April 17, 2005 9:00 PM PDT

'Visual radio' headed for U.S. cell phones

"Visual radio" is coming to the United States--and no, that's not just a newfangled name for a TV set.

Radio giant Infinity Broadcasting is working with Hewlett-Packard to bring a kind of Net-enabled FM radio to U.S. markets, sending information such as album art, concert dates and buy-this-album buttons alongside broadcasts.

The broadcasts will be aimed at a new generation of FM radio-enabled phones, as well as the digital information carried over cellular phone carriers' airwaves, rather than on the one-way FM broadcasts. The companies hope to turn the service into a new advertising and revenue source for traditional radio, which is facing increasing competition from satellite radio and Internet Webcasts.

"Here's an industry that's really old and becoming threatened by new technologies," said Vikki Pachera, vice president of strategic alliances and business development for HP. "We're able to help them create a relationship with customers they've never had before, and a revenue stream they've never had before."

The so-called visual radio is just one element in a series of strategies traditional radio is turning to in hopes of reinventing itself for the digital era.

Infinity, Clear Channel and other radio stations are beginning to move more of their content online and distribute their content in downloadable podcasts, and they're ultimately moving toward digitizing their over-the-air transmissions.

Once digitized, the radio stations will be able to include browsable data more directly alongside songs, instead of resorting to the phone carrier networks to transmit these services.

The visual radio concept is already operating commercially in Finland, and is being tested in several other markets including England and Germany.

Nokia is expected to sell phones capable of receiving the broadcasts by mid-2006. HP said the service will likely be available at that time, although negotiations still must happen with cell phone carriers in local markets to carry the service.

HP is announcing the plans at the annual National Association of Broadcasters show this week in Los Vegas. The company also said it will be helping Sony Pictures Entertainment create a new digital archive of its works that can be distributed more simply to broadcasters, DVD manufacturers and other content sources.


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Where is the US on DAB? (Digital Audio Broadcasting)
Seems like we're lagging way behind the rest of the western world on DAB. [See <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.worlddab.org/about.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://www.worlddab.org/about.aspx</a>

I can only conclude that neither the consumer, nor the radio monopolies, see enough future in radio to make the investment.

HP's involvement in the intiatives cited in the article are more a portend of the initiative's doom than anything else. No offense to my HP friends, but HP's innovative vision was lost somewhere between the era of the hand calculator and the Internet era. Their slogan "Invent" was more a desperate directive to their engineering staff, than a representation of what the company does.

There may be hope yet for HP (rising from the ashes as IBM has done) but...

Radio is dead*. Long live the Internet.

* Except for in the UK... and other parts of the world.
EP Songzilla [http://songzilla.blogspot.com]
Posted by (4 comments )
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Western World?
Were lagging way behind the east in tech and apps like korea or ***
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
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Global Radio has just launched a new online player with visual radio:


It's live on the web right now, and it's a pretty good user experience.
Posted by tim_acheson (248 comments )
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