After delivering audio versions of blog articles to the busy masses through SoundGecko, Australian startup 121cast is back with a new service that creates personalized radio stations for users. It’s called Omny, and after a soft launch in the land down under this week, the team is shooting to bring it to the States in the next few months.
In a market full of personalized radio services like Pandora and IHeartRadio, Omny is aiming to deliver a little bit of everything necessary to keep you up to date and entertained (hence the name). It’s essentially made for the morning commute, bringing together local weather forecasts, appointment reminders, music, podcasts, breaking news bulletins, and social updates into one channel.
“Every app is claiming to be personal radio, but they aggregate podcasts. Ours is the first to properly splice it into segments and have the music and the personal updates together,” 121cast COO and co-founder Ed Hooper said.
The iOS app is powered by an algorithm that learns your preferences over time, depending on how quickly you swipe to the next song or news segment. It also scores an individual’s Facebook news to determine what’s worth pushing through to the stream.
Omny picks up major events from Facebook like birthdays and engagements, along with statuses that are getting a lot of attention. So you’re probably not going to have to hear that Sophie shared “The 25 Whitest Things That Have Ever Happened” from BuzzFeed on her Facebook timeline, unless everyone you know is liking it. In which case, sorry.
Part of the reason for the soft launch in Australia is to work out the service’s bugs and fine-tune the algorithm for giving different segments preference over others, Hopper said. They team is playing with the idea of a hotlist for email, so if you put down your wife and boss’s names, Omny will interrupt what you were listening to to deliver the message. Hooper said they are also working out how much local content should be incorporated into the stream.
Among the logistical details that need to be nailed down is how much the monthly subscription cost will be, Hopper added. (SoundGecko, by comparison, is priced at $3 per month.) In addition to subscriptions, they’ll be monetizing on ads, and in a listening session of 20 minutes, the user will probably hear one or two advertisements.
How to handle users who don’t have their own music and are not signed up for a music service is another question. Although Omny could partner with services like Spotify for free 30-day trials, there’s the potential issue of user attrition after that month.
The only bummer is that Omny does need Wi-Fi to add new content, so subway commuters won’t get as fresh an experience as drivers. That said, the app does aggregate future content when it has Wi-Fi so that tunnels won’t be a huge issue.