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London, 18 January 2005… Preview findings of research on the current practices in online music services will be published today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. Click-Here Commerce: Digital Downloading, an international study of the success factors in digital downloading services, has identified a disturbing new consumer disease: Digital Deficit Disorder. Symptoms of the disease, often contracted by users who try to download music and video online, are caused by poorly designed digital download sites. These symptoms include: loss of concentration, feelings of being trapped, and format anxiety. New research says the symptoms of this user interface disease are linked to other consumer diseases discovered by Shelley Taylor & Associates including Mad Couch Disease (interactive TV) and Abandoned Shopping Cart Syndrome and Post-Transaction Anxiety Disorder, diseases which are often blamed for the early deaths of many websites.
The first version of Click-Here Commerce: Digital Downloading evaluates 38 digital download services from Europe and the US – representing a cross-industry sample including: 15 download stores, 7 media player/jukeboxes, 10 online radio stations and 6 P2P sites. Sites were analyzed between October and December according to more than 1000 proprietary evaluation criteria and included Download Stores:, iTunes, Sony’s Connect (Europe and US), MusicMatch, Virgin Mega.fr (France), Napster, Real’s Music Store Rhapsody On-Demand service, Fnac (France), Walmart; Media Players, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer and Winamp; Radio, live365, BBC radio, Yahoo Launchcast; P2P : Kazaa, eMule and Limewire. These preview findings focus on music Download Stores, Media Players and Online Radio services. The second version to be published in February will include another 15-20 sites: Record Label, Recording Artist,TV and Film sites (none of which offer the functionality of stores, players and radio services).
“We see some of the most popular download services actively engaging in a form of guerilla slavery; using proprietary formats, closed system media players and proprietary portable devices,” says Shelley Taylor, the publisher of Click-Here Commerce: Digital Downloading. “As a result, user’s initial enthusiasm is being deflated as they realize they have been conned – there are more limitations imposed on legitimate digital downloads, media players and portable devices than advertised. If music services focused on creating and delivering features, functions and content that enabled users to more fully participate in the pleasure of music, then these services would sell themselves.”
SOME KEY HIGHLIGHTS
The Best (… and the Worst of the Best)
The sample of services represents an industry which is in its earliest stage of development so “best” can always be much, much better. But this is not a beauty contest. Our sample selection process was designed to evaluate sites worth learning from, not sites showing us specifically what to avoid, so it is difficult for us to present “worst offenders.” In other words, our sample was drawn from better than average sites. Clear winners do emerge (those with best practices in the industry) when we evaluate each site against its peers. Our ranking was done according to quantitative (over 1000 metrics) and qualitative measures and included system requirements, site navigation, the Home page, pre-sale assistance, the shopping path on commerce sites, as well as all of the medium-specific interface.
· French electronics retailer, FNAC, upstages iTunes, the darling of digital downloads, (and all of the other download stores in the sample), coming in as the best download store.
· HMV who should know better, because they are one of the UK’s most popular music retailers, is the worst (of the best or those in our sample).
· The best, most flexible and full featured, media player/jukebox is iTunes; the worst is Sony’s Sonic Stage (and not only because it uses proprietary formats and requires users to purchase Sony devices).
Many of the music services (stores, players and devices) are, with varying degrees of success, trying to enslave digital downloaders. Why should a download store, like Sony’s Connect in the extreme case, expect customers to trust their product and service (digital music) if their goal is simply to sell portable devices? Or further, should users be required to have a hotmail account (yes, really!) in order to purchase music from the Music MSN store; be an AOL member to use MusicNet and a Yahoo account to use LauchCast? And should media players be bundled with stores that restrict formats and portability, or should all media players be detachable (and perhaps offered in a paid version) so the player (as with RealPlayer), a software product, is divisible from the music (another product) allowing users to buy music anywhere and play it anywhere. As we have all learned from the enormous success of P2P services, users are attracted to features and functions. The earliest media players (Winamp and RealPlayer) attracted users this way (although we know at first they didn’t all do a very good job of monetizing their services). This is not only a question of free-dom, but also a question personal control. Sony has consistently tried to push their proprietary formats on consumers and this has never worked. Why should others follow in their misguided tracks? Music services need to learn that volunteers engage, slaves revolt.
Turn on, tune in and drop out?
… or upload? The newest trend in digital downloading is digital uploading! This new trend is about customer driven initiatives… individuals are using the medium for communicating with others, not simply accepting the passive role of consumer. “Turn on, tune in and drop out! “The 60s mantra is literally being re-created and re-constituted but “drop out” in this instance refers to dissatisfied customers who are doing it their own way. They may soon drop out of mainstream services (iTunes, Real, Napster) in search of their music Babylon. Music is all about a personal expression and consumers want to express themselves. So services that push products, formats and devices – a one way stream, so to speak – will be replaced by services that allow users a two-way communication: uploading their playlists, broadcasting their mixes, sharing their libraries and talking about what’s up and what’s cool in the form of their blogs and reviews. All aspects of their personal music identity should be given free reign. And it is this personal expression that will create new ways of monetizing music.
· only live365.com (an online radio) enables aspiring and professional DJs to now broadcast live and pre-recorded music, with commentary and everything, to all of their friends around the world, and strangers, and earn advertising revenue.
· only iTunes (iMixes) and Napster allow users to publish their libraries (music purchased from the site) for others to experience
Shelley Taylor & Associates is a management consulting and business publishing firm with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The research was conducted between October and December 2004. The full study, which includes a service-by-service analysis and specific examples of best and worst practices, is available for purchase by phone from the London office (+44 (0)20 7243 3428), or US office (001 650 473 6514) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Executive Summary will be available to staff reporters upon request. Interviews with Shelley Taylor can be scheduled by calling her French mobile (+ 33 66 477 1861).