For most people an iTunes update isn’t a big deal because it happens all of the time; the iTunes 10 update, however, is a very big deal.
It could be described as the most important version of iTunes since it has been released, and should come as a real shock to MySpace. So what’s new?
In Apple’s newest update, they have launched a social network for music within iTunes; Ping. Apple says you can “Follow your favourite artists and friends to discover the music they’re talking about, listening to and downloading.”and Steve Jobs described it as “Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes”.
To find out what you can do within Ping, check out Apple’s demonstration.
Apple recently declared iTunes currently has over 150 million active customers who have downloaded 11.7 billion songs, 450 million television shows and 100 million movies. Considering these statistics it seems hard to believe that Ping could fail.
There are other questions too. How fast will it expand and should other networks be worried? What effect will this have on the other social networks?
There are also a lot of big names on Ping with 50 cent, Akon, David Guetta, Bruce Springsteen and many more already signed up. I think Twitter may have a reason to be a little cautious as many signed up to their social network to receive updates from their favourite music artists.
With Ping, users have a place which is more convenient to follow their favourite artists as some describe it as a natural extension to buying music.
I can’t see how Facebook will be affected, since the two networks offer different unique selling points. I think the Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, summed it up well when he said: “It sounds like a subset of Facebook, but Facebook is life and this is music.”
A lot of focus has centred on whether Ping will signal the end of MySpace as the network to find and socialise around music entertainment. A lot of users have abandoned MySpace for alternative networks and Ping could be its final blow.
However, MySpace will always be the website that avid music fans trawl through to find new, undiscovered artists. At the moment, Ping does not offer a service similar which can compete against MySpace in this area of networking… but it is still young.
A step towards Amazon
Through Ping, Apple has created a value network for customers – a place where customers can ‘like’ or review songs contributing their own opinion. This is very similar to what Amazon does with products but Apple is doing it with music.
Music is now being discovered through peer-to-peer recommendations – the most credible recommendation available, and far more trustworthy than any marketing.
Ping is attracting people who wouldn’t normally buy music from iTunes to follow their favourite celebrities and then allowing other users who they trust to recommend them other music; the only thing left is for the user who doesn’t normally buy from iTunes to buy the songs recommended to them.
What implications does this have for the PR practitioner?
Social networks are all of interest to PR practitioners; they are where the publics meet, and Ping is another arena where people of interest may group. While Ping clearly has benefits for those in the music industry, I think it is limited to just that. But one this is clear; the big winner in all of this is Apple.
So is it a network to promote anything other than music? No, I don’t think so. Ping is a channel where artists can maintain and build on the relationships that they currently have with their fans, there isn’t much opportunity for anything else.
It isn’t all good news for Ping however, many expressed their anger on Twitter complaining about the original update, with comments such as: “#itunes10 It’s crashed again” and “I hate this #itunes10 I think I will be downloading the previous version of #itunes again”
I have personally found it to be a little slow and there is little scope in personalising your profile on the network. Nevertheless, each morning when I have started my computer, I have automatically opened iTunes with no intention other than to socialise.
There is room for improvement but it is still new, free and is only going to get bigger – so I think you’ll still agree it’s a huge deal.
Update: Ping has recently hosted Michael Jackson’s new track exclusively, making it unavailable on any other MP3 site or service. Another feather in Ping’s cap? What do you think of the network?