Missing The Point

24 04 2010

Sometimes I just don’t get it. Big companies can sometimes be the slowest to respond to market changes. I suppose it’s not a lot unlike trying to turn a large ship around. Too bad, because you can miss a turn that way.

And such is the case of CBS Radio, which bought Last.fm way back in May 2007. Last.fm, in case you have forgotten, is in the same league as Pandora and Slacker, providing customizable stations. Pandora is clearly the most successful in the genre, with over 40 million registered users. It also scored its first quarterly profit earlier this year.

Earlier this week I wrote about how Pandora has partnered with Ford to include an app in the 2011 Sync model this fall. Pandora is poised to appear on more and more car dashboards in the years to come, making it as analogous to music as is Facebook to social networking.

So what has CBS been doing with Last.fm? Nothing. Pretty much.

Now I don’t know if CBS bought Last.fm with the notion of simply putting it on the shelf and effectively killing it, but it sure looks like it. One would think that, with the financial wherewithal of a media giant like CBS, Last.fm would have been promoted to the ends of the earth. There really is not reason that Last.fm isn’t the Pandora of 2010, but its luster is fading faster than an unwaxed automobile in the hot Texas sun.

At least Slacker is doing something, although I think it may have arrived at the party a few hours too late. Slacker, too, is fumbling for a foothold, insisting on also selling another gadget in our pocket.

Still, it is CBS’ lack of action that befuddles me the most. Three years ago I fully expected Last.fm to jump to prominence, but instead it has gotten shoved farther and farther back in the center drawer of the CBS desk. For $280 million, that’s one expensive acquisition to let sit idle.

If CBS were really thinking, they would be partnering with an automobile manufacturer to get a Last.fm app on a different dashboard. Because it really is all about being everywhere. It’s about never giving your customers a chance to try the other guy’s product. It’s about turning that ship around to avoid icebergs and other threats.

And because if you miss the point, that point can turn around and stab you in the back side.

Dr “Finishing Last Sucks” Gerlich