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Wednesday, June 27, 2012
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Another Cow in the CC Corral

There's a lot of buzz brewing with the announcement of Cox and Emmis joining iHeartRadio. Radio industry trades are treating this as an ideal situation, with the industry sticking together. I'm thinking it's another example of "herd mentality" that is going to end up with a walk down the slaughter shutes.

Tunein is cool. Pandora also carries the "cool" factor. Spotify can be placed in the same bucket. Then we have iHeartRadio. Can you pick the difference out between the four? Answer: The first three built audience off buzz; the last is dependent on promoting itself across radio industry stations.

"The radio industry demonstrates too much of a follow-the-herd mentality to pull itself out of its current hole." The "cool" factor isn't going to help iHeartRadio because it's attached to what everyone was leaving when they discovered Tunein, Pandora, and Spotify. When you hear those iHeartRadio mentions on a local radio station, it's like having your grandmother tell you to watch Lawrence Welk.

Radio group executives are scared. They waited over a decade to start serious considerations for moving onto the internet. With the dashboard war now leaning away from them, it appears the only option is to get with Clear Channel's offering because CC is "one of them." We only need to look at the precedent set by having Katz representing all but the smart broadcasters to see how having the radio industry's biggest player control the rules works for the rest.

What happened when those 500+ Cumulus stations were blended with Clear Channel stations on iHeartRadio? Cumulus may be counting on CC promoting its "SweatJack" to compensate the distribution exclusivity it had to give away. You'll find, in the end, that neither company is gaining a great deal from either offering.

According to Clear Channel-owned "Inside Radio," "A sticking point for Emmis and some broadcasters has been exclusivity, the amount of on-air promotion for iHeartRadio that Clear Channel has expected and how shared sales opportunities would be handled." While these may have been ironed out, what's left is still the high number of radio cousins in bed with each other - and science has proven what being incestuous breeds.

While Tunein also offers thousands of stations to choose from, the difference is that it's a member of the new media crowd. Perceptually, Pandora and Spotify are also not similar to iHeartRadio, despite the latter's attempt to create itself in their image. Bounce around either P or S and you do so as a user who has set up their own route.

Go into iHeartRadio and you're given the option of listening to broadcast stations in hundreds of cities, or creating a station. But, that's after the copyright of "© Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc." is held prominently up for display. If I'm a Cox station, promoting iHeartRadio for the return of being listed somewhere within the application, all I do is help promote a competitor's name.

We'll take WJOX 94.5, Birmingham Alabama as an example. It's a Cumulus-owned property. Yet, when brought up on iHeartRadio it sits on a page that only carries its icon, with the words "© Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc. Music Data by the Echo Nest." Missing are the words "Cumulus Media, Inc."

By joining iHeartRadio, Cumulus has given WJOX the perception of being a Clear Channel station. I repeated this with 90.5 WASU, a college station, and the results were the same: No mention of its affiliation, other than that "© Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc..." at page bottom.

The radio industry demonstrates too much of a follow-the-herd mentality to pull itself out of its current hole. We cannot rectify the mistakes of ignoring the internet, but executives with other radio groups need to understand that making bigger mistakes as we move into the future is not going to help.

Yes, iHeartRadio will have a spot on the dashboard when those radio buttons disappear. Where the big problem for all who have not planned for this day has now become is that they are handing over the reins of all of what's considered the radio industry to Clear Channel.

If you read comments made by the public, which follow most every story about Clear Channel, you'll find that a majority of them show disdain. Here's a great example of how CC approaches its relationship with the public - "Cleveland tree cut down to create better view of billboard."

If you do give in and place your station on iHeartRadio, you'll discover that you've given up your group's identity to become just another cow in the corral. Only, here, all cows look alike, and all are branded "© Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc...."

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