There's an interesting story in the Washington Post about CBS's plans for

CBS Interactive's Quincy Smith On Re-Org: 'More CBS Corp. Firepower Focused On Interactive' - " It's almost a year since CBS plunked down $280 million for the UK music recommendation start-up and Smith knows he needs to deliver on all that promise. has been growing rapidly on its own and has been given start-up like breathing room but it's time to bring it more into the fold. As we've written here before, also needs more U.S. traction. Yes, Smith said, they bought in part because of its strong international appeal. 'But it's our job, frankly, as a corporation, to make them more valid in the United States.' To that end, CBS will ramp up on-air promos with 'a lot more call outs' starting in May and, very soon, will get its own CMO 'charged with plugging them more into the CBS mainstream.' In late May, CBS will start sending viewers of certain shows to the show's music on 'The downside of right now, from my perspective, has nothing to do with the service itself ... the question is how do you blow it up and make it a major media brand in the United State?' is working with CBS Interactive's Entertainment unit. As Smith put it, 'CBS has done much less of a job with than has done with'"

No doubt going mainstream with is necessary for CBS to justify their $280 million dollar investment - but for a site like, going mainstream is really tricky. listeners tend to be highly engaged music fans - whose taste runs to less mainstream music - you are more apt to find artists like Radiohead, Arcade Fire and the Postal Service in the top ten at compared to the mainstream pop artists like Mariah Carey and Miley Cyrus that populate the Billboard Pop 100. As goes mainstream, there is going to be a culture clash as the mainstream listeners collide with the old-school listeners. Teenyboppers (and their angry parents) will wonder why Hannah Montana is tagged with 'hardcore death metal' and 'lesbian'. Old-school listeners will leave for alternative sites as loses its focus as the best site to discover new indie and alternative music. It's Digg all over again. As Digg went mainstream, it lost its focus on technology - and all the hard-core tech readers went back to slashdot. The problem for is that as it goes mainstream, it risks losing much of its core audience - the highly engaged music fan - and this user base of hard core music fans is one of's biggest asset.

Interesting analysis Paul. But I'd disagree on the comparison to Digg. Digg has a single frontpage. has millions of frontpages (artist pages, user pages, ...). Various communities already co-exist on which might not even have Radiohead in common.

Regarding tag abuse: we're working on it. One solution to the problem would be to attract more fans of the respective artists which would help our algorithms decide which tags are offensive and which ones aren't. So going mainstream is actually one of the solutions to the problem.

Overall, opening up to casual listeners will also improve the user experience also for our "hard core music fans" :-)

Posted by elias on April 18, 2008 at 01:02 PM EDT #

I think it's worse than that because when the newbies flood the site, the fact that has not supported the community-building social connections as well as it's supported the music discovery side of things will mean that those old users may not have developed enough strong ties to other users to keep them there even if they no longer like the whole -- especially if the strong ties they did form with those users are also being sustained elsewhere on the net and off (I've got data on that -- they are).

Posted by Nancy Baym on April 25, 2008 at 03:50 PM EDT #

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