In today’s fast-moving environment, product iteration is an inescapable necessity if companies want to keep users, attract new ones, and stop a bleeding-edge app from being downgraded to say, merely cutting-edge. Sometimes this means users get a nice, new experience; other times it’s closer to what I’d call a “Detroit update,” where body lines are sharpened just enough to make your “new” car look old.
It can be a delicate act to balance redesigns so that faithful early adopters don’t feel betrayed, and those less personally-invested don’t wind up bored and moving on to greener pastures. Social media platforms (notably Facebook) have taken heat for moving even a button or two, but Raditaz seems to understand that balance.
When we first saw the Raditaz web, iPhone, and Android music app it was primarily a location-based radio service. That feature might make more sense now, as people get used to sharing their location — but more importantly, Raditaz has shifted its focus and undergone a complete makeover, so that location is just part of the equation.
Besides that complete aesthetic makeover, the new Raditaz sports a revamped playlisting backend using data from The Echo Nest (publisher of Evolver.fm), and in three and a half versions, has managed the swing from cool idea with potential to a viable alternative to free streaming options like Pandora.
Raditaz differs in part by the depth of its catalog; as of its February 2011 IPO, Pandora had yet to crest one million tracks, while — like other competitors with far less traction – Raditaz counts over 14 million tracks.
Both Pandora and Raditaz allow you to add multiple artists to the same station (Raditaz’ limit is five; Pandora appears to have no limit). However, Raditaz also offers “familiarity” sliders, one for artists, and one for songs, which let you fine-tune stations in a different way. They let you specify just how “deep” you want these cuts to be: from “Popular” to “On the Fringe” for artists; or “Chart Toppers” to “Surprise Me” for songs. Even with a course set for the middle ground — “A Good Mix” — I discovered new tracks that were certainly different, but made sense in the playlist without being too weird.
We were also happy to note that Raditaz still scrobbles to Last.fm, the way it did the last time we checked it out, but now with the considerate touch of not scrobbling tracks you skip within the first half. No blaring ads is also nice too. (Raditaz only includes display ads, and not audio ads.)
Then there’s the broadcasting part. Pandora lets you share the stations you’ve created, but Raditaz does that differently. First, you can preview and edit playlist recommendations to make sure it’s in keeping with your vision as a broadcaster. Then you tag the station as you see fit with words like #jogging or #mellow, so that other users can find them.
This could be the biggest difference between Pandora and Raditaz, which lets you find other people’s stations even if they haven’t shared them with you by searching tags, or by location. The latter feature lets you discover stations created by others as you approach them geographically, or by exploring a map. You can also view artists trending in a given geographical area. And this time around, we noticed many more local stations available than before.
Raditaz is available on iOS, Android, and the web for free, with no ads at this point. If you’re looking for a slightly different take on free streaming radio, it’s worth a try.