Software giant Microsoft took center stage last week when it began selling songs online, but another feature of its new MSN Music service is quietly raising eyebrows in the radio industry.
Microsoft is using playlists from more than 900 local radio stations around the country to create its own soundalike Internet stations -- stripped of local DJ chatter, traffic, weather and commercials.
The new MSN Radio offers Internet stations playing most of the same songs heard on over-the-air outlets like Berkeley's KBLX, "The Quiet Storm"; New York's WNEW, "The Mix 102.9"; or Chicago's WLUP, "The Loop."
"It results in a more pleasant experience because you don't have the ads or the DJs," Rob Bennett, senior director for MSN Entertainment, said during a press briefing last week, writes San Francisco Chronicle.
MSN Music Service also represents an important addition to Microsoft's Web portal and search presence.
As part of the highly visited MSN site, the music service can draw even more eyeballs and more advertising.
The ability to search the Web is integrated with the music service, as are paid Web links.
For example, when I searched for John Mayer's version of the song "Message in a Bottle," I not only got that tune, but the right-hand side of the Web page offered me "sponsored" links to "wholesale bottles" and related sites.
A search for music by Eric Clapton resulted in paid links to "Find Eric Clapton items on eBay," "Buy Eric Clapton tickets" and "Eric Clapton concert tickets."
Some consumers may find this useful; others, annoying. Micro-soft hopes to find it profitable, informs San Diego Union Tribune.
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