AOL Radio Relaunches, Powered By Slacker

The digital radio race in the U.S. continues to intensify at a mind boggling pace. There were a few major developments last week, the first being Buick’s announcement that Pandora will be a standard feature in all models starting next year. This is an extraordinary vote of confidence and if they see success here, we’re guessing it won’t take long for Pandora to roll this out across other General Motors brands.

Clear Channel then revealed a nationwide arrangement with Living Social to bring localized daily deals to Clear Channel’s terrestrial and digital audience. This is a substantial increase in reach for the daily deal service as local advertising is one of the critical sources of revenue for terrestrial radio broadcasts (and an effective, low cost solution for local merchants). Clear Channel is facing a looming threat to the radio business from personalized radio services like Pandora and Slacker, and they are using the terrestrial+digital approach as the best defense. Bob Pittman, the CEO of Clear Channel, has been vocal about Pandora’s business model, calling it a “feature”, or FNAC, and using the iHeartRadio brand to ease this transition and offer Clear Channel broadcasts through all mediums.

Finally, Slacker and AOL sealed their relationship. AOL’s digital radio service underwent a major facelift and backend surgery, added channels from Slacker, news content from ABC and sports content from ESPN. View the full write up here, and U.S. users can use the service here. Consolidation of this magnitude is an important moment for the digital radio business as a whole because it means there will be more than one single dominant player. For Slacker, early estimates show this partnership could effectively double Slacker’s audience overnight (!). For Orchard clients, this means more of your music being paid in well-monetized places (Slacker recently launched a full on-demand tier for $9.99/month, in addition to ad supported radio and premium radio).

For more on Slacker, you can watch CEO Jim Cady speak about the service and how they monetize it at this year’s RAIN Summit Chicago.

An interesting note: A large share of internet radio listening happens in vehicles. Soon, you may not even need your phone to provide connectivity in your car, Ford’s 2012 models will have internet connectivity as part of the vehicle.

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