An open radio for anybody’s streams reviews the announcement by CBS of “a new media player desktop app that brings together song personalization and recommendation for users, with a broad, contexual canvas for marketers to reach listeners.”

It goes on,

  The new media player, called Play.It, groups all stations in the CBS Radio network together, providing a wide choice of formats for users and advertisers. The player features large space for contextual ads that displays marketers’ slides, along with banner ads that are synched with the content coming out of the player.

Imagine a car radio that only played one owner’s stations and nobody else’s. (Oh, we already have those. They’re called Sirius and XM.)

Then there’s this:

  The deal that CBS and AOL Radio announced last month is key to CBS Radio achieving its goal of being the “number one internet radio station.” Goodman claimed that will be the case when the unified AOL/CBS network launches next month. That led into further promises of the much talked about integration with, which CBS bought last May for $280 million. Lastly, Goodman previewed a new internet radio ad program Called the i5 – with a logo designed like an official Interstate Highway sign – that promises seamless cross-network, cross-platform deals.

Fred Wilson unpacks this a bit. A sample:

  As my friend David Goodman explained, when the next Eliot Spitzer moment happens, you can go from the wonderful WNEW stream to 1010 WINS to get the news and then go back, all in a single state of the art flash player.

He also tweets “These guys have nailed it”.

No, they haven’t. It’s a closed system from a closed-minded company. As of today WNEW doesn’t have an open live stream, via .mp3 or anything else. They have their own live player you can only use on their site. WINS has no live stream at all, near as I can tell (correction: it has one just like WNEW, that’s a player that runs only in a browser window), though it does have podcasts.

Here’s an exercise. If you have iTunes (which most of you probably do), click on Radio under Library. Count how many live streams they have there. “Alternative” has 146. “Public” has 94. “College radio” has 37. And you can add whatever you like with the “open stream” command. Go to a station like KRCL and you’ll find a bunch of choices that in many browsers will automatically open iTunes or the player of your choice. Chances are most or all of them don’t bother you with ads.

All the stations in the iTunes directory, and countless more, already comprise a wide-open radio dial controlled by no one company.

I don’t care how pretty CBS/AOL make the UI, or how big the back-end deals are. If it’s just another silo’d sluice for advertising and mass-appeal “content” from a single source and its partners, it’s not radio. And it’s not fulfilling the promise of the Web, which is direct interaction between any two parties, where anybody can produce, consume or both.

A real open market supports transaction, conversation and relationship between anybody and everybody, on terms any party can assert and any party can accept or reject. It’s not “your choice of silo” alone. It has business models other than just advertising. And at is base are open standards for interaction.

There will be far more business in an open world with many kinds of radios, from many sources, playing anything by anybody for anybody, than there will be in yet another closed system by yet another bunch of big boys trying to turn the Web into a 1980s-style online service with a Web 2.0 paint job and all the advertising you can stand.

This CBS thing is a silo. Sez Fred,

  And that flash player can be launched whenever you visit a CBS radio station’s website, whenever you play an AOL radio station, and whenever you play a custom station you or your friends create using the new CBS digital radio network

We can do better.

In fact, we will do exactly that. Stay tuned.

6 responses to “An open radio for anybody’s streams”

  1. A radio that can play only one company’s stations sounds like the dream of many companies (and the business plan of some). But that type of plan does seem to need to change drastically or disappear after a while, at least when not done on huge scale like Sirius or XM.

  2. Notwithstanding my agreement with the rest of this, I’m assuming WINS must have a live stream because it can be heard on my Reciva-based internet radio device.

    From the forums at it seems it hadn’t occurred to CBS that you could use anything other than a PC to listen to their internet stations. They fixed a large number of stations, including WINS, en masse just before Xmas.

    (And let me take this opportunity to recommend these devices to you. US version of the one I have in Ireland. You don’t know you need one yet, but you do.)

  3. Thanks, John. Made the correction regarding WINS.

    With the Grace Radio, can you add stations, or are you stuck with their directory?

  4. I agree, Matthew. And I’m a Sirius customer. It’s good in many ways, but still homogeneous. We need the open radio dial, in the form of streams from everywhere.

  5. Users can submit stations to or — for Windows Mobile smartphones

  6. I’ve added stations to the directory (if it passes a 404 check, it gets added), and the devices also have a “My Stuff” menu where you can add stations in the directory, or stream links from wherever, or RSS feeds for podcasts.

    Ignoring the case and speaker for a moment, all the Reciva-based boxes from all manufacturers are basically identical and using the same embedded board and interface. Grace’s is just one of a dozen or so offerings from different manufacturers.

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