The future will be personalised: TRN ushers in the ‘next era of radio’ with local version of iHeartRadio

Video hasn’t killed the radio star and, seemingly, neither will digital. In fact, not only has Kiwi radio maintained its share of all advertising, it now has more commercial listeners than at any time in the previous decade. But that doesn’t mean radio’s resting on its analogue laurels, as evidenced by the announcement from the Australian Radio Network (ARN) and subsidiary The Radio Network (TRN), a joint venture between APN News & Media and Clear Channel International, that popular all-in-one digital radio network iHeartRadio is coming down under. 

Since its launch in 2011 at the inaugural iHeartRadio Music Festival, iHeartRadio continues to be the leading digital radio service in the US. As the No. 1 free digital radio app on the iPhone, iPad and Android, it provides an additional platform for radio fans, offering instant access to live broadcast and digital-only radio stations, plus user-created custom stations inspired by favorite artists and songs. TRN stations will also join the iHeartRadio platform, which will offer Australia and New Zealand music fans more programming and station choices.

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“iHeartRadio offers everything listeners want in an all-in-one, free service,” says Brian Lakamp, president of digital for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. “TRN will offer listeners an experience specifically tailored to their region and we know New Zealand music fans will love iHeartRadio as much as they do in the U.S.”

With more than 115 million listening hours a month, nearly 50 million monthly digital uniques, more than 125 million downloads of iHeartRadio mobile apps and more than 17 million registered users in the one year since its introduction, a release says iHeartRadio “continues to grow faster than all other popular digital entertainment and social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Spotify and Instagram”.

“The launch of iHeartRadio internationally sees TRN lead the New Zealand radio industry into the next era of radio, while complementing our current strong and growing audience network, with this unique and market-leading product that sits at the forefront of global technology in the sector,” says TRN chief executive Jane Hastings. “This product offers listeners live station streaming for all of our stations plus user-created custom stations with more songs, more user control, deeper social integration and more opportunities to discover new music, all in one easy to use, seamless product. iHeartRadio builds on our strategy of being everywhere our listeners are. It will also provide our advertising partners with a unique, integrated, targeted and accountable vehicle to enhance their marketing plans.”

In a presentation at last year’s Ad Age Digital conference, Clear Channel media and entertainment chairman Bob Pittman outlined key advantages for radio stations increasing an online presence. Head to any Kiwi radio website and you’ll see all these in practice: non-music services; interaction (like last song played, contests, song requests); value adds like coupons, access to artists and events; and access to listener gatherings. 

“We’re going to have to make the digital revolution come to radio,” he says. “The good news is it allows us to get in front of it and not let it happen to us, but lets us drive it.” Keep in mind this was said in a US market already populated with well-established online radio alternatives like Pandora, which is at around six percent of all radio market share there. 

He also outlined four key propositions of radio that keep it kicking: it’s curated; it changes dynamically; it’s hosted by personalities audiences bond with; and it’s supported by local brands. 

Spotify, which launched in New Zealand earlier this year with ad-supported and subscription services, and Pandora, might have one or two of these, but not all four. It’s the same with illegal music downloading. Asking if one affects the other ignores important differences in people’s habits listening to the radio versus a music collection. 

There’s also a common misconception that a radio station’s only draw is its music, but New Zealand’s most listened-to station for several years running is Newstalk ZB, a talk station. People tune in, said TRN’s group general manager of content David Brice in a recent article in NZ Marketing, for a brand offering and for the personalities that anchor it. “Music’s a part of it but it’s the other elements that provide the future for us in this new environment,” he says. 

With digital in its arsenal, radio stations are in a position to leverage their greatest asset—the community of its listeners—to promote advertisers across multiple platforms. “The thing radio is really good at is community,” said Starcom’s MediaVest’s chief executive Alistair Jamison. “Radio brands are still very powerful and the digital world is allowing them to build virtual communities around their brands.” 

“When it comes to multi-platform engagement, we already consider ourselves ahead of the curve,” said the Radio Bureau’s Gill Stewart. “Radio is the most interactive of all media, so it’s been easy to transition the radio-consumer conversation beyond telephone, email and street teams and into social networking pages, station websites and mobile apps.” 

Brice was singing from the same song sheet. “Digital has a lot in common with what we’ve been doing for years; we think it opens up new doors and opportunities to take our content generation skills into new avenues,” he says. New avenues like video creation—talked about on-air, hosted online and supported by advertising—and the ability radio has to repackage audio to make it available on other platforms, extending the life of a single clip far beyond its initial airing. “Radio is not about tall towers on high hills,” he says. “Radio is really about content generation.” 

www.iheartradio.co.nz will launch in New Zealand and Australia in 2013 and will be extensively marketed with support from APN News & Media’s and Clear Channel International’s media assets throughout New Zealand and Australia.

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