Apple Radio – continuing the brand's stretch and dominance

Brand dominance over every aspect of our lives, continues to drive Apple’s brand ambition.

Like Virgin and a growing collective of brands who challenge the ‘one brand per category’ approach to brand architecture, Apple has continued to stretch their brand. No longer just about computers, Apple has become the leader in portable music players and phones. Now, radio is the next frontier.

Last week, U.S. Patent No. 8,249,497 was granted to Apple for a “seamless switching between radio and local media.”

According to Wall Street Cheat Sheet, the patent describes a system in which a mobile device will automatically switch between broadcast content and stored media to offer a unique, customised user experience.

According to the patent filed, the system “uses metadata from assets like Radio Data System (RDS) data, broadcast listings, or published third-party schedules to determine when an upcoming broadcast segment or media item is not of interest to the user.” When such an instance is detected, the device will seamlessly switch to stored media until that segment of the broadcast is over, at which point it will switch back.

In particular, the technology will enable users to skip sections of content on a radio stream and replace this will other content already stored on their device. Essentially, users will be able to re-programme radio to avoid commercials, news or any content and replace it with something more to their liking.

The patent seems to have some similarities to how other user-influenced online music streams such as Pandora and Spotify operate whereby users can like or dislike content and this will influence their profile and the future content they receive.

The biggest concern for media owners will be once again the ability for users to potentially avoid commercials entirely. While the idea of skipping ads is not particularly new (most of us are used to doing this by pre-recording television programmes and skipping the ads), the ability for a device to do this automatically, in real-time does raise new challenges for media owners.

With technology that enables you to still listen to any radio programme, customise the content and do this seamlessly in real-time, this will present new challenges for radio content providers. So far, they have only really had to worry about listeners changing the channel. Most of us don’t have the desire (and probably even a device) to record and then skip the ads.

Interestingly, while the focus of the patent is on radio, it does leave open the possibility of extending the technology to television. The principle of user-controlled content real time, certainly makes sense for Apple, who can further differentiate their Apple TV from other DVR and media streaming devices on the market and become the brand at the centre of any media we consume, be it music, television or information.

From a consumer point of view this might seem like an exciting development in how we receive and consume media content.

However, as many other brands are already realising, this could also place considerable power in the hands of Apple. If this technology takes off, it is potentially another step for Apple to become the brand that controls all our information, entertainment and communication.

Michael Hughes
Director of Brand Strategy


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