Microsoft, Harman Kardon Debut New Speaker With Cortana

Microsoft and Samsung Electronics’ Harman Kardon division have married digital assistant Cortana with the Invoke speaker to create a new voice-enabled device priced at $199. The smart speaker, the first for Microsoft, comes three years after Amazon launched Echo, the first product to pioneer a now-burgeoning space. The Invoke has a similar form factor to Amazon’s original Echo, and can play music, answer questions about sports scores and perform other tasks typical of digital assistant-powered speakers. Continue reading Microsoft, Harman Kardon Debut New Speaker With Cortana

Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

The music business is experiencing significant growth, thanks in large part to the increasing popularity of streaming services. According to RIAA’s midyear report, leading services such as Spotify and Apple Music currently have 30.4 million paid subscribers in the U.S. (up from 20.2 million the previous year). Streaming services are now responsible for 62 percent of total industry revenue, followed by 19 percent for digital downloads, 16 percent for physical sales, and 3 percent for synch rights. Continue reading Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

Apple Inks Deal With Warner Music Group, Sony Pact Next

Apple inked a deal with Warner Music Group, its first with a major label since it launched Apple Music, its streaming music service. According to insiders, Warner will provide Apple with an extensive song catalog for both iTunes and Apple Music. Sources say that Apple will pay a smaller percentage of sales from Apple Music subscribers than it did under its first deal. On-demand streaming is now the dominant model for music sales, and the technology companies and music publishers are creating a framework for doing business. Continue reading Apple Inks Deal With Warner Music Group, Sony Pact Next

Fitbit to Launch First Real Smartwatch With Focus on Fitness

Fitbit will debut its first true smartwatch, the $300 Ionic, in October. This new gadget, however, is focused on the company’s core competency — fitness — although it still offers typical smartwatch functionalities, including music, mobile payments and push notifications. Since Fitbit views health and fitness as the killer app, the Ionic offers an expanded range of health-oriented functions. Fitbit co-founder/chief executive James Park said the decision to take this tack was because he saw that consumers have been confused about the purpose of smartwatches. Continue reading Fitbit to Launch First Real Smartwatch With Focus on Fitness

Facebook and Google Take the Lead in Popular Mobile Apps

According to comScore’s annual U.S. Mobile Apps Report, consumers spend 57 percent of their digital media time on smartphones and tablets using apps. The figure is roughly the same as the previous year, suggesting that the shift to mobile has reached a point of leveling out. The report also notes that Facebook and Google own eight of the top 10 apps. Among the most popular mobile apps today are Facebook (top app for all age groups except 18- to 24-year-olds), YouTube (No. 2 overall and No. 1 with 18- to 24-year-olds), Facebook Messenger, Google Search, Google Maps, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Play, Gmail and Pandora. Continue reading Facebook and Google Take the Lead in Popular Mobile Apps

Millennials Regularly Use Variety of Apps for Digital Services

According to a new study from measurement firm Nielsen, the lack of brand loyalty among 18- to 34-year-olds is reflected in their consumption of digital services such as communication apps and streaming music. Perhaps not surprisingly, Nielsen found that the demographic consumes a great deal of digital media but tends to use multiple services across categories, rather than focus on one service for a specific segment. For example, while only 39 percent of consumers over 35 use two or more apps to stream music, almost 60 percent of millennials will commonly do so on a regular basis. Continue reading Millennials Regularly Use Variety of Apps for Digital Services

Pandora Turns to Pay TV in Selecting New CEO Roger Lynch

In the wake of Pandora Media hiring a new chief executive, Roger Lynch, the company’s stock rose 4.7 percent on shareholder optimism that the new leader would take the struggling online music service in a better direction. Lynch, who most recently led Sling TV and was previously at Dish Network since 2009, is Pandora’s fourth chief executive in less than two years. Pandora fell from its No. 1 position in music streaming services as it faced competition from Spotify and Apple Music, both of which boast huge song catalogs. Continue reading Pandora Turns to Pay TV in Selecting New CEO Roger Lynch

Spotify Turns to Podcasts to Expand Content, Boost Ad Sales

Spotify has inked an agreement to promote podcasts in its app and on bus ads, in exchange for the hosts of those podcasts publicizing Spotify on social media and during their shows. “Reply All,” “Pod Save America” and “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” which cover a range of topics from sports to politics, are the three podcasts that have signed on. With this agreement, Spotify is experimenting with putting resources into programming other than music. Apple currently is the leader in podcast subscriptions. Continue reading Spotify Turns to Podcasts to Expand Content, Boost Ad Sales

Major Jump in Mobile Revenue for Top-Grossing Netflix App

As Netflix continues its subscriber growth (it added 5.2 million subscribers the last quarter), the streaming service’s app has also taken the top spot in revenue earnings. Analytics firm Sensor Tower reports a 233 percent revenue growth to $153 million year-over-year for Q2. “That’s up from the $46 million seen at this same time last year, across both top app store platforms, and on the iOS App Store alone,” notes TechCrunch. “This level of growth puts Netflix far ahead of the average revenue growth across both app stores, which is currently at 56 percent.” Continue reading Major Jump in Mobile Revenue for Top-Grossing Netflix App

Disney Plans Immersive ‘Star Wars’ Attraction for Two Parks

At last week’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, The Walt Disney Company unveiled the first look of a 3D model for its new “Star Wars” attraction, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” which was first announced at the same Expo two years ago. The planned exhibitions, to be housed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, will cost $1 billion each and open in 2019. The exhibitions will be the most immersive the company has offered in a theme park, and will include a themed hotel, allowing guests to have a “Westworld”-like experience. Continue reading Disney Plans Immersive ‘Star Wars’ Attraction for Two Parks

Music Industry, YouTube Battle Over Perceived ‘Value Gap’

As the $7.7 billion U.S. music industry has moved from CDs to streaming, the top venue has become — not Spotify or Pandora — but YouTube, which is responsible for 25 percent of all music streamed. But that’s a problem since accessing music on YouTube is free, and music labels are increasingly unhappy that the platform pays less for songs than other streaming sites, calling it a threat to the music industry. The music industry has begun taking its concerns to regulators, not just in the U.S., but around the world. Continue reading Music Industry, YouTube Battle Over Perceived ‘Value Gap’

Westergren to Step Down as CEO of Music Service Pandora

Pandora co-founder and CEO Tim Westergren plans to step down from his position running the 17-year-old streaming music pioneer. The company has yet to select a replacement. Earlier this month, satellite company Sirius XM announced it would invest $480 million in the web radio service for a 19 percent stake in the company and three board seats. Despite a user base of 80 million, “Pandora has struggled to generate enough advertising revenue to cover the cost of the free service,” reports Recode. “Meanwhile, music listeners have begun gravitating to the on-demand subscription services of Spotify, Apple and others, which offer ad-free access.” Continue reading Westergren to Step Down as CEO of Music Service Pandora

WeChat Adds Luxury Brands, Competes With Alibaba, Baidu

China’s most popular messaging app WeChat is drawing in luxury fashion brands. France’s Longchamp and U.K.’s Burberry are selling clothes and purses there, and LVMH brands Givenchy and Dior are conducting flash sales on the app. By hosting upscale retail, WeChat owner Tencent Holdings has put itself in competition with Alibaba Group Holding, China’s dominant e-commerce company, as well as search engine Baidu. All three titans are testing the waters outside their traditional businesses. Continue reading WeChat Adds Luxury Brands, Competes With Alibaba, Baidu

FCC Chair Discusses Net Neutrality Rules with Tech Industry

After meeting with execs at Cisco, Facebook, Intel and Oracle to discuss future plans for net neutrality, FCC chair Ajit Pai believes tech companies are interested in finding “common ground.” Most Internet companies have expressed support for “net neutrality, saying the protections guard them from paying tolls to get their content in front of consumers,” reports The New York Times. “Pai said that he agreed with the broad principles of net neutrality but that the rules, created by the commission in 2015, went too far in restricting broadband providers.” Continue reading FCC Chair Discusses Net Neutrality Rules with Tech Industry

Pandora Premium Looks to Take On Spotify and Apple Music

Fifteen months after Pandora acquired Rdio’s key assets, the company is launching its anticipated $10-a-month on-demand music service. Pandora Premium, which begins rolling out in the U.S. today, offers access to tens of millions of songs and the ability to save tracks offline. While it still touts the playlisting engine powered by data and people that made its curation approach famous, the service is aiming to distinguish itself from other offerings such as Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud by focusing on personalization features, a new design and ease-of-use. Continue reading Pandora Premium Looks to Take On Spotify and Apple Music

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