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Apple has hired former Cumulus Media exec Michael Pallad to lead advertising sales of its new iTunes Radio streaming music service.

The move is interesting because it could signal that Apple is ready to start monetizing its seemingly popular smart radio service rather than leave it to (primarily) be a perk for those with iOS devices. Apple’s music service is similar to Pandora in that it enables listeners to customize stations, but it doesn’t offer on-demand listening of individual tracks. The company provides a free ad-supported service to everyone with an iOS device or via the iTunes desktop app, but those with an iTunes Match annual subscription can listen ad-free.

Pallad was hired by Apple last week, and observers expect him to lead mostly international ad sales, according to AdAge, which first reported the news. Currently, iTunes Radio is only available in the U.S. but Apple SVP Eddie Cue has previously indicated that the company is eager to expand into new regions as soon as its possible.

While iTunes Radio is borrowing functionality heavily from Pandora (albeit with some different bells and whistles), it hasn’t taken the same approach for Pandora’s business model, which involves hiring regional sales people to make local audio advertising deals that would typically be sold to traditional radio stations as well as display ads. Pallad’s experience from Cumulus would certainly help Apple if it decides to go that route, but obviously the company hasn’t really outlined its radio ad sales strategy in detail. Rumors, however, say that Apple is gearing up for an ambitious strategy that would see advertisers commit a minimum of $1 million for a year-long advertising contract beginning in earl 2014.

At the very least, hiring Pallad likely means Apple is gearing up for an iTunes Radio international launch in the near future.

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