her no choice. A radio fan listening to her favorite station doesn’t want to listen to a lesser station when a “bad song” comes on, she just wants to skip that particular song.

Ask your audience if they’d rather skip a song on their favorite station or switch to a different station that isn’t their favorite and the response will knock your socks off: Unless they want a different music mix altogether, what your fans want to do is skip, not switch.

Indeed, the act of punching a button on a radio is behaviorally identical to the act of skipping a song on Pandora. But when you do it on your favorite Pandora channel you’re still on that channel after the punch. Not so with radio.

How delighted would your audience be to be able to have their favorite stations with their favorite DJ’s PLUS the ability to skip songs they don’t like or are tired of?! That, my friends, is a better radio experience.

What IHeartRadio, for example, provides is the ability to hear your stations as they air live or to hear your own custom-made ones. What about the ability to hear the songs I love on the stations I love? That’s less work for me, the listener, and a brighter brand halo for you, the station.

“But that means the content isn’t live,” you might say.

So what!

What is “live,” anyway? Technology is about getting what I want when I want it, not getting what you want when you want me to have it. Unless the nature of that content requires that it be live (e.g., sports play-by-play, breaking news, etc.), then “live” is less a benefit and more an artifact of dated analog technology and dim imagination.

So drop the features that don’t relate to radio’s fundamental use and consumer problems and focus on the ones that do.

Let me skip the songs I hate on the stations I love.

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