In their words, this creates "the first-ever end-to-end technology provider for the streaming marketplace", with content delivery, audience measurement, ad insertion and "real-time proof of performance."
That's the headline, but what's the significance?
I can sum that up in one word:
Online radio is a nascent industry, even when you bundle the pure-plays in with the streaming broadcasters. The problem with nascent industries is that they're not established – not with audiences or with advertisers.
If Apple proves anything it's not that cool products sell, it's that cool products that are part of systemic solutions to real consumer and advertiser problems sell and sell big.
An iPod is not just a gadget – it's part of a music discovery and delivery ecosystem that includes the music industry at one end and the consumer at the other. It is, in other words, a platform at scale.
Until now, online radio has generally lacked that. Sure, you can gain access to 50 million potential listeners through Pandora – but at any given time most of the listeners tuned in to online radio are not tuned in to Pandora – so what about them?
Moves that create scale in the online radio space will promote acceptance among audiocasters – broadcasters and pure-play, interest among consumers (because simpler solutions will propagate faster), and – perhaps most importantly – dollars from advertisers (because advertisers love "standards" and standards require scale).
Bigger, more efficient pipes are good news for this nascent industry. Scale is good for business and good for audiences, both. Somebody needs to make the market in order for there to be one.
And that leads to the next big question: How about some unique and compelling content to fill those pipes?