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

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Issue Date: 
Feb 8 2012 - 11:05am

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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.

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Aggregation is NOT curation

Couldn't agree more with Sean Ross on this point that aggregation is not curating. However aggregators provide the required mobile application code to playback encoded audio into the car without it skipping like a 1993 in-car CD player.

The irony is that most of the mobile apps are all using the same libraries for streaming playback (for non tech folks "same player engines") that are available to all developers that want to use them.

Exclusivity is based on consistency. I've seen this in retail for years with consumer electronics. If you check out a Bose point of purchase (POP) you'll notice the consistency across all retailers (target to best buy to the Bose store) With radio the branding is the concern.

One thing I really don't get is putting a brand on top of the radio brand (on top of the brand of the artist you are listening to.) That's three brands for one band. The live radio station is constantly adding live and local value to the listener with traffic, news, and local commentary.

In some cases a DJ can be unique enough for national syndication.

In all cases aggregation is NOT curation. Sean Ross is absolutely right on this one. However, picking your partners and having a one-stop-shop for your brand on mobile is fine. Especially when you're betting on ClearChannel to keep your brand consistent and in front of their massive audience (and massive advertising base.)

Expect to see ClearChannel earn more and more business with local radio stations under their digital umbrella. Just keep in mind that exclusivity is only as good as the technology that keeps music in the ears of the listeners. (And ultimately the in-car distribution available for ClearChannel which is growing by the day.)

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