Monday, September 08, 2008

Zune Delivering Real Competition in Portable Media Player Market

The new features in the Zune 3.0 release are adding to user options to discover music in new ways. Microsoft Zune research has shown that radio is still being used by the majority of potential users to discover new music. Most people like to have help in discovering new music. The buy from FM feature rated very high in the research and would drive device and service adoption.

The perception that radio is dead is misguided and has been for years now. Many bloggers and major media back in 2004 said, that radio was dead with the invention of Podcasting and that has NOT at all happened. The same is true for music discovery from broadcast radio.

Broadcast radio is still very important (huge audience) and will continue to be so for a very long-time. These new options don’t stop users from using the Zune players as just a digital music player, Zune just takes it to an new level. If the portable media player market is going to grow then there needs to be more ways new potential users can get into the digital music game.

Many may not realize it, but still as of today the majority of people in the USA do not currently own a digital portable media player and these new Zune features are a way of pulling this huge existing radio listening market into the digital music/portable media player market. The other reason to be positive about the Zune features in 3.0 is that it is always good to have competition in this kind of market.

I just don’t see why many bloggers and major media have to keep slamming Zune, even as it continues to innovate in this evolving space. It is still very early days for digital media and portable consumption of that media. Zune does not have to follow Apple to succeed, as I believe that Zune is quickly moving into the leadership position around innovation in social networking digital media discovery, wireless sharing, sync and radio to digital e-commerce.

Rob Greenlee

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Podcasts Growth Steady

It is true that the podcast audience is growing slower than most expected, but it is still growing at a regular yearly clip. Mark Ramsey of the Hear 2.0 blog states that podcast audience is being held back by a variety of things that include the difficulty of finding podcasts that you would find valuable and worthy of your time and effort. I do agree, that it is tough to find podcast content that is valuable. I deal with that issue everyday in my work on the Zune Podcast content offering. I often have mixed feelings about building large catalog of podcast feeds as opposed to building a smaller catalog of the very best podcasts. I am leaning towards building a very large catalog that just has great discovery processes that include human editorial. I can really help people get to the very best content that will keep them interested in continuing to download and consume the content.

My strategy has been to included everything that has a fully functional podcast feed and content offering. The other part of my strategy is to only feature the best podcasts in my front page promotional spots. This has resulted in those podcasts doing very well on Zune. The issue is that my taste in podcast content will not always match with everyone looking through my limited selection of features every week. I try to feature a nice cross-section of great podcast content and it is driving a lot of video podcast subscriptions on the Zune platform. Zune users really love podcasts as it is FREE content and is driving large numbers of daily wired and wireless connections to the Zune Marketplace software client that holds my podcast catalog of about 6,000 podcast feeds.

I also agree that most iPod or Zune device users just don't sync up as often as we need for this industry to grow faster. I do feel strongly that the download sync process needs to get easier and more convienient. I learned this in my 2 years working on Melodeo's Mobilcast podcast to mobile phones position. This taught me that these podcast subscriptions need to live up on the internet and download sync can then happen directly to portable devices in cars, buses, trains and on airplanes. When audio and video podcasts can be gotten easily on a mobile phone or other portable device anywhere then this platform gets legs fast. What is interesting is that this could enable getting any kind of media content on the go via RSS enclosures.

The last point is that because of this lack of regular download sync is that many of the hourly and daily podcasts are just not being consumed very much on iPods and Zunes, but will see more consumption on mobile connected media player phones.

Podcasting will grow to over 60+ million users by 2012 and will have a strong advertising business driving it by then at almost a half a billion dollars.

Rob Greenlee