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Thursday, September 29, 2011
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iHeartRadio - First Step on a Long Journey

Congratulations to Clear Channel. The iHeartRadio Festival, including its preceding promotional period, was comprised of staggering logistics that produced a memorable event. The launch of iHeartRadio is the largest step into joining the digital movement from the radio industry. It can do nothing but grow, especially if current first-class executions of strategy are maintained.

The web site works. It's clean, and does not confuse with too much choice. That's what "leads" the masses through a site.

"...what you [iHeartRadio] and Pandora have is a void in ability to bond on a human-to-human level." The attachment to Facebook, while necessary, is reminiscent of the days when Mark Cuban hooked the radio industry into promoting The sell-line then was how each radio station could be online. The payoff was that the system acted as a funnel to; Mark Cuban made a bundle. The radio industry eventually realized it gained little from the relationship.

Through its newfound love of all things radio-oriented, Facebook will soon be more of a concern to radio than Pandora.

But this article is to Clear Channel, for its iHeartRadio. You've taken a good first step.

Now that the niceties are out of the way - with a sincere "congratulations" on the event and web site - here are a few items you may want to look at or listen to.

The continued over-the-air promotion of iHeartRadio should refrain from mentioning it's "like Pandora." Create your own definition of what iHeartRadio delivers to the audience, and use those words to explain it.

Your immediate objective is to offer "different" from Pandora. Wrongly, you are trying to peel away its loyal audience, which is not easy. Swaying potential-Pandora listeners to try iHeartRadio instead should be the main focus, during this phase.

In those promotional spots (which are starting to be run ad-nauseum) give the benefits that listeners will enjoy by using iHeartRadio. Currently the promos, sounding like those failed HD Radio spots, speak only of what iHeartRadio has - not what benefits the listeners get by using it. The spots sound much like iHeartRadio's Facebook description:

"iHeartRadio delivers more than 800 of America’s Favorite Radio Stations Wherever and Whenever our listeners want us. Enjoy music from across the country in real time – all for FREE! Now try the new iHeartRadio with custom radio, like Pandora, but with more songs, more control and no commercials through the end of the year."

I know you have 800 Clear Channel stations to push on iHeartRadio, but realize that there are many youths who (by choice) remove themselves from listening to perceived corporate-owned stations. Millions of music lovers tune into internet pure-play stations, so offer a few of these stations. Your addition of Univision is great, but we know this was driven through corporate connections. Give listeners choice which appears to be listed for their benefit.

Give some form of voice to the music played. Currently, like Pandora, iHeartRadio is a jukebox-on-steroids. It may have an engine that plays similar-sounding songs based on a user's first choice of artist (Custom Radio). You may also offer mega-star channels which play similar sounding songs. However, what you and Pandora have is a void in ability to bond on a human-to-human level. (I speak about listeners bonding with the stations - not the online social-style environment.) Even an occasional "iHeartRadio - Play Me" vocal drop would suffice at this stage.

You've made some movement, so far, as evidenced by Google Trends.

But to keep this in perspective, and to show how much farther you - as a representative of the radio industry in the digital world - have to go, view this graph as a vivid reminder.

iHeartRadio is a good first step in herding tomorrow's radio listeners. Doing it correctly, though, will prove to be much more difficult than anything radio executives envisioned over the past decade.

Good luck.

As an aside: I listened to iHeartRadio for over an hour, then switched to Pandora for another hour - couldn't tell the difference.

...And, I find it strange that no radio industry publication is questioning the iHeartRadio business model (paying more for each new listener) as they have done in downplaying the efficacy of Pandora's business model.

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