News & Analysis

Step aside Pandora, Omny coming through!

- October 8, 2013 3 MIN READ

Australian startup Omny has just launched their personalised radio app – taking on the likes of Pandora, iTunes Radio, and iHeart Radio. Unlike other apps, Omny draws data from weather forecasts, the user’s Facebook feed, their email accounts, premium radio shows, and music from their Spotify, Rdio, Songl and iTunes accounts to deliver a highly personalised radio station.

Omny reads content out to the user, so they can get the latest news stories, their daily agenda and other updates without ever having to look at the smartphone screen – a huge plus for the safety of pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. Omny uses an algorithm that continually learns the user’s preferences; and through simple swiping gestures users can tell Omny which content they like the most.

Entrepreneurs, Ed Hooper, Long Zheng, and Andrew Armstrong, have been working on Omny for nearly eighteen months, and today Australians can see how the idea came into fruition.

Co-Founder Hooper says music apps like Pandora and Spotify focus solely on music, and they do it very well. But Omny aims to be more like a traditional radio station, but only in the sense that it keeps listeners entertained and informed.

“We also wanted it to be helpful, providing personal updates and information to help people stay organised,” says Hooper.

“You can combine music, radio shows, podcasts, calendar updates, online news services, emails, social media and more to create your own personal radio station that you can listen to anytime, anywhere.”

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The problem with traditional radio stations, he points out, is the inherent “one size fits all” philosophy.

“Radio hasn’t changed over the past couple of decades. Stations like Fox, Triple M and Nova pick what’s best for everyone in a particular region,” says Hooper.

“We saw an opportunity to make radio a highly personalised experience. Instead of stations deciding what’s best for everyone, and users toggling between stations when they don’t like what they hear, Omny builds a station just for them, based on what they’ve specified they like.”

The Omny team has thus far raised $450,000 from Optus Innov8 and Adventure Capital. They’ve also received grants from Commercialisation Australia and the University of Melbourne.

They initially bootstrapped the business, but realised early on that they will need funding to be able to materialise their vision.

Hooper says the funding has helped the team take the product to the next stage and attract talent that were not in a position to work for free.

“It was really important to us that everyone on the team receives some income for their hard work – even if we could only afford very little. We wanted to make sure everyone could pay for their basic needs,” he adds.


Omny team

Rather than a “spam the whole city” advertising model employed by traditional radio stations, Omny will be introducing targeted audio advertising.

“We learn so much from people as they specify their preferences, so we want to do what Google and Facebook has done – target relevant ads to the individual user,” says Hooper.

They also plan on partnering with subscription-based content providers and deliver affiliate marketing. And while the app is free to use, in due course, Omny will introduce premium features, which can be unlocked by paying a small monthly fee.

To learn the best way to orchestrate a marketing campaign, the team launched an app last year, Soundgecko, which has 10 percent of the functionality of Omny. They made the app available to those who use iPhones, Android phones, and Windows phones.

The purpose was to assess user behaviour and understand what would be the best way to grow the user-base. For a year now, they’ve tested push notifications email campaigns, along with many others to figure out what works and what doesn’t. They will now implement that knowledge to ensure Omny achieves growth.

The biggest challenge for the Omny team has been perfecting the user experience.

“For the last couple of months, we’ve been putting the app in front of people and have been watching them use it. This has helped us identify flaws and fix them so the app easier to use. We’re going to continue doing that. But locking down the user experience was far more challenging than any of us had expected,” says Hooper.

Omny is available to download today via the Australian iOS App Store, and once the app has gained a substantial user-base, the team plans on expanding abroad and introducing it to international markets.

At the moment, Hooper is confident the new service will become a “must have” app.

“Omny will change the way we consume media. It’s the kind of app that will appeal to people of all generations, because of its utility and simplicity,” says Hooper.

For more information, visit www.omnyapp.com