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Radio And The Competition - Who Wins Now?

By: Sandy Weaver Carman

You don't usually think of slacker and BlackBerry in the same sentence. People who carry BlackBerries typically don't have moss growing under their feet.

That would be slacker with a small "s" though. This story, another potential nail in radio's coffin, is Slacker with a capital "S." Slacker is a portable, personalized radio service, and they've rolling out Slacker for BlackBerry users. The application is f-r-double-e, making it the exact same price point as radio.

Radio has been and still is the most common way people listen to music. This type of programming service will probably take a while to catch on, and it's not going to hurt terra radio in the short run. But people are streaming Slacker on their desks at work, and are purchasing the Slacker units that allow them to carry their favorite tunes with them, and now those who use BlackBerry products can get Slacker on their handsets. The service addresses the desire for portable music, and by making it available on technology we're already carrying, they're stepping closer to being as available as radio.

And the customization that's available with even the free service is better than radio - pick a format and listen. But is there a song you hate playing on your stream? You can ban it from your experience forever with one click of the "Ban" button. If you hear a song that's one of your favorites, click the "Favorite" button to have more songs like that one in your listening experience. Don't care for any of their hundreds of radio station choices? Create your own easily. Switch from station to station as easily as if it was terra radio.

But it isn't. It's as free as terrestrial radio, but here are some big long commercial breaks. No contests, which can be a positive or a negative. No local content, which has unfortunately become pretty common with terra radio, too. No traffic reports or weather reports.

For a lot of people, regular radio will win out while they're planning their day or driving between home and work because of the service elements and in spite of the commercial breaks. But at home, in the gym or on the go on feet? Commercial free, programmable music on a device the listener is already carrying will probably be the choice.

Once again, radio's desire to sound like a jukebox is backfiring, as better services like Slacker will win the jukebox war hands-down, every time.

To the executives in radio, it's time for some outside the box thinking. You've been slacking too long, and Slacker's poised to be a bigger threat than the iPod.

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