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Pandora Internet Radio to shutter their service soon?

A pretty interesting tech article in the Post today about the 900lb gorilla in the room for Internet radio. Despite some of the best traffic numbers in their company’s short history (thank you to the iPhone) the start-up company Pandora may soon have to shutter their service.

“We’re approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision,” said Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora. “This is like a last stand for webcasting.”

At issue is the onerous rate that Internet radio stations have to pay for their services.

Last year, an obscure federal panel ordered a doubling of the per-song performance royalty that Web radio stations pay to performers and record companies.

Traditional radio, by contrast, pays no such fee. Satellite radio pays a fee but at a less onerous rate, at least by some measures.

As for Pandora, its royalty fees this year will amount to 70 percent of its projected revenue of $25 million, Westergren said, a level that could doom it and other Web radio outfits.

I’ve always said the short term greed of the existing content players could kill the medium of Internet radio before it really got its start. No where in the computations are the added per listener cost of Internet radio–it costs more to have more people listen, unlike traditional radio which has a one off broadcasting hardware cost no matter if 1 or 1000 people listen to their station.

Sen. Jesse Helms brokered the last Internet radio survival package but he has passed away. Some on Capitol Hill are trying to find a solution, but the recording industry’s deep pockets full of cash going into the re-election campaigns of many members is hard to ignore. This is one issue in which money talks far more than Republican or Democrat (one of the worst on this issue is the Democrat John Conyers but one of the ones trying to save Internet radio is the Democrat Howard Berman)

iPhone Internet Radio applications – Review

Well it’s been a week and I’ve been playing with nearly every iphone radio application I can get my hands on. I thought I’d take a moment and write down a few thoughts on what is out there.

AOL Radio

This is one of the top free downloads for the iPhone nearly every week. It allows access to AOL’s in-house radio network along with access to CBS’s national radio network, with stations pretty much in every state. The display also pulls up album and song tracks from the meta-data of the stream. It, by far, has the best looking user interface.

My only rub is a) it’s not available internationally last I checked and b) some of the stations are not amongst my favorites. I never used the AOL Radio application as my main player (though I liked some of the stations) so it is going to take me a bit to get used to them and start listening regularly.


Tuner is probably my top choice for an Internet radio application. It pulls directly from the directory of stations, which gives you access to about 15,000+ stations or so I’d imagine. I’ve been able to find some of my Shoutcast favorites utilizing the SEARCH function they have on the site. You can bookmark and browse by genre or popularity (but not by location).

On the down side, the listings that come up are not separated by your bandwidth capabilities. For example, you can be on an EDGE connection and pull up page after page of 128k or above streams, which are probably a bit too much for EDGE. It would be nice if we could start to see a limiting capability, showing us just the stations we could use given the bandwidth we have.


Very similar to the Tuner application, with one major and glaring exception–no search. This is something I hope they sort out quickly or they’ll lose market share to Tuner. One nice feature about this application is the ability to see radio stations by location, such as ‘International–UK’. I’d hope this capability gets enhanced as they get better information about the regional locations of the stations.


I’ve had a Pandora account since I first heard of them, and never ever used them. That changed dramatically once I got the iPhone. First, the sound quality, even on EDGE is pretty good. Comparable to FM easily. Second the algorithm they have definitely pulls in content I like from the assorted mass of songs (I have about 6 preset stations right now).

Mac v. Windows, Canon vs. Nikon, and v. Pandora. There are so many battles like this. To be honest, I haven’t give enough use to comment on it at this point. My database there isn’t as built up so I’m not sure what I’d be hearing.

Random Radio

Several individual stations have small applications so you can listen to their stations. Nice feature, especially when we start to see them for the stations we really like. I suspect we’ll see hundreds of these as the app store grows bigger.

Internet radio in my room

I know have a Squeezebox in my room streaming Internet audio directly to a small device. It’s pretty cool (but way expensive) and I’m working on making it work with my radio database right now. We’ll see how it goes today…

PenguinRadio is no more. is where it’s at.

Nearly 12 years ago I was working as an attorney for the US Congress.  Boredom does not begin to describe my life back then.  I was writing a memo on a health insurance case we were investigating in Japan, when I happened to realize that Arsenal v. Manchester United in the FA Cup was on the BBC online stream.  Our rather moronic office policy forbid speakers in the office, but as a lawyer who really didn’t care about bureaucratic rules I brought in some headphones.  No one ever challenged me.

Anyway, I was listening to this game…yes–it was the Giggs goal game of 1999, when something annoying happened.  My stream from the BBC started to sputter as the computer couldn’t handle my working on a memo in MS Word and running Real Player at the same time.  I thought to myself, as I closed the MS Word file :-p “What I really need is a bigger computer.” But then, as lightning bolts off do, it hit me.  “No, I don’t need a computer.  I need something that just does Internet audio–no PC needed”.  And with the pain of listening to that game (Arsenal lost in extra time) was relieved by the thoughts of a really new hot idea.

Internet radio, no pc needed.  The PenguinRadio.

The next 12 years have been a roller coaster.  I got angel funding, I got VC funding, I got an office and staff, we built prototypes and websites, we tried raising more money in the US and UK and then, 9-11 hit.  As you may remember the days were dying before the World Trade Center was attacked but those incidents put the kibosh on any new VC funding for a few years.  I put PenguinRadio on hold and concentrated on some other things.

PenguinRadio was basically brain dead for a bit.

But then I came back to the idea a year or so later.  Prices for parts had come down.  Everyone was listening to streams.  The idea of Internet radio, and more particularly, of .mp3 audio was growing larger and larger.  With a new round of funding I launched a few radios, rebuilt the website, and then attracted the interest of some folks in the UK who were thinking much the same as me.

So PenguinRadio was reborn into a new company, that, unfortunately, managed to reach the prototype stage of a really neat player device at basically the same time as Apple introduced the iPhone.  This meant that there were suddenly several million devices out there that could do Internet radio without a PC at a cost just about the same as our device, though with the marketing and support of Apple Inc behind them.

Thus PenguinRadio died a second time.

The website stayed up for a few years after this latest adventure, but the new new owners of the domain recently completed the sale of PenguinRadio to another party (hint: they also have Penguin in their name).  As I sat on my couch in Hong Kong at 1:00 am in the morning watching, guess what, Arsenal once again (a nil-nil disaster against Newcastle) I went to check the PenguinRadio site and got a DNS error.  The transfer of the PenguinRadio domain name had taken place.  It was no longer there on the web.

Truth be told the site died a long time ago, but the site was out there as a reminder of my first startup and the great adventure.  It’s a tad weird to think it’s no longer there.  That the logos and t-shirts and links have all turned to dust.  I have other sites, such as that continue to host radio streams, but the closure of the site is like the end of a large chapter of my life.

On to new and more interesting things I guess.

RIP my Penguin.

*PenguinRadio is (now) a registered trademark of Penguin Publishing.

Tracking the Haiti rescue flights and radio traffic online

FlightAware has great visuals of the rescue effort

For those who want to get some really specific details of what is going on in Haiti, you can turn to some web interfaces to some rather old school technology.

Firstly, the Military Communications Bloggers are doing an amazing job tracking all the rescue traffic on the radios going in and out of Haiti.  MilComm bloggers often transcribe the radio traffic they hear, and as it is straight ‘from the horse’s mouth’ it’s also usually about 30-60 minutes ahead of the television reports.  For example, you can read this traffic from a monitoring station in Charleston South Carolina.  Rescue planes are on the ground, recovering the wounded, and the lights are on at the airport.

  • 1940Z 9007.0 CANFORCE 2343 p/p via TRENTON MILITARY to WING OPS. WING OPS passes 1345Z overhead damage assessment of Port-au-Prince. E/O imagery shows no structural damage to airfield or terminal. Electrical equipment not working. E/O imagery shows little to no damage to port facility. WING OPS estimates 10 aircraft en route with the same ETA. CANFORCE 2343 gets WX for Port-au-Prince, Homestead, Providenciales Airport, and Jags McCartney IAP
  • 2024Z 9007.0 CANFORCE 2343 p/p via TRENTON MILITARY to 613-XXX-XXXX for SITREP regarding deployment last night of 2 CH-146s from 430 Squadron at Cold Lake to Haiti. First 2 are yellow and follow on is green. Ground party needs SITREP for fuel and force protection needs
  • 2223Z 7527.0 CG 1501 (HC-130, CGAS Clearwater) p/p to D7 Miami Ops. Still on deck Port-au-Prince with 40+ PAX on board and still loading. They are bringing PAX in vans at 10-20 at a time. They also report 2 USAF C-130s on deck and a Lynden Air Cargo C-130. Runway lights are working

There are also some Ham Radio operators working Haiti, relaying communications between families in the US and in Haiti.  You can also listen to streaming radio stations from Haiti (though most are offline right now).  Some of the Ham Radio is being rebroadcast via Teamtalk online streams and other streaming media solutions.

Flight tracking websites can show you the status of all aircraft inbound for Port Au Prince (MTPP) but this is based on the flight plans filed in the US, not necessarily the actual number of planes coming in from various countries.

Haiti Internet Radio has a list of stations broadcasting, many of which are on backup connections and still on the air despite all that has happened.

Finally, there are several sites that track “Where Are the Carriers“–daily updates of the location of our country’s aircraft carriers.

UPDATE:  Google has published some interesting satellite photos of the destruction using the Geoeye/Google satellite.

How the iPhone is changing radio forever.

Steve Jobs doesn't need an anti-satellite missile to knock out XM & Sirius

I’ve already written a bit about my thoughts on the iPhone and how it will kill Satellite radio and a review of the iPhone radio applications, but Doc Searls is writing today about his similar experiences using the iPhone as the radio interface in his car. He raises a number of interesting points including:

4) The cell phone system will become a data system that carries telephony, rather than the vice versa we have now. The same goes for the Net at home as well. What we still have in both cases is dial-up: data piggy-backing on telephony or cable TV. In terms of provider priorities, that’s the way it’s been for awhile, but the flip is going to come, and the sooner we all adjust to that, the better.

5) The iPhone is less a phone than a platform for mobile Internet applications that start with telephony. Voice will always be the primary personal mobile communications activity; but it will be one application, or set of applications, among many. Radio is another of those applications.

Radio has had a decade of on again off again experience with the Internet and streaming, but it’s just never caught on due in large part to the ‘tethered to the computer’ experience that was required. People simply weren’t about to replace their clock radios with a PC and Internet radio devices just never could get a hold into the market (despite a lot of us trying). And on top of that, it didn’t work in the car (where many people do their radio listening). In short, the radio stations had it easy because it was so hard to listen to the competition.

But that’s over. The iPhone changes EVERYTHING. Yea it’s not the first to do streaming, nor is it the fastest of cheapest platform, but it is the first MASS MARKET adaptation of Internet radio to the car and other places that we’ve seen. You take all the Internet radio devices sold from when I came up with the idea nearly 10 years ago to now and you have less than the number of people who downloaded the Pandora radio application for the iPhone in the first six days. There are now nearly 4 million iPhones out there in the last year, with some of the free radio applications being the top downloads. It took XM six years to get to that number of subscribers. Who do you think is going to win the race for a listeners’ ears?

Quite simply, radio stations who are not paying attention will be radio stations who are out of business in the next five to ten years.

More on the iPhone’s radio applications and the threat to radio.

My posting a week or so ago about the threat to XM and Sirius has been picked up, echo’d a bit, and expanded upon in a few articles this week.

First was Doc Searls who wrote about it in his Linux Journal Blog

Then he had another piece that cited a CBS News guru who discovered much of the same things that I did while playing with radio (i.e. it’s really really cool).

The concept of Internet radio replacing terrestrial radio has been around now for nearly a decade. The hold ups have been many, including the difficulty in bringing in hardware at a reasonable price point. But Apple’s massive power in just ‘adding this’ as a function to the iPhone is going to really shake up the radio industry. I don’t care that uber geeks had this power with a Blackberry or a Nokia–no one really cared or used it. But with Apple making it as easy as a few swishes and viola, the landscape is about to change in ways not many can predict (though I’ve been trying now for nearly a decade).

Selling stuff on the Internet

Man it is a pain. Of course there is ebay for most, but if you want to get something up and running full time like a store, you need:

A shopping cart program
A payment gateway system
A merchant account to receive the money
A bank account

Talk about a fricking pain. I’ve been battling for weeks now to get our online commerce at up an operational. Now I’m very very close, but stuck dealing with the SSL certficate at the moment (the thing that makes things https instead of http). I’m waiting for tech support to write back about my trouble ticket and then I can get it going.

But it sure is a bear to make money.

PenguinRadios for sale


This is going out to our beta tester list today.

Internet Radio with no PC Needed is now a reality!

PenguinRadio, working to free Internet from the shackles of a PC since 1999, is pleased to announce that we are shipping the SolutionsRadio!

The SolutionsRadio web device is Internet Radio – no computer needed -  designed in the Netherlands, manufactured in Asia, and now shipping to the US through PenguinRadio

Powered by PenguinRadio’s exclusive streaming media directory of thousands of streaming radio stations and podcasters, the Solutions Radio offers instant desktop Internet radio without having to go through the clicks and fuss of turning on your computer – just press and play. The SolutionsRadio comes with a built-in speaker, making it the ideal stand-alone device.

The Solutions Radio is very easy to use and can be setup in just a few minutes (we had ours up and running in 14 seconds after being plugged in)

The radio device plugs into your home Ethernet router and connects into your LAN network using DHCP or manual network settings. There is also a modem that you can plug into a standard phone line and connect to your dial-up Internet service, although we recommend using Ethernet/LAN/DHCP as you’ll get a better quality stream.

After the clearance came from US Customs just the other day, we drove to the airport in the middle of the night to pull them out of the warehouse (we really wanted to play with them). We’ve been working on the playlists all day and all night, trying to ensure that only quality mp3 streaming radio stations come through to your device (and, believe us, this is a real effort). More advanced users can build their own playlist files and listen to their favorites, or just add them to the directory so others can hear them as well (add your station at

Ready for Shipping
You can now order the SolutionsRadio online at our store: 
We are accepting checks and credit cards (via Paypal) for now. We will try to make other solutions available very soon for those who don’t use Paypal.

If you are interested in a large purchase for a church or community group, please drop us an email and we’ll help you find a solution.

* You received this email because someone put your e-mail in our database to be contacted when the radio shipped. We will now erase 
that list so you won’t hear from us again unless you e-mail us (we hate spam too).


The staff at

How the iPhone will kill XM and Sirius

It’s over.

I’ve just spent about 30 minutes in my car and the very thought of buying XM or Sirius satellite radio has been purged from my mind forever.

Internet radio on your iPhone will doom XM and Sirius. It will get to the point that the only saving grace they will have is the fact they have long term contracts with Howard Stern and some sports programming, but in a matter of years, when they lose the exclusivity to their audio content and the iPhone will drop even further in price, there will no longer be any reason for either, unless you are a long-haul trucker plying those bits of the Interstate that still do not have cell phone coverage.

I’ve downloaded all of the Internet radio applications from the iPhone application store. I have the version one iPhone which works on Edge, but pretty much any stream under 32k will come in just fine at that speed. Still, even with reduced speeds, the offerings are extensive.

I drove to the store listening to Virgin Radio out of London. I heard ads for ‘insurance cover’ for your auto from AA of England (maybe I should buy as I almost hit someone). I switched over to, the best Electronica station out of New York to hear the content you won’t hear on American radio stations. I then flipped to AOL’s radio plug-in and heard 1010WINS traffic (sorry for those in the Holland tunnel stuck in traffic right now).

I predicted this long ago (yes, I own the domain name ‘’). But with iPhone’s ease of use, mass marketing power, and legion of adoring fans, I foresee the demise of the big satellite radio companies in just a few years. Radio is just a ‘free’ ad-on to the other services you get with the iPhone. There are very few business models that can compete with ‘free’, and XM and Sirius’ limited offerings are not one of them. There are a few out there who can’t see the forest for the trees, (’the iPhone is too expensive’, ‘the monthly service plan too costly’), but these same people did not foresee the iPod either.

Satellite radio is not network radio. It requires massive expenditures of cash to basically recreate ‘towers in space’. It’s not about getting your connectivity wherever you can (i.e. edge, 3g, wifi, dsl, cable). It’s a massive infrastructure and canned content deliver via satellite in much the same manner as radio has been done for 100 years. It’s an expensive and fancy recreation of existing broadcasting, not the future of broadcasting.

Sorry about the billions you spent throwing your birds in orbit.

UPDATE: More here on the future of radio with the iPhone, not just from me but also from Doc Searls of Linux Journal

Best iPhone app?

There are hundreds of new applications in the wild today for the iPhone, and I’ve just started to use a few. It’s hard to say which is the best just yet, but I like a lot of the radio plugins and the AOL instant messenger functionality which is finally coming to the iPhone. The remote control will be exciting to test today with my Mac Mini on the widescreen tv.

One thing that is lacking is a lot of server utilities, enabling you to control or monitor a server from afar. This would be a big boon to sysadmins around the world. We’ll see what comes up in the next few days.

Will update this later as the apps get downloaded.

UPDATE: AOL IM is quite nice. I’m also having fun with a couple of the radio applications. The Tuner application has search, which puts it a bit ahead of the other radio application visuaRadio. Both seem to have access to Shoutcast, but I recognized a few Live365 feeds on visuaRadio. I expect to see a few more radio applications working shortly. Virgin (free) does not download for some reason, but AOL Radio is downloading properly and gives you 100s of CBS and AOL stations.

Internet radio is about to explode. Sell your XM and Sirrus stock.

Surround sound

We moved into this house years ago and I just have never had the time or inclination to hook up the surround sound stereo. The big TV has a rather large surround system built in, and I never got around to hooking it all up.

Until today.

We’ve cleaned the basement this last week and I now have a nice new stereo rack thing with:

Stereo receiver
CD player
DVD player
HDTV box
FTA Satellite Receiver
PenguinRadio Internet Radio
SlimDevices Squeeze box streamer.
Akoo wireless transmitters.

This is on top of the second stereo I have set up behind my desk for playing music off of my computer. Needless to say this is getting to be a bit excessive.

On a positive note, the visible cables have been reduced greatly now that I had the time and patiences (and twisty things) to strap them all in and organize them nice and pretty.

Broken links

I’ve been going through the Internet Radio links on PenguinRadio this week. Man it is a pain to keep them current. I have about 200 broken links left to fix, and I’m sure as soon as that is done and I run the program, the link checker will kick back another 200 or so offline (college radio stations are often offline in the summer, which really blows).

At least my hand isn’t killing me.

In other news, I think I’m going to be getting one of these shortly.

More interviews

With CES coming up in Vegas (this is my fourth or fifth) I’m getting some more attention for the convergence of Internet Radio via PenguinRadio and podcasting and the whatnot. Today I was interviewed by some business reporter, though I’m not exactly sure what magazine will be running the story.

In case you were wondering, when I was at CES two years ago, I got a hotel the same week of the convention, on the strip, for like $75 or so. This time, with no more COMDEX, the hotels have been sold out for weeks and I’m staying at a crappy dump for $40 a night somewhere far away from the action. Just can’t see myself paying $250 for a strip hotel room that is $50 the rest of the year.

Anyway, I’m in Vegas Thursday and Friday. Drop me an e-mail or comment if you want to meet up.

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