Ubiquitous Clear Channel radio now invades your iPhone
In the latest instance of retro pastimes adapting to new technology -- like playing Pacman on Facebook or making pot roast in a microwave -- old media broadcaster Clear Channel is trying to make the leap to the iPhone.
The San Antonio-based radio and billboard giant launched iheartradio, a free application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that will give listeners another shot at hearing "Hotel California" just in case they find themselves out of range from one of Clear Channel's 1,100 radio stations.
The move comes amid what Jim Kerr, a vice president for digital development with the Pollack Media Group, calls a "land rush into the iPhone app space." Clear Channel Radio brings its traditional content -- well-worn songs and all the commercials in between -- to a device already crowded with applications enabling Internet radio listening. Existing applications like FlyCast and RadioTime offer broad selections of terrestrial and Internet radio stations. FlyCast is free, while RadioTime costs $5.99. Internet streaming and recommendation services like Last.fm and Pandora are on the iPhone, too.
Despite the competition, Kerr thinks it's not too late for Clear Channel to get into the iPhone app game. "Whoever gets there first and carves the ground wins," he says.
And it’s not the first time Big Radio has been available off its traditional sliver of airwaves -- Clear Channel has offered content through other cellphones, created podcasts and built specifically branded websites for its stations, with live streams of radio broadcasts and some on-demand tracks. The company has also launched online-only stations like the LGBT-friendly Pride (up-tempo danceable tracks plus relevant news and talk) and the quirkier eRockster. Combined, the station websites bring in more than 10 million unique visitors a month, the company claims, citing a comScore report.
Clear Channel’s latest online effort centralizes all its stations at one site, still in beta testing, called iHeartMusic. Listeners can stream hundreds of stations, selected by location or format. As with the individual sites, some content will be available on-demand, but generally listeners are at the mercy of the programmer.
For now, the iPhone app is a streamlined version of the iHeartMusic website, without on-demand content and with only 10 terrestrial stations -- including L.A.’s KIIS-FM and KFI-AM -- along with eRockster and Pride. Clear Channel plans to add about three to five stations each week, says Evan Harrison, executive vice president of Clear Channel Radio, who notified employees about the application in an e-mail Wednesday.
The lack of flexibility and relatively slim offerings are not necessarily a handicap, says Pollack Media's Kerr. He notes that Clear Channel has the advantage with more passive music fans, who would rather listen to familiar local stations and who aren't necessarily interested in discovering new music themselves.
In a little over 24 hours, Harrison says, iheartradio was downloaded about 5,000 times.
Photo of Evan Harrison courtesy Clear Channel. Photo of radio courtesy baboon (via Flickr, Creative Commons License)