Net broadcaster sports new name, features

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Trying to reshape its image, TheDJ.com changes its name to Spinner.com July 15 and relaunches with a series of new features and a cadre of new advertisers.

The Internet broadcaster, whose parent company Terraflex Data Systems has also been renamed Spinner Networks, relaunches with 100,000 full-length songs, up from 80,000, and 100 channels, increased from 85.

Intel Corp., audio software company QSound, interstitial entertainment company Zing Network and Warner Bros. are charter advertisers.

The Burlingame, Calif.-based music site is switching e-commerce partners, moving to Amazon.com from CDnow for CD sales. An Amazon.com buy button will appear on Spinner.com's music players.

NEARLY $1 MIL AD EFFORT

The site, which garnered 17 million impressions in June, is aiming mainly for an audience that logs in from work, where they can take advantage of high-speed connections for long periods.

To kick off the revamped service, Spinner.com is launching a nearly $1 million ad campaign, created by unnamed free-lancers, with the tagline "You've never heard music like this before." It will include print, radio, outdoor and online media.

"We're focused solely on music," said Scott Epstein, VP-marketing at Spinner.com. The new name "has a lot of great music equity."

Mr. Epstein said theDJ.com was problematic because people confused it with Dow Jones & Co.'s site, whose URL is www.dj.com. "As a marketing guy, I knew I couldn't stand it if I knew we were losing traffic" because of the name.

The music site, which launched in April 1996, wants to distance itself from over-the-air radio.

"Research has shown that consumers don't like radio," he said, citing a study in which people said they found radio unsatisfying because it had too many interruptions. Spinner.com's focus eschews traditional formats, which often include talk radio, news and sports.

FACEPLATE PROGRAM EXPANDS

Spinner.com has two main products--a Web-based player and Spinner Plus, software that users can

download and then hear music without using a browser. Spinner.com hopes to generate revenue by extending its Faceplate program, in which it licenses a co-branded version of the Web-based Spinner on a partner's site. Launch Media and Ziff-Davis' GameSpot gaming site are Faceplate partners.

Spinner.com sells ad banners for $30 per thousand impressions, but hopes to concentrate on sponsorships of its music stations as well as rich media ads, many of which will be audio commercials synchronized with banners.

"We're taking a cinema-advertising approach," said Mr. Epstein. "There will be few interruptions per hour so the ads will stand out."

AUDIO ADS MAKE SENSE

Audio-synched ads make sense because "a user on our service is already rich-media enabled," adds Josh Felser, president of Spinner.com.

Spinner.com also just hired a VP-sales. Until now, its in-house sales force and 24/7 Media both handled sales. It is also enhancing its personalization technology, which works with collaborative filtering software from Net Perceptions.

"We're going to give users their own channel," said Mr. Epstein. The program will mix music people have selected in the past with recommendations based on prior selections. "The best news of all is that they'll hear very little of what they don't want."

OTHER COMPETITORS

Spinner.com isn't the only Internet music brand trying to broaden its scope. One of the biggest players in this space, Broadcast.com, recently changed its name from AudioNet to reflect its broad offering of TV and radio Internet broadcasting. NetRadio Networks and Imagine Radio are other sites competing for listeners in this space.

Even so, the audience reach for these Internet broadcasters is still limited, said Mark Hardie, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "Rarely do [hybrid Web radio broadcasters] show hundreds of thousands of users. Their infrastructure can't support it," he said.

While studies have shown that more people are listening to the radio at work, Mr. Hardie said, "there [are] few studies to suggest that consumers who are online at the office listen to audio accompaniment."

But hybrid broadcasters "have a lot technically going for them over [over-the-air] radio."

"You're picking a genre, and sometimes sub-genres, and you listen to extensive song lists," Mr. Hardie added, rather than music chosen by someone else.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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