Clear Channel touts digital growth on earnings call; iHeart customizable radio to remain ad-free for time-being

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 1:00pm

The manner in which Clear Channel dealt with its digital business on yesterday's earnings call should come as no surprise to anyone who's been listening to CEO Bob Pittman lately (see RAIN here). Radio-Info reports today that Clear Channel CFO Tom Casey began the call "by talking about iHeartRadio app and last September’s successful iHeartRadio Music Festival... Casey talked frequently about digital initiatives and investments, both around the radio platform and at Clear Channel Outdoor. (The hottest thing going in out-of-home advertising is digital displays.) And digital seems to be the growth engine, as you can see from the Fourth Quarter results..."

Casey told investors digital ad (streaming and display) revenue is “growing nicely,” Taylor reports. And this mirrors the industry overall (see yesterday's coverage of RAB's revenue report here). However, the customizable feature of the company's iHeartRadio service -- the company's answer to Pandora -- has been commercial-free since its launch, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The apparent thinking is about building usage, and not jeopardizing early adoption with an overload of ads. 

"Casey said the company was getting great feedback from listeners, is not monetizing iHeartradio and has no plan to do so right now," Radio Ink writes today. Casey reported 48 million downloads of the iHeartradio app in 2011, and 37 million monthly uniques from all the company's digital products and brands.

Read more in Radio-Info here; more in Radio Ink here.

Some critics wonder if joining iHeartRadio platform worth pulling streams from other sites

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 11:05am

iHeartRadio's growing networkVarious industry publications and commentators have recently voiced or reported second thoughts about iHeartRadio's role as an aggregator. Specifically, some question the wisdom of going along with Clear Channel's reported exclusivity requirement for joining iHeartRadio.

Clear Channel has recently added hundreds of third-party station streams to iHeartRadio from Greater Media, Cumulus, EMF, Univision, as well as various non-comms and college stations.

Jennifer Lane writes in Audio4Cast that some of these companies "are rumored to have made iHeartRadio their exclusive digital portal." She thinks that's a dangerous move: "Content creators should work with every distribution platform they can to give listeners access in as many ways as they want it." (Find her blog post here.)

That echoes industry journalist Sean Ross, who in late 2011 wrote (more here) "I’m still in favor of station streams being available in as many places as possible," (though with the warning: "aggregation is not curation").

Earlier this month Carleton College "snubbed" an offer from Clear Channel to join iHeartRadio, Radio-Info reported (here). The student station manager said that to join iHeartRadio, the college station "would have to pull its live stream from all other sites" like TuneIn.

Soon after that story broke, an unnamed commercial station executive told Radio-Info's Tom Taylor that his or her station too "had second thoughts about the requirement that we would have to remove our signal from all other Internet services." The executive did not reveal if the station ended up joining iHeartRadio anyway.

Finally, industry commentator Ken Dardis today points to data from Google to argue iHeartRadio isn't as popular, or as easy to find, as you might expect.

"Be careful about getting caught up in hype," he argues (here). "The exclusivity clause offered to new iHeartRadio stations may turn out to be more a shackle for acquiring, than a bridge to exposure."

What do you think? Is going exclusive with iHeartRadio a good idea? Share your opinion by commenting on this article.

Don't blame the platform, when bad content and lack of promotion are at fault, argues Cridland

Friday, December 9, 2011 - 11:00am

Radio's "futurologist" James Cridland had to bust out the "spicy" language to make his point (which we think is a pretty ****ing valid one). James spoke at the Jacobs Media Tech Summit in Baltimore this week (see Tom Taylor's "zingers" section yesterday in, and clarifies a point he made there in his blog today.James Cridland

Cridland took exception to the idea that a delivery platform -- HD Radio in this case -- could be at fault for an underperforming brand. To paraphrase, the reason nobody’s listening to your HD2 channel isn’t that HD Radio is s**t, it’s that your HD2 channel is s**t.

"It is not a discussion about platform – it’s a discussion about content," Cridland wrote. "And, as I regularly say, you may have good reasons why you have chosen not to be on a given platform, but that doesn’t give you licence to slag it off, because that’s bad for radio listeners and radio advertisers."

Interestingly, the point came out of Cridland's attempts to sample WMMR/Philadelphia HD-2, MMaRchives, which also streams online. And Cridland doesn't really have any problem with the content of that actual channel -- but the fact that it was so hard to find led to his conclusion that the lack of listening to the channel is a result of lack of promotional support by the station. 

"If you tell nobody about a new station, bury it four screens down in an unintuitive place on the website, and don’t tell anyone how to tune in, it’s unfair to blame the platform for your failure to promote a service well," Cridland suggests. Read his blog here.

Sean Ross reminds radio of the importance of brand-building to listeners faced with thousands of choices

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 12:25pm

Sean RossYesterday Cumulus and Clear Channel partnered to bring Cumulus' nearly 600 station streams to Clear Channel's iHeartRadio web radio platform -- a move that could hint at the platform's future as an aggregator (RAIN coverage here). Meanwhile, Inside Radio reports that Townsquare Media is "having conversations with other broadcasters about potential partnerships with its newly-launched [web radio platform] radioPup."

Respected industry journalist Sean Ross (pictured) applauds such moves in his column today, but warns: "aggregation is not curation."

He argues that users now need to sort through nearly 1,400 stations on iHeartRadio, for example, and the problem of picking from among "a hundred 'Kiss-FMs' or two-dozen 'Jack FMs'" is still "largely unaddressed."

Ross also suggests that national aggregation platforms are a good opportunity for broadcasters to "create unique national content...the potential of national radio is still largely untapped, and national stations are usually an un-hosted, inchoate afterthought."

Additionally, Ross points out that there's still no one-stop platform for all U.S. radio online -- especially since Clear Channel and CBS Radio started pulling their streams from aggregators like TuneIn Radio (RAIN coverage here).

iHeartRadio's growing web radio network In fact, a Clear Channel representative recently told Ross' fellow Radio-Info journalist Tom Taylor: "Our streams are secure and are only available in our player. If content aggregators bundled our radio stations, we would have no control over how our content and stations are presented -- so we couldn't necessarily provide listeners with the kind of premium experience we want to, and that they expect."

Ross disagrees with that position. "I’m still in favor of station streams being available in as many places as possible...Even after the Cumulus/Clear Channel deal, we’re still not close to having every radio station on one broadcaster’s platform, and I wouldn’t begrudge that convenience to any consumer who really wants it."

For a consumer to stream stations from CBS Radio, Clear Channel and Emmis on his or her iPhone -- for example -- he or she would currently need to download at least three different apps: the app from CBS Radio, the iHeartRadio app from Clear Channel, and the TuneIn Radio app (or another aggregation app, or an individual station app) to listen to Emmis. And that's assuming the consumer even knows the stations are owned by CBS Radio, Clear Channel and Emmis.

You can find Sean Ross' full article on Radio-Info here.

David Oxenford explains in-store music royalties following Pandora-DMX partnership

Friday, November 4, 2011 - 8:10am

David OxenfordEarlier this week Pandora announced a partnership with DMX to license its stations to businesses (RAIN coverage here). Yesterday Radio-Info's Tom Taylor asked industry attorney and Davis Wright Tremaine partner David Oxenford (pictured) to explain the royalty situation for businesses playing music to customers. As usual with royalties, the requirements are more complicated than you might expect.

You can find Oxenford's explanation in yesterday's Taylor on Radio-Info newsletter here and more on the Broadcast Law Blog here.

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