Rdio Inc., a San Francisco-based streaming music company, has revamped its Internet radio service with new types of stations and additional features in an apparent attempt to take on giant Pandora Media Inc.
The update to Rdio, which is available on the Web and as a smartphone application, includes personalized stations, stations based on genre and a new player that makes it easier to influence what kinds of songs Rdio, pronounced "ar-dee-oh," plays.
The company -- which, like Spotify, gives users access to millions of tracks to listen to whenever they want -- has so far focused on listeners who like to choose exactly what they hear and when they hear it. Pandora caters to more laid-back listeners who want to let someone else do the work.
Now Rdio is trying to get more of the passive Internet radio customers, said Chris Becherer, the company’s vice president of product. “So far, we’ve done a good job of creating an easy-to-use on-demand service,” Becherer said. “Now we’re taking that expertise and applying it to the stations side. We view the user as needing both of these things.”
Rdio now automatically sets up a personalized station based on customers’ listening habits, called “You FM,” which others can access. The company makes recommendations through the station, based on Facebook likes, Twitter follows and listening history.
Users can customize the stations by giving thumbs up or thumbs down votes to songs and by choosing how obscure they want Rdio’s recommendations to be.
Rdio also offers hundreds of new genre stations. There are the general categories – rock and alternative, for example – along with a plethora of sub-genre stations available (think black metal, math rock, power pop and acid jazz).
The company has also made it easier to create new stations based on specific songs, artists and record labels, Becherer said.
Rdio’s stations learn more about listeners’ tastes the more they use the app or website, and that helps improve its recommendations, Becherer said. “These services get better over time, as we learn more about you,” he said. “You’re investing your time into a platform and you want to recoup that investment.”
To do all this, the company has made much use of the technology built by Somerville, Mass.-based music data company The Echo Nest, which closed a $17.3-million round of funding last year. The Echo Nest analyzes data to figure out how and why people listen to the music they do. The company says it has collected data points on nearly 35 million songs and 2.5 million artists.
“We’re learning what you like and how you listen,” said The Echo Nest chief executive Jim Lucchese. “We’re personalizing it for you behind the scenes and we’re doing that by understanding who you are.”
Rdio, launched in 2010 by the founders of Skype, would not say how many users it has, but it has been expanding into countries such as Hong Kong and Malaysia.
The company is expanding as the streaming music industry gets more crowded with start-ups and tech giants, including Google Inc.'s recently introduced offering and the impending launch of Apple Inc.'s iTunes Radio.
Rdio, which currently has about 130 employees, says it wants to appeal to both the active listeners and the more laid-back music fans, and Becherer says the new stations will help make that possible.
“There are users out there that want to start their journey with a lean-back casual listening experience,” he said. “We see these features as a way to hook those listeners in, but we feel that once we get them in, they’ll want to use the on-demand features they may not have realized they wanted.”
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