The New Look We7 – Initial Thoughts

Yesterday We7 announced a major revamp to their ad supported music service. (The reason I’m only blogging on this today is, in case you were wondering, because yesterday I had a lengthy email exchange with We7’s (very helpful) PR agency addressing queries).

We7 (which I first blogged about back in May ’07) is another venture into digital by one-time Genesis front man Peter Gabriel. His previous dally-with-digital was OD2 which now provides the backbone of Nokia’s digital music strategy, including Comes With Music. We7 provides an interesting twist on ad-supported, splicing a short audio ad at the start of free streamed and downloaded songs. Though there are still gaps in catalogue (particularly for downloads) there is a lot of content on here (including the majors) and lots more being added. We7 uses IP filtering to help target advertising and the filtering worked when tested with a couple of regional VPNs (Netherlands and US). In fact the filtering worked a bit too well: not only did all non-internationally licensed content not play, it disappeared entirely, even from search results. One other small issue is that there seems to be a lot of unsold ad inventory as I just got ‘We7’ audio inserts instead of ads.

But those minor quibbles aside, We7’s new look, feel and content are a good mix. What I like most about We7 is the heavy focus on discovery. The editorial on the site is high quality (I rediscovered Mazzy Star on a brief look through a feature) and the experience is immersive, giving the user a strong mix of information and content. The ability to click-to-buy is always just one click away but not so invasive as to infringe on the main experience.

Though We7 gets a lot less press than Spiral Frog or Qtrax, they’re currently the best programmed and positioned of the ad supported download services. The key step forward that We7 have made is understanding that service comes before business model i.e. they’ve realized they to focus on being a great music experience first rather than simply being ad-supported as an ends in its own right. All they need now is to convince the majors to get more content to them for free download and more advertisers on board…