Monday, March 26, 2007

Slacker......A Deeper Look

March 26, 2007

So, what exactly is Slacker? and how did that name come to be any way?

Well, the founders of Slacker have categorized music listeners into two categories.

1. DJ's

2. Slackers

DJ's make up about 30% of the music lover population. These are people who are very specific, and don't mind spending the time it takes to create the perfect playlist. DJ's spend long sessions at the computer downloading and sorting songs to suit their specific tastes and needs.

Slackers make up the other 70%. Slackers are people who love music, but do not want to spend hours working at it to obtain the music they want.

The beauty of Slacker the service is that it caters to the slacker in all of us, and is robust enough to satisfy the DJ's out there. One only has to look at the statistics on I-Pods to understand quickly that most people have very few songs saved into a device. Slacker provides and easy method from which to build a great playlist. Those familiar with satellite radio's Inno, Nexus, sirius S50 and Sirius Stiletto are already well aware of how these devices simplify the recording process, and allow users to build a great library of music in a simple fashion.

Slacker is literally a technology leap that likely has Steve Jobs scratching his head. Slacker takes the best of both worlds from MP3 and satellite. Slacker has a key feature that an I-Pod has been unable to offer. DISCOVERY. Slacker enables listeners to discover new music and save it at a touch of a button. According to data supplied by Slacker, nearly half of all MP3 and I-Pod users update their content library at intervals greater than 1 month, and these people cite a lack of time as their reason for infrequent updates.

Slacker also has taken a step to make their service more widely available by having a free tier to get started. Free Slacker is advertising supported. Slacker states that the portable player will feature "personalized rich radio ads". Free slacker also allows only limited "skipping" of songs. Basically, if you do not like a song you can skip it, but you are only allowed six skips per hour per station.

If you are a slacker that does not want advertising, they will have you covered as well, but there is a subscription involved. For $7.50 per month you get no advertising, unlimited skips as well as additional non-music content. As if that is not enough, they will be adding On-Demand and $1.00 downloads in the second half of 2007.

So, what does all of this mean for satellite radio, and more specifically, the merger?
1. Clearly Slacker will be considered competition. The Slacker Presentation I saw actually lists satellite radio as competition, and even pictures a Sirius Stiletto.

2. The $7.50 price point actually helps establish a market price for Sirius and XM's proposed entry level tier of programming. Likely, satellite radio will be able to command a slightly higher fee due to the non-music content advantages that satellite radio provides. Thus, if I were estimating, I would say that Sirius and XM will likely carry an entry level price point in the $10 neighborhood.

3. The ad supported free service is something that may well have Sirius and XM giving thought to a tier of programming that is ad driven and limited to a small cross section of content and available for free. This is something that "pre-slacker" I had thought would happen a bit further down the road. However, competitive forces may bring this card out earlier. It is a slippery slope though. The NAB would be sure to resist anything free coming from satellite radio.

4. A device such as this will clearly be a consumer favorite, and is a perfect demonstration of where technology is heading. Six months ago this type of device was not even imagined. Six months ago, the Zune was considered a new wave. As government officials consider the merger, and the competitiveness of the sector, they will have to consider this technology leap and the possibility of other cutting edge technologies hitting the sector.

Personally, I am a fan of Slacker, and don't mind admitting that ease of recording plays a roll in what device I buy. I have found that downloading songs is time consuming and cumbersome. I love the S50, Stiletto, Inno and Nexus for their ease of recording. Slacker fits right into that category for me as well.

I look forward to continuing my conversations with the folks at Slacker, and hope to test drive a slacker player soon. Will Slacker be able to pull me away from satellite radio????? No. In my mind satellite radio still has a big advantage in content offerings. However, I can see myself adding a Slacker device to my collection of audio devices, and I can see myself using and loving the service. Slackers advantage comes in the programmable stations, and when I want to "jam", i can see how slacker carries an advantage. That ban button on slacker - allowing you to "ban" songs - will come in handy.

Slacker still has a ways to go before it is available to consumers, but things do look promising.

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3/26/2007 07:52:00 PM

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