When Do You Want to Hear 30-second Recommendation Clips?

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by: David Jennings

I know the question I’m about to ask must have been posed many times before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an answer. I’ve been revisiting my thinking about the different ‘modes’ in which we listen to music.

Sometimes we’re open to discovering new artists and songs, sometimes we just want to listen to our favourites. Sometimes we want listen to music in ‘lean back’ mode where we surrender control of track sequence to a DJ, a playlist we made earlier or even a playlisting algorithm; and sometimes we’re more prepared to interact and intervene, ‘leaning forward’ to sequence the music track by track.

Into this spectrum of listening behaviours come recommender systems like MyStrands (above in the image on the right) and iLike (below) that offer me suggestions for branching my listening based on what I’m listening to in iTunes at this moment. But they offer only 30-second clips of each suggestion, and the suggestions disappear at the end of the track I’m listening to. So my question: in what context would listeners break off in the middle of listening to a track they had chosen to hear a clip (usually fairly lo-fi) of something they hadn’t chosen — and quite likely hadn’t heard of?

Is this user experience just a reflection of licensing constraints that will disappear as soon as the services concerned have licensed full tracks? Or was it designed that way on purpose, irrespective of legal parameters?

When I was talking about criteria for recommender systems a few weeks ago, I suggested that the key pragmatic measure of a good system is the degree to which people keep coming back for more recommendations. So how much do users actually engage with the 30-second recommendations? Does anyone have any figures they could share — or even anecdotal evidence?

And if people do break off their current listening to attend to recommendation clips are they more likely to follow up on those recommendations, or to forget about them?

Going beyond music, radio producers insert trailers for other programmes in their features (especially on the BBC!), but would you ever insert a trailer for a film in the middle of another one? TV does that, but then people pay a premium price to watch films without such interruptions, suggesting that this isn’t seen as adding value.

Original Post: http://www.netblogsrocknroll.com/2008/02/when-do-you-wan.html