First, thanks Om for engaging in the conversation. This is what this blogging stuff is all about. I can understand the perception of online radio not having taken off from the comScore/Arbitron report you cited. It is a misleading for the following reasons:
1. It measures only the top 4 internet-only networks that have paid big $ for the privilege of being measured. It does NOT measure the entire Shoutcast community, the streaming activities of terrestrial stations (AM, FM, Public, Commercial, College), international webcasters, and basically the other players in the landscape.
2. It’s a weekly number. The Arbitron/Edison Media Research report I’d cited earlier was for a monthly number of the entire streaming universe (not just the top 4 entities).
3. It’s a US-only panel. For various reasons, they are not using server logs to calculate cume & other measures. I’m not a huge fan of panel-based approaches on the internet because it favors larger players over smaller ones (since there are so many consumer options many of which will probably not register signficantly on a panel). On a side note, this is the niche companies like I/PRO are going after because advertisers are wanting more info about sites that are down the tail so to speak.
At any rate, the nub of Om’s argument is that the consumer, not God, is empowered to create their own playlist. I don’t disagree though I think there will be room for all flavors. To try to separate the semantics from the substance, consider a 3×2 matrix where distribution mode is on one axis and consumption mode on the other and a rough categorization of the players in each bucket:
Complete Control: Rhapsody/Napster________________RhapsodytoGo/NapstertoGo
Some Influence: LaunchCast_______________Skip Button on iPod
No Influence: Radio@AOL, FM Radio_______________Podcast Shows (e.g. Coverville)
(Apologies for the poor formatting. This WYSIWYG editor isn’t as WYSIWIG as I thought and it’s Friday evening).
I think Om’s beef is with the third row where the consumer has no influence on the programming. I don’t think this consumption mode will completely go away per se. Rather, I think it’ll be like TV. A large number of people will prefer having stuff programmed at them, and they’ll appreciate human voices and personalities behind the music. Picking songs for one’s own playlist is way too much work for most people. However, like TV, the “radio station” will become atomized into discrete shows that people can roll into their own radio station, just like they do TV with PVRs today. How about some Morning Edition followed by Howard Stern mixed in with Coverville mixed in with playlists I’ve created (using say Live365, my former company and one I continue to advise in the spirit of disclosure), and playlists of my friends or celebrities.
To use Om’s metahpor: I think there will always be a need for God to play DJ because, often times, God will introduce me to music I might like. I just need to choose a God (or Gods) in whose taste I trust!