It’s Raining MOG

The latest entrant in the music-from-the-cloud sweepstakes debuted its mobile app at SXSW, promising a richer and more rewarding listening experience than other services currently offer.

MOG, which began life as a music-based social-networking environment combined with the largest collection of music blogs in the world, entered the streaming biz in December when it offered a subscription service featuring an unlimited number of tracks for $5 per month.

But the desktop computer is only a beachhead in the battle to win the hearts of minds of music fans whom, after years of illicit peer-to-peer song-trading, have equated online music with free tunes. The long-held philosophy among many online music purveyors is if you offer easy-to-use, inexpensive alternatives to illicit song trading, today’s swappers will transform into the consumers of tomorrow.

Having millions of tracks to choose from for only a few dollars per month is great if your computer is integrated into your home audio system. However, the real trick is making all that music-from-the-cloud as mobile as the transistor radios, Walkmen and boom boxes of yore.

The folks at MOG believe they’ve cracked that nut with their new service – MOG All Access.

Soon to be available for iPhone and Android-based handsets, MOG All Access will enable users to connect to the service’s music catalog of more than 7 million tracks as well as enjoy the service’s many extra features, such as the very customizable MOG Radio and seamless integration between Web site and hand-helds.

“The whole point of putting music in the cloud is to be able to get to it whenever you want it, from anywhere and mobile was always an end goal for us,” said MOG founder/CEO David Hyman. “We started by building the best desktop music experience and now we’ve taken all of the features of the Web site and created the best way to listen to music on a mobile device.”

If Hyman’s name sounds familiar, that probably means you’ve been keeping up on the Internet version of “Pros On The Move.” Before starting MOG, Hyman was the CEO of Gracenote, the online database company that provides artist, album and track info every time you load a CD into a computer. Previous to his time at Gracenote, Hyman worked as a senior VP of marketing at MTV Interactive, and in the early days of the Web he was the co-founder of the now-defunct online music news operation known as Addicted To Noise.

But MOG isn’t the first online music service streaming tunes to smartphones. Sweden-based Spotify released an iPhone app for use in Europe last summer while Rhapsody followed with its own app for use in the U.S. in September.

However, MOG won’t release its smart phone apps until sometime during the second quarter, possibly putting it farther behind companies that are streaming music to mobile handsets today.

On the other hand, streaming music to mobile phones is still in its infancy, and just because other companies were first, that doesn’t mean they’re the best.

“We really think the time is right,” Hyman told AFP. “We are riding the trajectory of 3G networks and smartphones. Subscription services without real portability could have never taken off.”

Free vs. Paid

How do you convince people that your product is worth paying for even after they’ve been getting it free? If you’re in the news game, you definitely have your work cut out for you. What’s more, you may have already lost the battle.

During those heady days known as the dot-com bubble, the underlying philosophy for many media companies venturing out onto the Web was to allow people to access their content for free in expectations that online advertising would pick up the check.

But multiple factors prevented that scenario from becoming the profit-making utopia many Internet advocates predicted 10 years ago. These days, news outfits are trying to figure out how to charge for content Netizens are now enjoying for free.

But even though news organizations may charge for their online content, there’s no guarantee Web surfers will cough up the bucks.

The Project For Excellence In Journalism, which is part of the Pew Research Center, recently released its annual assessment of the state of the news industry. When it comes to paying for content, the report indicated that Netizens would, if forced to pay for online news, prefer a subscription model rather than a pay-as-you-go plan.

However, the assessment revealed some user choices that don’t bode well for online news sites. Only 35 percent said they rely on a specific site for their daily dose of news, and only 19 percent of those using the same site day after day said they’re willing to pay for news online. In fact, even those paying for online news aren’t all that crazy about it.

Plus, 82 percent of those who do visit the same site for news said they would look elsewhere if their favorite online news outlets began charging.

“If we move to some pay system, that shift is going to have to surmount significant consumer resistance,” Project For Excellence In Journalism’s director Tom Rosenstiel said.

But while the prospects of getting people to pay for online news may seem dim, another development is giving news organizations hope that there might still be dollars to be made via the ‘Net.

Magazines are eyeing Apple’s new iPad, the tablet computer scheduled to hit stores next month.

One of the reasons news organizations and publishers are excited about iPad is that the tablet offers a platform for accessing content that comes with a price, such as subscriptions for newspapers and magazines as well as e-books. Sure, you can use other gadgets for the same purpose, but the iPad might be a better platform for such activities. One you can use anywhere in the home, but without the bulkier footprint of a laptop or the smallness of a phone screen – making it the perfect device for reading newspapers, magazines and books.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations is bullish on iPad. The organization that monitors and tabulates magazine circulations recently changed how it defines digital magazines.

Until now, magazines couldn’t count readers of online versions of their publications as part of their circulation stats unless the online version’s layout was identical to the hard copy. Recent changes in the Audit Bureau’s rules and regs now allow magazines to include their online readership as part of their publication’s circulation as long as the same editorial and advertising material is included, regardless of the layout. The changes are in response to Apple rolling out the iPad April 3.

But before magazine publishers can count online readership as a part of their overall circulation, they need to entice those readers to pay for it. However, when it comes to online news and feature content, folks have become accustomed to the free ride that’s been available for more than 10 years.

And if you’re wondering if people will opt to pay for what they once got for free, then ask yourself if you wouldn’t mind spending a few bucks for the privilege of accessing your favorite sites every day. Yeah, we thought that would be your answer.