Social.FM – Radio Done Right, and Gone Mobile

socialfm.jpgSeveral weeks ago, I met with Social.FM, formerly known as Mercora. Mercora is well-known for its web offering, a social music jukebox service, which creates a streaming audio channel personalized to a user’s taste in music. It’s also created a mobile version, first for Windows Mobile devices, but more recently for Symbian smartphones as well. The service costs $20 a year (outside operator data charges and works on EDGE or faster networks.

The mobile version of Social.FM’s service stands somewhat in opposition to operator-based all-you-can-eat mobile music services like Vodafone’s MusicStation, but really, it complements them. It’s certainly cheaper, but offers other advantages as well — the biggest being that users can access their personal collection of music files through Social.FM as well as genre-based and personalized streams. The current iteration requires users’ home PCs to be on and connected to the Internet for them to listen to their own tracks; a future version will do away with this necessity.

I like that Social.FM changed its name from Mercora, because what it’s doing very much feels like radio updated for the mobile era. Gone are the annoying DJs and commercials; in is personalized streaming, either by a user’s specific preferences or by a genre in which they’re interested. It’s easy to pooh-pooh old-school radio since it’s got a lot of now-undesirable features, but it still has some benefits, such as turning listeners on to new music. Offering streams built around genres (such as those offered by other providers like XM or Music Choice) can do this, while personalized streams can also do this for each individual listener. Furthermore, something like Social.FM lets a user’s stream be informed and shaped by their friends’ playlists and recommendations.

While giving users the ability to download individual tracks has its own benefits, it makes the experience of finding new and different music — as well as the social aspect of listening to music and sharing it with friends — much more difficult. In this sense, Social.FM really offers something different, and not necessarily better or worse, just different, than download systems.

Social.FM is running a promo where its service is free through the end of November, not that it leaves you a lot of time, but it’s well worth checking out if you’ve got a compatible device (and data plan). For operators, it’s also worth looking into Social.FM or other similar services to position alongside their download offerings, since they can augment and enhance the experience they offer.

—–>Follow us on Twitter too: @russellbuckley and @caaarlo