The new AOL Radio, powered by Slacker Radio, was re-launched Wednesday with a new exterior and Slacker's catalog and programming inside. With AOL's reach and the high quality of Slacker's radio service, AOL Radio has become a formidable competitor for Pandora and iHeartRadio.
With a new look and feel, AOL Radio is like a more mainstream version of Slacker. It has a slick yet simple interface, more white space than Slacker's predominantly black interface and big buttons that are clearly visible and easy to find. And because it's AOL, the page has links to AOL's music news feed and other editorial content.
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AOL is giving its users 50 percent fewer audio advertisements and improved listener features. "Since many of our updates were driven by user feedback, we think our current listeners will be thrilled with the new offering. New listeners will be surprised at the evolution of AOL Radio and its vast programming choices now matched up with expansive features," said Lisa Namerow, General Manager of AOL Music & AOL Radio.
But inside, AOL Radio is very much Slacker. Although it has AOL-curated stations rather than Slacker-curated stations, it has Slacker features such as ESPN Radio, ABC News stations and personalized stations based on Slacker's 10 million-plus song catalog. Next month, AOL will also have the ad-free and premium, on-demand tiers that Slacker also offers. However, existing Slacker users can now log in and enjoy ad-free Slacker listening at AOLRadio.com.
AOL Radio is a good enough product to merit inclusion in the same breath as market-leading Pandora and Clear Channel's iHeartRadio. It has the right product, now it's up to AOL to execute. A key part of that execution will be getting consumer adoption on smartphones. The free AOL Radio by Slacker App for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch can be downloaded for free at the Apple App Store. A new app for Android should be released later this year.