Or is iHeartRadio a gateway to radio’s salvation, radio’s best chance to remain relevant in a digital world?
The rate at which Clear Channel is signing up new radio groups suggests that many believe the latter.
But is iHeartRadio really the answer?
Broadcast radio’s greatest strength is a station's strong link to its community.
Radio’s local link is the medium’s most potent weapon in the battle for a listener’s heart and soul.
That personal connection between a listener and her radio station is something that national radio (both digital and analog) fails to understand, and can’t duplicate.
Yet iHeartRadio’s very essence diminishes radio’s local roots.
The service neuters local radio, homogenizing radio into interchangeable undifferentiated lumps of similarly formatted radio stations.
Don’t want to listen to New York’s Z100? We’ve got another dozen stations just like it a click away.
Were these choices really different, it might mean something, but the service offers choice without distinction.
Too often one hears the same national playlists, and the same national personalities talking about the same national contests with the same national promos.
The growing interchangeability of stations across the country is all that more apparent with the convenience of iHeartRadio. A listener is just a couple clicks away from hearing the same thing on dozens of stations.
The message of iHeartRadio is that unique local radio is dead. All local radio stations are interchangeable.
The impact of iHeartRadio is to take local radio’s insurmountable advantage, its local connection, and destroy it.
The message to listeners is that local radio is no better than anonymous generic national radio dispensed by an algorithmic driven computer.
In an effort to demonstrate that an aggregation of local stations is just as good as a national service, iHeartRadio inadvertently proves that local radio is just as bad as a national service.
Why else offer a Pandora look-a-like?
Yes, Pandora is the darling of new-media pundits, those people who can’t understand why anyone still listens to local radio.
Yes, Pandora has been growing exponentially armed with an endless array of metrics that suggest seemingly unstoppable momentum.
But the truth is that Pandora is losing money, and shows signs that it might be incapable of making money.
Last year Pandora proudly generated $240 million is sales. Broadcast radio stations generated over $400 million--in digital sales alone.
Why would a leader in an industry currently billing nearly twice the digital revenue of Pandora want to promote a Pandora-like feature, and do it on local broadcast stations at saturation levels?
iHeartRadio is just one of a number of industry actions that claim to be an effort to save radio, but instead may have the opposite effect.
Radio Insights believes this is an important issue that potentially impacts every radio station, and ultimately how local radio is viewed.
We question the wisdom of radio’s obsessive rush to focus on digital platforms, especially when they emulate trendy but failed and failing business models.
The growth of iHeartRadio could metastasize into something quite deadly for broadcast, a possibility that every broadcaster should understand.
That’s why we’ll have more on iHeartRadio and what it says about radio in the coming weeks.