Last night when I logged into my last.fm account, I noticed a couple of new features, or at least better organization and display of tools on my music profile page. But this is nothing new. It’s what I’ve come to expect of the social networking music site, where members share their listening habits by scrobbling tracks they’ve been listening to either through the Last.fm downloadable application or a separate plugin that works with their computer music player of choice.
I’ve been a paid subscriber of last.fm since 2005, and over the course of time, I’ve watched the site grow in membership and grow in the number of tracks available for listening pleasure on radio stations demarcated by friend, group, artist, genre, or tag. Lately there’s been a lot of action on the social network’s site to partner with labels and independents to make video available as well. Overall, last.fm has also rolled out more new features and improvements to its UI (user interface) than any other site I’ve used in the last couple of years. Let’s just say that I’m a believer in the product and a very big fan.
So when I heard the announcement that CBS scooped up the Web 2.0 company for $280 million and intended to keep on its management, I both lauded and lamented the acquisition. It’s great news for the Last.fm guys if they can actually continue to build the product according to their mission.
What I lament is what every social networker does once their favorite site, app, or tool has been gobbled up by a larger media player. It’s something called the foreseeable future, the time when exciting developments begin to cease and the community becomes stagnant. It could even mean that the site becomes an entirely new entity — one that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the one you once loved.
And so this brings me to the big question — what will CBS do with last.fm? Like every major media company, CBS needs to figure out how it can fit into the era of portable media, where the public listens to music or watches movies or television when and wherever they want to — on any device they choose. It’s easy to assume that the radio and television broadcasting behemoth will do exactly what was reported in The New York Times yesterday:
“CBS said the deal provided an opportunity to extend its reach online, including adding some of its own programming to Last.FM.”