AOL Pushes Into Pandora’s Box

AOL is flexing yet another of its gooey tentacles to get a grip on a market: It’s partnering with Slacker Radio for streaming Net radio. Pandora? Look out.


AOL’s everything-to-everyone approach is extending deep into streaming radio. It’s re-launching its Radio service with a wholly new system powered by Slacker Inc, which already claims to offer “the world’s most complete range of radio services.”

There’s an ad-free radio option, and users can tailor their own stations based on tastes. They can bookmark favorite tracks and access album reviews and artist bios. It’s pretty much the same as every other service in this market, except these systems are accessed by a tiered payment structure.

The entry-level free service is ad-supported, with a remark that there’ll be “fewer ads” … but we’re not sure if this means “fewer ads than you may expect from an AOL service,” “fewer ads than our peers,” or “fewer ads” if you choose the paid tiers powered by Slacker that also earn you access to those lovely premium features–the ones that’ll let you listen to the tracks you want to, rather than the tracks AOL wants you to listen to, based on how much cash it can rake in (there’s a note that you can “increase song skipping capabilities,” depending on the tier you’re paying for).

The deal will “enable Slacker to deliver its new radio offerings to a larger audience,” according to the news release. It’s also a chance to “develop new advertising opportunities for mutual clients,”–a nod to the monetary motivation here. Plus, Slacker can now “integrate AOL Music’s original editorial voice across all its services”–which certainly chimes with AOL’s expansionist agenda.

The net streaming music game is very dynamic right now, and it’s not yet clear how Apple‘s iCloud and Google and Amazon’s variations on the model will change the overall business–let alone how the rumored Facebook-Spotify deal will work (though with 750 million Facebookers, you’ve got to expect some good traction). But one thing we do know is that AOL really has one target right now: Pandora. We’ll find out how well that goes in “late summer” when the refreshed AOL Radio app hits the App Store, and then Android and “other platforms” shortly after.

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.


[Image: Flickr user emanuela franchini]

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