The $29.99 way to get Web radio into the automobile

Sep 3, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The terrestrial radio industry has often bragged that it will always have an advantage over Internet radio because you can’t listen to the Internet in the car. Thanks to a partnership between Akoo and PenguinRadio that may soon be changing.
The companies are joining forces to provide Internet radio to the car via a cellular phone beginning this fall. Under the agreement, the companies will market and promote each other’s products, which, when joined together, can link the Internet to the automobile.
Washington-based PenguinRadio is a streaming-media portal with direct links to about 35,000 Internet streams (including about 30,000 streams from www.live365.com). This database will also be accessible through the company’s phone radio service, which it has been testing in Washington throughout the summer. It will be operational this fall.
Users of the database can dial up the listed stations using any existing telephone and receive the radio feed on the phone without needing to access or log on to the Internet. Users dial a phone number, which connects them to the database, and they can then access the different stations through a series of voice commands in much the same way that one can get airline flight information over the telephone. PenguinRadio plans to offer its phone radio service for about $10 per month but also hopes to sell it to phone companies for them to offer to their customers.
Chicago-based Akoo makes the Kima and Link-It devices. Kima, the company’s core product, connects to a PC and allows streaming media on the PC to be transmitted and played back on one of several unused FM frequencies on a standard radio. The company’s new Link-It product, scheduled to be released in September, is based on the same concept. It is a wireless device that enables users to send music from MP3 players, portable CD players and cellular phones to the car stereo. Link-It plugs into the headset jack in a CD or MP3 player and pipes the audio into the car stereo on the unused frequencies, said Anthony Vorres, director of business development for Akoo.
The company’s partnership with PenguinRadio will allow Link-It users to have wireless access to thousands of online radio stations in the car, said Mr. Vorres. For PenguinRadio’s database, the deal expands the universe of potential listeners, since it will allow people to listen to the service on their car radio rather than just on a phone, said Andrew Leyden, PenguinRadio’s CEO. “It’s really a good fit for both of us. They have a device that pushes content out of devices and into the car, and we have a system that pushes interesting content into devices,” he said.
“It’s an in-car solution,” Mr. Vorres said. Link-It should retail for $29.99 when it is released in September. He expects the majority of Link-It purchases will be from folks who have MP3 players and want to listen to their playlists while in the car.
Consumption in the car is key for those in the business of distributing audio, said T.S. Kelly, director of Internet media strategies for Nielsen//NetRatings in New York. “The holy grail for audio consumption is the car,” he said.