NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Apple's launch this week of its fifth-generation iPod nano, the first iPod to include a video camera, drew heavy chatter from bloggers and tech nerds alike for its affordable attack on the Flip camera. But the unlikeliest benefactor of the new nano? The radio industry, via Apple's first FM tuner, compatible with new 5G nanos.
The radio tuner will allow users to tag songs they hear on the radio, sync them with their iTunes and identify the song's artist and title and purchase it, where applicable, from the iTunes store via the Radio Advertising Bureau's "Buy From FM" platform. Additionally, the FM tuner also enables DVR-like, on-demand functionality to live radio, allowing listeners to pause a song from a live radio feed, rewind it or resume listening after switching to another station.
'Next big thing'
"This is further validation of putting radio on portable appliances is going to be the next big thing," said Jeff Smulyan, chairman-CEO of Emmis Communications. "This step today points out what I think will be the ubiquitous nature of this appliance."
Added Jeff Haley, CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau, "The idea that an 85-year-old medium has the chance to remain relevant and capture new distribution in an environment when those things are hard to come by is very exciting."
Mr. Smulyan has also spearheaded the radio industry's efforts to have FM tuners installed on all portable devices by 2013. He has lobbied the Federal Communications Commission and Congress for the availability of radio on all cellphones and MP3 players, advocating the value of radio for sending out emergency alerts and other public-safety announcements. "This is an elegant solution to a pretty big problem:How do you notify people of emergencies in a portable environment?" he said.
The Apple deal gives the radio industry a much larger share of the MP3 market, having previously cut only one other FM-tuner deal with the Microsoft Zune worth about 4% or 5% of the total pie. In addition to Buy From FM, the FM tuner could also enable radio stations and advertisers to tag their radio ads to become interactive through the MP3 platform. "The technology is there, but there's a lot of nascent activity to really drive interactivity to radio," Mr. Haley said.
The industry's largest company, Clear Channel, has also made significant in-roads in bringing radio to iPhones and BlackBerrys, and this week just rolled out the 2.2 version of its iheartradio application for 300 of its stations. The app amassed 2.5 million unique listeners by June, with streaming radio helping to increase Clear Channel's cumulative audience by 15%.