Digital radio startup TuneIn is pushing out a major update today that brings an interesting social layer to the service.
More specifically, radio stations and other audio content creators will now be able to interact and respond to listeners on TuneIn — thus abolishing the longstanding barbaric practice of not being “caller number seven for Creed reunion tour tickets” when all you want to do is make a lunch-hour song request.
Many people know TuneIn as the service that provides access to over 100,000 “dumb” terrestrial (aka traditional AM/FM) radio stations online through a searchable platform. The service, which has 50 million monthly active users, even offers station recommendations based on your musical preferences, and the ability to bookmark your favorites — thus making dumb radio, smart.
Until now, this experience has mostly been a one-sided conversation as listeners didn’t have a way to interact with radio producers or each other. However, today’s update brings a slew of new features that turns TuneIn into a fully fledged social network that’s similar in scope to Twitter.
Instead of adding favorite stations, TuneIn is shifting to a model where you follow them. Each station has its own account and can push out updates (called echos) for things like playing new music, bringing on a new DJ, promoting a contest, or even just sharing a message. All the updates for stations you follow will appear within a main feed, and you’ll still be able to listen to music while sifting through those updates.
TuneIn also gives you plenty of new ways to discover content. You’ll have the option of following a feed made up of top content producers within a genre of music or category, or checking out a friends feed.
And if you don’t like any terrestrial radio stations, TuneIn also has you covered.
Along with the new updates, the startup has forged media partnerships to add audio content from broadcast TV news networks, nationally syndicated radio shows, and episodes of popular podcast to the service. (You’ll be able to follow these programs and content creators just like you will with radio stations.) That means you’ll be able to listen to content from ESPN Radio, NPR, CBS Radio, SBS, CNN, The Weather Channel, IGN, Wall Street Journal, and many others.
The company told me that this new social-layer will also provide new avenues for making money. For instance, TuneIn has signed up Lexus and Universal Pictures as its first two brand partners, which have their own feeds of relevant content. And like Twitter’s sponsored tweets, TuneIn will also be able to charge for in-feed placement of some of those branded updates.
The new social update, if successful with TuneIn’s large userbase, will help make the company more competitive with a growing number of digital radio competitors. It could also be what makes TuneIn as recognizable as the Spotify and Pandora — both of which have had social elements baked into their respective services for years.
The new social layer update should be available now via TuneIn’s website, iOS app, and Android app.