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AOL Radio relaunch: Fewer commercials, more music, free mobile streaming

AOL has re-launched AOL Radio, the company announced this week. The newest version of the online radio service is powered by the popular personal radio website Slacker, and features a new interface, artist stations, and subscription-only music on demand.

The revamp adds new features to over 200 AOL stations, ESPN Radio, and ABC News programming. (AOL’s own genre-based stations range from Doo-Wop to Xtreme Alt Rock.) As you listen, the new player window shows information on the current track’s album, along with the 20 most-played songs your selected genre. That latter feature gives you a quick understanding of what to expect on less obvious stations like, say, Late Night Mix.

AOL also says that the new AOL Radio features just half the audio commericals it ran before. Listeners should expect about three minutes of audio ads per hour. By comparison, competitor Pandora says it plays just 45 seconds of audio ads in the same timeframe.

Indeed, AOL Radio faces increased competition from services like Pandora, Grooveshark, and Spotify; it’s aiming to remain relevant by cutting back on ads and offering new services. While AOL Radio won’t offer the popular recommendation algorithm of other radio sites like Pandora, it’s instead counting on listeners’ interest in radio stations that are specially curated for fans of each genre and artist. And while Spotify offers mobile listening only to paid users, the AOL Radio app lets users stream music for free. Or at least it will; AOL says on its App Store listing that an updated version of its app will launch “next week,” and that “prior versions will no longer work.”

In November, users will be able to subscribe to Radio Plus, an ad-free service for $4 per month. AOL will also offer Premium Radio, a $10 monthly ad-free, on-demand music service to compete with Spotify. Customers of both services will also have access to offline playback mode, AOL says.

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