Friday, February 17, 2006

XM Radio Falters with Traditional Aggregation Model

I had the pleasure of listening to XM radio a while back in a rental car. Not bad - listening to a subscription satellite radio for free. I kind of liked the Elvis channel for a while, and the Jazz channel actually had a real DJ off-duty from their local FM station choosing some good stuff. Even some news somewhere there on the dial. But it got boring pretty quickly. Typical cable TV-style segmentations of content gets flat pretty quickly. As The New York Times points out XM is struggling to have enough budget to both grow audience through marketing efforts and to attract new big-name talent such as Oprah to the satellite service. I expect that satellite radio's struggles will continue as long as they continue to use an astoundingly powerful technology for such antiquated content marketing channels.

It's somewhat ironic that satellite radio is trying to pursue a bundled cable channel model just as cable channels are discovering that the Web and user-managed devices such as TiVo are forcing them to rethink their content aggregation strategies. It's proof again that even when you think that you've found a new technology "choke point" for content that can wrestle control from users, it's rarely to your advantage these days. Satellite radio will continue to falter until it recognizes that the real advantage is not the exclusivity of the signal but rather its ability to feed what COULD be a rolling iPod in someone's car.

With the right in-dash or removable technology satellite radio has the potential to allow users to create their own mixes, with or without ads, and to access those mixes both via the device and via the Web at their pleasure. Hopefully this would include some Web content as well, fed into the system via popular podcasts or other multimedia sources, and some redistribution capabilities with our without DRM. Satellite has the potential to be the world's most potent and universal downloading service, but instead the media experts insist on replaying old models. Oh well, all in time.
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