'Russian Google' Launches Internet Radio

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Arkady Volozh, CEO of Yandex, celebrates the initial public offering of his company at the Nasdaq MarketSite, Tuesday, May 24, 2011 in New York. Yandex is a Russian internet search company. 

The piracy-rife country gets another legal option.

Yandex, the Russian search engine giant, has launched a new ad-supported streaming music service, Yandex.Radio, which allows a user to listen to around 100 ready-made “stations” organized around moods, genres and time periods. The company says the service will "complement" its older streaming service, Yandex.Music.

"Yandex.Radio is a way to quickly and effortlessly select music for any situation in life," Konstantin Vorontsov, the company's head of music services, said in a press release. "It will work when you're not looking for something specific, but just want music to match your mood -- say, to relax or, on the contrary, to energize."

Yandex, often referred to as the "Russian Google," is the country's largest internet company with 63 million users. Known primarily for its search engine, Yandex also operates an email service, as well as a number of other services, including maps, translation and videos.

A user can select a "station" based on genre, such as pop, rock or indie; mood -- aggressive, sentimental and dreamy, among others; activity or time period. Another criterion would be similarity of the play list to those of two dozen best known Russian FM stations. There is a recommendation component, too, with a Yandex-developed technology called "Disco" that analyzes a user's streaming history and makes suggestions based on it.

Vladimir Isaev, a Yandex spokesman, told Billboard that Yandex.Music and Yandex.Radio will share the same 20-million track library, and there will be no change to arrangements with rights holders.

Available on desktop, as well as apps for iOS- and Android-based devices, Yandex.Radio is free for users, who will be exposed to ad slots similar to those on regular radio stations.

"The idea is to make it similar to the model used by regular radio," Isaev said. "We plan to have three to four ad slots every hour, about 30 seconds each," a structure similar to Pandora. (Users who have paid subscriptions for Yandex.Music won't have to listen to ads.)

Yandex.Radio was launched amid reports that Russia might become one of the first countries where Apple's new music streaming service will be available.

But at the moment, Yandex remains the main player in the streaming segment, with such competitors as Google Play Music, Australia-based Guvera and the local service Zvooq. The Sweden-based service Spotify, which expected to launch in Russia this year, abandoned its plans.

Yandex.Music is currently available in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and Yandex.Radio has been so far launched in Russia only. According to Isaev, the new service will be launched in the other three post-Soviet countries, but there are no expansion plans beyond that.