CBS buys Last.fm – and what it means


CBS today will announce the acquisition of Last.fm for $280 million.

What is Last.fm, you ask? It’s a popular social network built around musical tastes, says the LA Times. But what it really is is personalized online radio. It’s radio that learns what you like and gets better – for you personally.

I don’t think I need to spell out the implications of this, do I?

Fast-forward two years and you’ll see Last.fm integrated in all of CBS’s radio websites which, for the first time, will enable customized versions of the analog stations you love – and whatever else your heart desires. Stations that could ultimately be available via mobile technologies. Stations that could theoretically include advertising.

It is inevitable that radio – or aspects of radio – will become personalized.

If personalizing advertising makes Google virtually priceless, what effect on listeners does personalizing radio have for CBS?

All of this is theoretical at this stage, of course, and I don’t mean to sound breathless. But this is where I think things are headed.

Instantly, the value of a huge “variety” of channels or stations will be obliterated. Because ultimately nobody wants a hundred diverse channels or stations. They want THEIR one or two or three diverse channels or stations. A hundred stations is what you provide when technology limits you from doing better.

Now you can do better.

Bad news for HD. Bad news for satellite. And bad news for you if you expect your station’s future to be strictly tied to terrestrial broadcast.

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