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Last.fm, the social music site acquired by CBS two years ago, unveiled a major redesign to its interactive radio service on Wednesday in an attempt to keep users where its advertisers can reach them.

Visual Radio — now Last.fm’s default radio listening option — launches a full web page with an image and video viewer surrounded by advertising. Last.fm and CBS realized that adding a visual component to their interactive artist and genre stations would make users more likely to stick around, rather than tabbing over to another browser window.

The problem with many interactive radio services, from an advertiser perspective, is that people tend to listen to stations while otherwise occupied.

CBS and Last.fm hope Visual Radio will solve that problem. If you keep looking at your Last.fm browser window in order to see images and videos associated with the currently-playing band, you’ll also be exposed to the advertisement surrounding the player. It appears to be a win for both sides: fans get relevant visuals — if they want them — while advertisers reap more of their attention, and therefore pay CBS higher ad rates.

Enter an artist or genre into the search box on the front of Last.fm, you’ll be directed to the new Visual Radio player (or see the expandable screenshot). You can still listen to these channels while using other browser windows, it’s just that now there’s more of an incentive to stay, in the form of photos and videos of the band, some of which come from Last.fm users.

(One nitpick, while we’re on the topic: There’s no pause button on the player, as there is on Pandora, so if you stop a station you have to reload the station completely with a new song and lose your spot.)

On Tuesday, CBS announced that Last.fm would fall under a newly-formed division called the CBS Interactive Music Group, headed by David Goodman, a CBS Radio veteran. This is Last.fm’s first move following that announcement, indicating that CBS reorganized in this way in attempt to further monetize Last.fm.

Last.fm co-founder Martin Stiksel stated that:

Personalized Visual Music shows what’s possible with Last.fm’s unparalleled music database and the innovative vision of our team. We were the first website to offer personalized streaming music, and this marks the next evolution of that service. Passionate music fans come to Last.fm for more than just the songs, and Visual Radio provides them with the enriching, full-featured music experience they demand. And the bold new music player allows brands and sponsors the opportunity to directly reach these users in a visually exciting way.

As part of the Visual Radio rollout, Last.fm also added the ability to create multi-artist and -tag stations:


But the meat of the announcement is that Last.fm is trying to keep listeners looking at its player page by offering visuals associated with bands it knows they like, and are interested in at that moment.

In our brief period of testing today, we’ve found that the images are indeed correctly associated with currently-playing bands, so the system appears to be working. Now, CBS will find out whether it’s enough to keep people glued to their Last.fm browser window long enough for its advertisers’ messages to sink in.