Internet

The site formerly known as TheDJ.com

The Net broadcaster is changing its name and getting a face-lift with a relaunch that will unveil a new design and newly integrated features.

Net broadcaster TheDJ.com is getting a face-lift and changing its name tomorrow, with a relaunch that will unveil a new design and newly integrated features.

With its relaunch, TheDJ.com is trying to move away from the Net radio image and into an "Internet music service" model, according to Scott Epstein, the firm's vice president of marketing. Part of that move is a name change to Spinner, effective tomorrow.

"We rebuilt this thing from the ground up," Epstein said, noting that among the changes is an increase in the number of channels from just more than 70 to more than 100, a change in e-commerce fulfillment from CDnow to Amazon.com, and integration of content developed through partnerships with Launch Media and the Ultimate Band List, as reported last month.

Net radio is a relatively nascent industry, with a handful of players that also include Imagine Radio and Broadcast.com (formerly AudioNet). Because of Net radio's untested business model and an epidemic of music piracy online, many record labels have been slow to embrace the medium beyond using it as a marketing vehicle.

Net radio firms also are facing a potential conflict with music rights group the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the labels. That group sent Net radio firms a letter last month, seeking a licensing fee over and above what the firms are paying to the likes of ASCAP and BMI, and one to which regular radio broadcasters would not be subject. A fight over that fee could drive a further wedge between the labels and the Net broadcasters.

The name change and the move away from the Net radio image came about because "there were too many characteristics associated with DJs and radio that just didn't make sense with our format," Epstein said, such as the lack of choice and personalization on regular radio and the chatter in-between songs for which many DJs are famous.

Over the course of six months of research and development, Epstein said the firm found that its users want "breadth, choice, control, and simplicity--to really define their own experience."

He added that the site's URL also will change tomorrow, partially because "too many people were going to 'dj.com,'" which is the site for Dow Jones.

As for the change in e-commerce arrangements, Epstein said only that "Amazon saw the value of what we're doing better than anyone else." He noted that users will be able to click on an Amazon icon from Spinner's music player, and they will be taken directly to the page within Amazon's site that covers the song being broadcast on the music player.

CDnow declined to comment about the end of its alliance with TheDJ.com-cum-Spinner. Amazon launched its music store last month; at the time, analysts were mixed as to whether or not it would displace Net music retailers such as CDnow and Music Boulevard.

The advantage to the alliance with Spinner for Amazon is that "you can really integrate music listening with e-commerce, in that you don't have to know the song title or the name of the artist to purchase the music you like," said Shawn Haynes, group product manager for Amazon. "How many times have you experienced the frustration of being in your car, listening to the radio, and they don't tell you the name of the song, or the artist or album--and then you spend the rest of the day humming the tune, but you can't go out and buy the CD?"

Another change to the service will be the integration of content pages that are the fruit of an alliance between Spinner, Launch Media, and the Ultimate Band List. When a user clicks on the "artist" button on the firm's music player, a new browser window will open and the user will be taken to a separate page with information about the artist and links to related pages, Epstein said.

Spinner also is introducing a personalization feature, to be added later this summer. The firm licensed so-called collaborative filtering technology from Net Perceptions, which is designed to offer recommendations to users based on the preferences of other users with similar tastes. TheDJ.com is incorporating principles from Net Perceptions' technology into its personalization functions, which will be tied into the My Channel buttons on the music player.

"Users rate songs, and over time, the system creates a profile on you and compares it to [those of] other users," Epstein said. The service uses the profile to create personalized channels for a particular user.

"Instead of just giving out recommendations, we're using the technology to give people something right away," in the form of personalized music delivery, he said, noting that the firm has applied for a patent for the technology.

The privately held firm closed a third round of financing in April, Epstein said. "We expect to be profitable shortly," he noted, but declined to specify when.

"Our goal is to achieve mass appeal and to have a robust retail arrangement," he said.