Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio has added an interactive platform for talk radio to its offering. The newly announced iHeartRadio Talk will feature on-demand listener-created talk content alongside popular news, celebrity and entertainment “audiosodes.”
“Listeners who have been accepted into the iHeartRadio Talk library will be able to record and instantly share their perspective on any topic they choose – it’s basically like offering ‘audio Twitter.'” said Brian Lakamp, President of Digital, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, “We are giving a voice to the everyman, and at the same time are enabling iHeartRadio users to discover and enjoy thousands of ‘audiosodes’ from the best talent around the country.”
Through a partnership with Spreaker, a platform that enables listeners to create personal radio broadcasts, iHeartRadio will also feature user generated content. iHeartRadio Talk will offer “Daily Pulse,” a customizable Talk channel featuring the most up-to-date news and culture highlights, which allows users to add content that is most important to them. The service will also enable listeners to search for their favorite talk programming from ABC News, American Public Media, TMZ, the Wall Street Journal and others, not to mention Clear Channel’s own featured talk show hosts like Ryan Seacrest, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others. Local news weather and traffic reports can also be integrated into the offerings.
Adding talk programming and user generated content to the iHeartRadio platform greatly expands the offering and is a nod to several popular platforms like Stitcher, SoundCloud, and even NPR, which has a huge talk presence online. It’s a smart move for iHeart that greatly expands their service and probably makes them a more interesting standalone platform for dashboard integration as well – something that I’m sure was part of the plan..
Electronic dance music, EDM, is getting a lot of buzz lately. Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio launched an EDM channel called Evolution in November with quite a bit of fanfare, including mixes curated by famous DJ’s like Pete Tong and a party in NYC hosted by Afrojack, another world famous EDM style DJ. Evolution quickly became the most popular online only channel on iHeartRadio. Next Clear Channel flipped its new station in Boston, WHBA, to the format.
As still more evidence of the popularity of the format, Billboard decided last week to start a new Dance/Electronic Songs Chart.
But EDM is not a new radio format, nor is it newly popular. It’s been a huge hit online for years, as stations like Digitally Imported know. DI.fm is the biggest electronic music station in the world, with more than 50 channels and more than a million listeners, according to Ari Shohat, Founder of the station. He says that EDM is a very broad category of music and the new stations and chart are focusing on the pop acts. One of the first Internet radio stations, DI launched in 1999 and plays “addictive electronic music” and offers listeners the long tail, with 50 channels of everything from House and Hardcore to Techno and Trance.
DI has had a large listener base for a long time. The new wave of more mass appeal stations online and on-air, as well as the new attention to the format from Billboard are benefitting from a format that has been alive and well online for a long time. EDM may be the first format to actually take hold online and then move on-air, but it probably won’t be the last..
Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which tasks itself with protecting the public interest with regard to digital rights, got my attention by coming out in support of the Internet Radio Fairness Act. That’s the bill that has been introduced in congress to equalize the performance royalties that various streaming platforms pay around one standard. Currently, different standards are applied to streaming services based on who owns them and the type of services they provide.
From their post on the topic, here’s an excellent explanation of the issue at hand:
Music services aren’t all treated the same, though – Congress gave older, more established companies a leg up. For satellite and cable radio, the judges set prices to give the labels and artists a “fair return” and the music service a “fair income.” In practice, the judges tell these services to pay about 10% of their revenues to the artists and labels. For Internet radio, though, the judges are supposed to set rates based on what a “willing buyer and a willing seller” would do in an open market.1 This sounds pretty good, except that there is no open market, so there’s no consistent benchmark. As a result, judges have set Internet radio royalty rates at cripplingly high levels. Internet stations went to Congress twice, in 2008 and 2009, to get temporary relief from rates that would have put them out of business. Today they pay about 50% of their revenues to SoundExchange.
In case you got lost, they explain that satellite and cable services pay 10% of their revenues in performance royalty fees, while streaming services pay 50%. Simply because the technology is different. These are services that do not provide on-demand access to songs. You can’t download anything.
An article yesterday in the NY Times quotes Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman and Pandora’s Tim Westergren in support of the bill. The two companies compete fiercely as brands, but have paired up to support the bill as leaders in the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition.
MusicFIRST meanwhile, is the coalition of record labels, artists’ representatives, and unions that would like to bring the bill down. They would like fairness, but they’d like everyone to pay based on that “willing buyer/willing seller” arrangement that nets them 50% of revenues. Which would likely drive streaming out of business. And what would happen then you might ask. Would all the younger demos that have gotten so attached to streaming stop listening, or would they go underground and start listening to services that pay nothing? I’m just saying..
Triton released new audience data this week and the most interesting thing on the ranker is the fact that Clear Channel’s streaming platform is beginning to pick up steam, with stats growing 7% from April to May.
As RAIN points out in their analysis yesterday afternoon, Pandora‘s number grew about 4% from April to May, which could be an indicator of slowing in terms of their exponential growth. With more than a billion session starts and close to a million active sessions during the month, their market share is massive. Clear Channel’s growing active session number is approaching just 15% of Pandora’s number.
One thing that can continue to drive Clear Channel’s growth is their ability to brand iHeartRadio throughout their media empire. The deals that they have signed with other broadcast companies also drive listener registration for the iHeartRadio platform. Once registered, those listeners to Cox, Greater Media, Cumulus, or other partner stations in the platform, can easily be converted to listeners to iHeartRadio. Recently introduced features such as artist curated channels, personalized listening options, and social offerings are helping to drive both sampling and listening to iHeartRadio.
Here’s the ranker:
Clear Channel’s move to make a direct licensing deal for over the air performances with record label Big Machine is a stunning development for the radio industry. I’ve spent a day or so pondering all the ways this could impact the issues, and have come away marveling at what a forceful move this was by Bob Pittman and his team. (Read excellent coverage by RAIN here.)
The radio industry has been refusing to cut a deal with record companies that would compensate artists for over the air play in exchange for a better deal on streaming royalties. Broadcasters and the NAB have tried and failed to come up with a solution, and the issue is currently headed for Congressional intervention – with Future of Audio hearings that started yesterday on the hill. Hence the incredibly nervy and savvy timing of Clear Channel’s announcement that they had signed up to pay a share of both on-air and online revenues to record label Big Machine, the company behind such big names as Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw.
Bob Pittman is indeed just what the radio industry needs.
The radio industry has been moaning about streaming royalties for years. This has caused them to take a half hearted approach to Internet radio, which in turn has created mediocre offerings that are not competitive with highly developed interactive offerings such as Pandora, Spotify and others. But their unwillingness to pay over the air royalties to artists makes the record labels unwilling to negotiate better digital deals with them.
Meanwhile, online listening is growing exponentially.
“Unrealistic rates on the digital side were choking the ability to expand digitally for radio companies,” said Irving Azoff, a Clear Channel director and chairman of Live Nation Entertainment Inc.. “We’re trying to convince labels to enter into a direct deal because we can’t get legislation passed,”.
“Someone has to go first, someone has to take a risk,” said Clear Channel CEO Robert Pittman. “If digital grows a lot, this will be a good deal. It’s a gamble. But you win nothing if you don’t take a chance.”
So Pittman took a chance. He took a look at the future of radio and decided that digital is it. Reluctant to let Congress determine how his game will be played, he cut a deal with a little record company that has a few big names. By doing that he forced the first brick out of the wall between broadcast radio and performance royalties for artists, and I suspect we’ll see the whole thing come tumbling down. Broadcasters will pay over the air royalties, because their hand was forced, but also because it just doesn’t make sense that other platforms have to and they do not. Playing fields will be leveled, programming will improve and opportunities will grow – for radio stations and for recording artists.
CBS RADIO has signed a non-exclusive deal with tunein, giving tunein listeners access to news, sports and talk content on more than 40 CBS RADIO stations. This news flies in the face of several exclusive deals recently leveraged by Clear Channel on its iHeartRadio platform, where some major broadcasters were signing away their rights to work with multiple online portals to engage listeners, and instead agreeing that the online online portal they would work with would be iHeartRadio.
“We have always believed in the value of great local content, and this agreement validates the demand we know exists for our original programming while at the same time creates a new revenue source for the company,” said Ezra Kucharz, President, CBS Local Digital Media. “By forging relationships with premiere distribution services such as tunein, CBS RADIO will significantly grow its audiences by exposing our content to new listeners.”
The CBS RADIO deal make a lot of sense, although it’s disappointing that only talk radio content is included. This may be due to tunein’s global appeal – CBS Radio restricts streaming of its music stations to the US. tunein has a suite of very popular mobile apps as well as deals with many devices and automakers, high rankings on iTunes for its popular app. According to Alexa, it’s one of the most popular websites in the US and world, ranking just above the top 1000. That’s a lot of potential listeners…
Last year was quite a year for Internet radio and related streaming music services, and judging from some of the end of the year activity, this year should be lots of fun as well. I took the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, so here’s my just-a-little-late 2011 recap, summed up in what I think were the stories of the year.
1. Pandora went public. They raised $234.9 million in their public offering in June, selling 14.7 million shares at $16. The stock has struggled to regain that kind of price since then, but the service continues to gain listeners, ending the year with well over 100 million registered listeners.
2. Spotify launched in the US. While they would have liked to get their ducks in a row and have launched before Pandora’s public offering, Spotify did launch in July. Europe’s most popular streaming service began serving US listeners and gaining great attention with mobile apps, on-demand and programmed offerings.
3. Facebook made friends with streaming platforms. In September at its f8 developer conference, facebook announced that it would integrate third party streaming music apps into its platform, opening up the gates for those services to gain listeners as folks listen and like songs and share them with their network of friends.
4. iHeartradio revamped and relaunched. The all new iHeartradio includes all the streams offered online by Clear Channel stations as well as streaming channels. Other broadcasters are offering their programming through the platform as well – including Univision, Cumulus/Citadel/ABC, and EMF. These changes signal Clear Channel’s intention that iHeartradio become a portal to streaming broadcast stations.
5. Digital trendspotter and investment analyst Mary Meeker predicts that online audio is the next big thing.
Those are the five things that I think were the biggest stories in online radio in 2011. I think the real story is a combination of all of them – an investment friendly marketplace with increasing competition and opportunities. What do you think?..
Clear Channel’s iHeartradio showed a surge in audience for October following the relaunch of the streaming platform with a 10 million dollar promotional budget that included a two day live and streamed concert in Las Vegas. Newly released audience data from Triton Digital’s Webcast Metrics audience measurement platform shows that iHeartradio gained 15% in the number of average active sessions from September to October’s 106,733, after gaining 10% in September, the month during which the relaunch of iHeartradio took place.
Meanwhile, Pandora‘s audience continued to surge as well, growing 7.5% to more than 800,000 Average Active Sessions Monday – Sunday 6am – mid in October.
CBS Radio‘s streaming audience fell again, after losing AOL Radio which migrated to Slacker in August. The AAS for CBS Radio dropped 14% during October. Slacker consequently saw their AAS grow by 18%. The Cumulus group of streaming stations is looking strong on the ranker as a result of their purchase of Citadel since the last release, however, their 45,489 AAS is actually lower than the combined Cumulus and Citadel numbers from September by about 4%.
WNYC debuts on the report, although we do not know if that’s a result of audience growth or that they are new to the measurement platform. Triton’s Webcast Metrics is server based measurement Other groups such as Cox, Entercom and others were pretty stable in the month to month report.
When facebook introduced its music discovery platform with a list of streaming partners at its f8 developers conference in September, we knew there would be some big winners among the partnering services. Now, from a post on facebook’s own developer blog we learn that since that announcement on September 22nd, facebook users have shared songs 1.5 billion times using those services integrated apps.
Facebook wanted to integrate music sharing and discovery and make it a more meaningful part of the facebook experience. It’s certainly been that for their partner services, which have experienced growth ranging from doubling their active users to increasing their user base 2 – 10 times.
Here’s a list of highlights, pulled from the post, of the growth some of the services have seen:
- Spotify: Already one of the defining social music apps on the web, they expanded to the US this summer and added well over 4 million new users since f8.
- Earbits: Y Combinator-funded startup built by a team of musicians saw a 1350 percent increase in the number of users becoming fans of the band they’re listening to.
- MOG: Their uniquely social business model has led to a 246 percent growth in Facebook users since f8.
- Rdio: Their strong social ecosystem has expanded with a 30x increase in new user registrations from Facebook.
- Slacker: Available across mobile, TV, auto and web, Slacker saw a more than 11x increase in monthly active users in the month following f8.
- Deezer: Based in France, they’ve added more than 10,000 users per day since finalizing their Open Graph integration.
Triton has released Webcast Metrics listening data for stations on its platform for September. The numbers reported show Pandora’s Average Active Sessions up by about 75,000 over a full week daypart while Clear Channel’s iHeartradio gained about 8,000 in the same daypart. While Pandora’s raw number gain in AAS is much bigger than iheartradio’s, the two services each gained approximately 10% in the most recent ranker.
This is the first time that Clear Channel’s streaming audience has grown at the same pace as Pandora’s, and it came in the month of a major relaunch of iHeartradio, complete with a two day star studded live and streamed concert that reportedly cost the company $10 million. Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman has invested a lot of time and money in iheartradio, and these numbers indicate that it paid off in terms of increased traffic and listening. The report also shows that iHeartradio averaged 11 million more session starts than the month before – a handsome 20% increase.
The monthly report also shows CBSRadio losing audience, with an AAS that dropped from 97,712 to 93,448 – at least in part due to the loss of AOL Radio‘s audience. This trend should be countered by CBSRadio’s recent move to purchase Metrolyrics, one of the most trafficked music sites on the web.