The news this morning is that Google is launching a music streaming subscription service called Google Play Music All Access to compete with the likes of Spotify and Microsoft’s Xbox Music. Initially to launch in the US, the Android based service will soon be rolled out in the UK and other countries.
It has been reported that Google have described All Access as “Radio without rules”.
Being an inquisitive sort, I visited the Google Official Blog to try to find out why they felt able to make this claim. The only reference to radio I found was within a description of the service: “You can create a radio station from any song or artist you love…” – which suggests that listening to radio is the equivalent of listening to a playlist on iTunes or, in old money, sticking an album on the turntable.
Given that I work in radio and I’m proud of its uniqueness, I feel I have a right to be defensive when other media infer that they possess the same qualities purely because their offering is based around audio. This sort of lazy thinking – particularly common in the tech world – demonstrates a lack of understanding about what radio is and how it works for listeners.
So please allow me to clarify: Google’s All Access – like Pandora, Spotify, or any other streamed music service – is NOT radio, and it never will be.
Now I’m sure this is all just a simple misunderstanding, so to help tech companies developing similar services in the future, here’s my simple five point checklist to see if you qualify to use the term ‘radio’:
1. Is your service a real-time linear stream of content edited by professionals?
2. Do you serve content other than just music (e.g. travel, traffic, weather)?
3. Are the different content elements linked by a human presenter?
4. Do your listeners ever get to hear from other listeners within the content stream?
5. Can the listener access all of this content with a single flick of a switch?
If you answered yes to the majority of these – well, congratulations on being a radio content provider. From a commercial perspective, you also have the added advantage over streamed music services that your audience is more receptive to commercial messages as a natural component of the real-time linear flow.
If you answered ‘no’ to three or more of these, then I’m afraid you’re just a plain old streamed music service – so please don’t pretend to be anything else!
Disclaimer: this check list is based purely on my personal experience and doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive – if there are any other points you’d like to add I’d love to hear them. Similarly, if you think I’m being unfair on streamed services, please let me know why.