Say what you will about AOL, but it still reaches lots of people. Nearly 50 million of them visited aol.com last month, and approximately three million listen to AOL Radio.
AOL Radio, which used to be powered by Last.fm and MP3.com owner CBS, relaunched on Wednesday with Slacker Radio underneath the hood. The new AOL Radio is free on the web and iOS app devices, with an Android app coming “soon.”
The service draws on over 10 million songs and averages about three minutes of advertising per hour, according to BusinessWeek, as compared to Pandora’s 45 seconds per hour. Somehow, BusinessWeek construes that to mean that AOL Radio has “half as many ads to rival Pandora,” which obviously does not appear to be the case, even according to the numbers in that same article. However, it does appear to be correct that AOL probably made this move in an attempt to counteract 25 percent slippage in its online radio audience since last year.
As with regular Slacker Radio, you can upgrade to AOL Radio Plus (ad-free listening, unlimited song skips, lyrics, and offline mobile listening) or AOL Premium Radio, which adds the Spotify/Rhapsody/Rdio-like ability to play any song, album, artist, or playlist whenever you want.
The AOL version differs greatly from regular Slacker Radio and most other music services these days in one key regard: sharing. Simply put: it doesn’t.
There’s no way at all to share a channel that we could find, although you can send out a generic link to the service in general with the Like button. Here’s what happened when we tried to Like a Javelin station on AOL Radio (disclosure: Javelin is my brother and my cousin):
You can, however, Like a band on AOL Radio itself by clicking the Heart button, which personalizes your stations on that service. Facebook is none the wiser. Not even the “Share” button can send a station to Facebook, Twitter, email, or anywhere else although you can share a specify song with certain Facebook friends, groups or old-school email addresses — or, rather, you can try:
In our testing, the Share feature didn’t actually share the song. Instead, it shared an AOL Radio station built around that song — and when we shared a song to ourself on Facebook, the “shared song” never played first.
So on pretty much every front, AOL Radio’s sharing features are pretty weak, with no good options for sharing songs or stations on Facebook or anywhere else for that matter. And nothing gets added to your Facebook timeline. To be fair, Pandora doesn’t share your listening activity with your Facebook timeline either, but even Pandora recently beefed up its other sharing features significantly.
As for Slacker, executive Jonathan Sasse told Evolver.fm that it has been working with Facebook on a group listening service with features similar to those of Turntable.fm for months, which would make it more social than any other service currently on Facebook. In addition, Slacker was a Facebook music launch partner, which makes AOL Radio’s sharing omissions all the more glaring.
That said, if you’re looking for a way to listen alone in these social listening times, AOL Radio could fit the bill.