Posted by Matt Egan 08 July 2014
Why Google bought Songza. Scratch that: what is Songza?
We explain Google's most recent aquisition: Songza.
You know Google of course, but Songza was a new one on me. Turns out it is one of those many organisations that promotes music streaming, sharing and recommendation. You know, like Spotify. And Pandora. And iTunes Radio. and the rest. Songza has been around since 2007, and now all of a sudden the Big G has invested in it. Like Apple buying Beats, but at a fraction of the price (Songa cost 'only' $39m, apparently. Apple paid Beats $3bn). See also: No one cares about privacy.
So did Google invest in this relatively small concern? It's generally accepted that Pandora leads the way on global music-streaming services. Pandora claims to have 75 million regular users, Songza 5.5 million. But Songza offers a different experience to Pandora, and something that may be of more interest to a human-data-gathering behemoth such as Google.
Songza claims to match playlists to user context. If you're at work it will play one type of music. Drifting off the sleep another. If the sun is shining you wil hear mainly sunny tunes. There are playlists for the gym. Others for waking up in the morning. Unlike other services - and most of Google's tech - the playlists are curated buy actual physical humans.
So I'd expect that Songza's human intelligent will be blended into Google's own Play Music. That Play Music will become better and potentially unique. Google makes money from Play through subscriptions, sales and advertising. But it also generates user data which builds into its over arching advertising business. Adding in more personal flexibility to Play Music makes it both more attractive to users and more useful to Google. (See also: In defence of the single-use device.)
This although the cost to Google of acquiring Songza is low by Silicon Valley standards, the potential value could be sky high. Through Songza and Play Music Google could learn what music you play based on your circumstances, location and activity. And also more about your circumstances, location and activity. This in turns feeds the advertising model, but has the happy by-product of making better the music service itself. It's a virtuous circle.
And because Google folds in Play Music to other services such as Google Now, Google Glass, and Android, Songza's intelligence adds quality to all of its key data-gathering services.
That's why Google bought Songza. (See also: Why Nokia has released an Android phone: it isn't for me or for you.)