Guide to Naver NOW audio contents service

Naver has a new service called Naver NOW (or Naver Now On Air, 네이버 나우 온에어) and I am surprised that it hasn't been covered more in English language media. The service started several months ago but so far seems to have only been mentioned in-passing on K-pop news sites and one article in Pulse. I think foreigners interested in Korea would want to know more about it so here's my explanation of the service.

Naver NOW audio contents player. Image: NewsTomato



What is Naver NOW? 


Naver NOW (styled as 네이버 NOW) is a streaming audio and music content service made up of a rotating collection (I counted 6 available to me tonight) of streaming radio channels, each with a specific music / genre theme.

That doesn't sound very exciting, right? There are plenty of audio/music streaming services out there.

But here's what's different: it's FREE. I mean completely.
  • The channels stream 24/7 completely free of advertisements.
  • The channels do not count against your data use.

Let me repeat that last one again: If you are a KT, SKT, or LG U+ mobile customer, you can stream any of the Naver NOW channels on your mobile data all day long for free. It won't deduct from your mobile data allowance.

Naver made a partnership with the big 3 telecoms so that you can play Naver NOW streams all day every day and it will never count against your data. So go ahead and stream Naver NOW tunes on your mobile device while you commute to work, while you eat lunch, whatever. It won't cost you even 10 won. And no ad breaks or interruptions either. Nice.

How to access Naver NOW


As of right now, there are 3 ways to access the collection of channels.

  1. the Naver app
  2. the Naver Map app
  3. a Clova smart speaker

Clova smart speaker


If you happen to have a Clova smart speaker (Clova is the AI smart assistant service made by Naver), you can just use a voice command: "hey Clova, play Naver Now" ("해이 클로버, 네이버나우 틀러줘"). [Sidenote: I'm glad we collectively agreed to use informal speech towards robots].

Naver Now available on Clova smart speakers. Image: Naver

You can specify certain shows, like "hey Clova, play the '5 Till 6' show" ("나우 6시 5분전 틀어줘").

And you can also speak these commands into your phone via the accompanying Clova app. Much like you can control your Google Home smart speaker with spoken commands into the Home app.

Naver Map app


In addition, the same voice commands will work inside the Naver Map app if the navigation feature is running. Good for listening to some tunes while you drive to work. You might want to try this out on your upcoming Lunar New Year drive. If you're going to be stuck on the road for 10 hours, at least Naver will make sure you have a steady stream of tunes, none of which will eat up your data.

Naver NOW promo inside Naver Map app

Beware that it's a bit more complicated to set this up. If your Naver Map app is set to English, you might see a promo for the service (like I did above), but you won't have any options/settings to enable it. Tapping the banner only takes you to a promo page.

To activate Naver NOW inside the map app, you'll need to:

  1. have your language set to Korean
  2. log in
  3. enter the preferences and find the settings for navigation features
  4. agree to the terms of service

Since I presume my readers are English speakers, I'll skip the details on this.

After you enable it, it will function pretty much identically to the way Naver Map already integrated with Naver's VIBE music streaming service.

Naver app


But for most people, the main Naver app is going to be the best way to listen. Just download the app [iOS / Android] and you'll see heavy promotion for Naver Now right on the bottom bar above the Green Button.

You don't even need to log-in to the Naver app, meaning you don't even need a Naver account to listen.

Opening Naver NOW inside the Naver app

If for some reason that doesn't work, you can also find it under the Green Dot options, or you can search NOW 온에어, 네이버 나우, or even just "now" or anything similar. The Naver results page will include a prominent onebox link to the service.

Naver NOW info and promo in Naver onebox results

A Twitter user even posted a helpful guide in a thread:

Here's an animated GIF to show how it looks to access the service:

Animation showing how to launch Naver NOW in the Naver app. Image: Naver

You can see in the images that there are several small circles available in the bar above the Green Dot. Each is a currently streaming channel. Tap the one you want to begin listening.

Listening to Naver NOW in the Naver app


Once you've started up Naver Now and picked from one of the little circle channels, it will open in a full-screen player that gives you options such as:

  • viewing that channels' (and other channels') schedules
  • setting reminders for specific shows and events
  • joining a live chatroom to chat with other people listening to the channel at the moment
  • getting title/artist/album information for the currently playing song
  • pausing or skipping the song (for music-only stations)

Naver NOW service. My screenshot from last night.

You can easily exit out of there with the down-arrow and go back to using the Naver app. A "bubble head" icon will float at the side of the screen to help you easily get back to Naver NOW at any time. 

Tapping the list icon (lower right, in the image above) brings up the full list of currently available channels and a list of show schedules. Here are some examples:

Naver NOW currently streaming options. Image: Kookje News
Another example of currently streaming channels (top) and scheduled shows (bottom). Image: 1 day 2 day

Music-only streaming options. Image: 1day 2day

Example of shows scheduled for the hip hop / R&B channel. Image: 1day 2day

Background play 


In addition, the music will keep playing in the background, even if you close the Naver app.

In iOS it integrates with the system as a normal music player, so all the normal controls and Siri integration works. In Android, it plays in the system notification shade. So you can do whatever you want with your phone, or keep the screen off, and Now will continue to play. 

Naver Now playing in the background in iOS. Plus a notification reminder about a schedule Now show. Image: 1day 2day

Naver Now background playing via Android notification widget (right). Image: Kakao 1boon

Combine that with the fact that it doesn't count against your data, and you can easily leave Now playing all night long next to your pillow to help you fall asleep to soothing music (in fact they have a few live shows specifically geared for that scenario, such as the ASMR focused show "오늘도 푹자요" which streams every night at 10pm ). 

What you can listen to


Shows and stations


Naver NOW has a variety of streaming channels, which rotate based on various schedules. Some of the channels are music-only, meaning a constant stream of music organized around certain genres (ballad station, chart toppers station, hip hop station, etc.)

Other channels offer various themed shows hosted by live DJs or even special famous guest hosts. Some of the hosts in fact are K-pop figures.

Here are some sample promos of the shows and stations currently streaming:

Various shows and channels available. Image: Kakao 1boon

Naver NOW original shows with special guest hosts. Image: Naver

Naver Now music-only stream examples. Image: Naver

More Naver Now music-only stream examples. Image: Naver

Show schedules


With the large variety on offer and the schedules, I won't bother typing out a list of all the available stations and shows which can change weekly. However the schedules are posted all over Naver NOW social media pages.

For example, here was a daily timetable posted to their Twitter a couple days ago:


You can consult the schedules in case there is something you really don't want to miss, but really I think it's better if you just check in-app, and when you find something that looks good, tap the bell icon 🔔 to get notified. Or just ignore the schedules and let serendipity decide, because it seems to be most fun to just explore and let the app do its thing.

If you don't want to open the app to see what's streaming right now, you can just Naver search "now" and onebox results will show you which stations/shows are opperating right now. Notice in the screenshot I posted before that these shows have "Live" written on them.

Naver NOW info and promo in Naver onebox results

Those are available now. You can page through the list to see what others are coming up. Of course you can click them to get more info.

Bear in mind that as far as I can tell, you cannot stream Naver NOW from your desktop PC. With Naver VIBE you can, but not NOW.

Why is all this free?


You may be wondering what Naver gets out of this. As far as I can tell, a few things:

  • It keeps users locked in the Naver ecosystem. One of the main features of smart speakers is streaming music. By keeping it ad free, it keeps users in Naver products and from going to Google or a foreign streaming service, or a rival domestic service [consider the popularity of Spoon]. And since it only streams mainly inside the Naver app, more users will install and regularly open the Naver app. 
  • It can drive Vibe subscriptions. Naver already has a paid music streaming service called Vibe (a bit like Apple Music). In fact all of the music streaming for Naver NOW is backended by the VIBE service. All artist info from NOW comes from VIBE and many interactions with the NOW service redirect to a VIBE page that conveniently has a promo for signing up to the VIBE service. So possibly more customers for Naver here. [If it wasn't clear, on VIBE you can stream anything you want on-demand. On NOW you are limited to their playlist and a few skips. Again similar to the offerings of other major streaming services.]
  • It lets Naver collect data on you. The types of stations you choose to listen to can help build a user profile, and supposedly may contribute to rankings on Vibe. Of course you can try staying logged-out for now but to get the most out of the service (like to chat with other station listeners for example) you need to be logged in.
  • Futureproofing. Maybe they'll decide to run ads someday but I doubt it. I suspect they simply see the potential of audio based services in the smart devices arena and want to make sure users stay with them. Naver has been investing a lot in audio content lately so it must see it as a growth engine as more smart devices come online. 


Can foreigners use this too?


The reason I was surprised this hasn't gotten English media coverage yet is because I assumed this would actually be pretty popular with K-pop fans abroad.

There are already many streaming services that play K-pop but how many do so for free without any ads? And there's a certain novelty in streaming right from Korea itself, hearing the same songs real Koreans are hearing, and even being able to chat in live chatrooms with real Koreans. I felt sure that non-Korean K-pop fans would find this service fun and Naver would end up getting a stronger foothold abroad, especially in the SE Asian market.

The good news is that Naver NOW does seem to stream abroad. It's not limited to within-Korea as far as I can tell. I fired up the VPN on my phone then launched NOW, and it seemed to work fine from various countries. Anybody out there from outside Korea who wants to try it and let me know, leave a comment.

And you don't even need a Naver account to listen. All you need is the free Naver app.

Check it out


To see what kind of music and shows you can enjoy on Naver NOW, visit their official website:
https://now.naver.com/



You can also view a lot of behind-the-scenes content at their Naver TV channel or their YouTube, and also on their various SNS which includes show schedules:

So what are you waiting for? Go listen NOW.

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