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The highlight of Plug.In '98, from the viewpoint of Music Unbound, was the announcement by Dave Samuel that his web site, recently renamed from "TheDJ.Com" to "," will offer custom audio programming channels along with its 100 genre-based channels containing 100,000 songs. Customization of personal channels (known as "MyChannels") is done using the collaborative filtering technology from NetPerceptions called GroupLens.

This represents another step forward from the probability-weighting feature of Imagine Radio within its genre formats, which provided the first instance of user-modifiable music programming in online audio. With a song base in 6 digits and customization able to reach across genres via recommendation methods such as collaborative filtering, comes significantly closer to the vision outlined in our August '97 article A Modest Proposal: Audio Programming From Online Catalogs, and we applaud this development. also recently announced a partnership with to sell CDs identified in audio programming (Amazon announced its expansion from books to music CDs, etc. in June '98), creating the tie-in between audio programming and music retail that begins to build a smoothly integrated environment for the convergence of entertainment, information and retail services for music and musical acts. (Imagine Radio formed a similar partnership with CDnow not long after launching their service in March '98.)

It should be noted that bandwidth is still at a premium, and that services such as and Imagine Radio are initially aiming for workplace users who have access to T1 or other high-band Internet connections, as well as the small but growing market for cable modems, home ISDN, and various forms of consumer-grade DSL lines, especially a few formats designed to work over twisted copper-pair phone lines at 1-1.5mbps, announced within the last six months by companies like Nortel.

However, even if these services are not likely to reach audience levels that compare with commercial music radio for some time yet, their current development and testing of revenue models is the right thing at the right time, and should prepare them for the onset of more ubiquitous highband connections.'s 100,000-deep songlist is especially pleasing to see, in combination with user-based customization of programming.

- Dan Krimm, 7/98