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MobileCrunch reports leaked info that the Sirius iPhone app has been downloaded 500,000 times in the past week. Along with the growing success of other music apps such as Pandora and imeem, this is telling of the level of demand for radio-like music discovery mobile apps.

It’s also telling of the opportunity for the radio industry to reach users on their mobile devices. Currently there are iPhone apps from television and radio stations from companies like News Over Wireless that are consistently in the top 100 list of news applications.

But the real opportunity for radio could come with sending an actual broadcast signal to mobile devices. It will require chips that receive broadcast signals, costing about 50 cents each to install. Factions of the radio industry are currently hard at work lobbying for federal mandates for these chips.

Their argument is that it can enable a much more effective mobile emergency broadcast system than the currently proposed SMS system. But it can also open up business opportunities such as identifying and ordering songs (via iTunes perhaps) that are received via broadcast.

There is a parallel effort happening in television: After all this talk of 3G and 4G requirements to stream mobile video, what about the broadcast technology that is already pervasive for video delivery (short of chips at the receiving end). This was a big topic at the Winning Media Strategies conference last month.

This is a big opportunity for broadcast media, but there are lots of moving parts to making it happen. Mandating embedded hardware is just one. For me, cultural adoption is another: Overall, the media world is moving away from scheduled content and toward on-demand content. Broadcast media’s capabilities tend to be more toward the former.

On the other hand, there are technically ways to integrate the two-way communication inherent in a Web-connected mobile device in order to interact with the incoming content. And again, the popularity of music discovery apps (less based on content “pull”) such as Sirius and Pandora is supportive of radio’s potential on the mobile device.

Federal mandates for embedded chips will be the next big step though. Either that or the required hardware will be integrated into a future version of the iPhone. Given Apple’s ability to move markets, other ODMs would follow. Maybe in addition to lobbying Washington, the radio industry should lobby Cupertino.


Some of these topics will be on the roster of a webinar we’ll hold at 2 p.m. EST today.

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