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Slacker CEO Chimes in on Clear Channel Plan to Nudge Into His Space

March 2, 2011

by Ed Ryan

Allowing consumers to program their own radio station is the specialty of Pandora and Slacker. It's not perfect but the option to fast forward over a song you don't like is pretty cool. Yesterday radio behemoth Clear Channel decided it was time to get in that game. The big boys of radio picked up Thumbplay, a relatively unknown Internet music provider that made its bones selling ring tones at about ten bucks per month. Clear Channel doesn't have interest in the ring tone business. What they want is the technology to be able to allow listeners to pick and choose music. They plan to incorporate that technology into the iheartradio platform which already features Clear Channel's 750 radio stations.

iheartradio is a cool app, I guess. The downside is unless you're hooked on a particular morning show outside your market why would you go through a few extra steps to launch the app when you can flip on your radio. Chances are there's a clear channel station or five in whatever city you live in. Sometimes that same morning show, the one you like outside the market, is voice tracking right into your market. And, aren't we always talking about how important local local local is? Plus, if you want to listen to Bob & Tom or Sean Hannity or Jim Rome on iheartradio you have to pay for that privilege.

Now, add Thumbplay to the mix, which Clear Channel picked up on the cheap, and maybe there's a real reason to sniff around, when it's fully incorporated into iheartradio. Slacker radio CEO Jim Cady tells Radio Ink Clear Channel made the right move, even if it means a new competitor for him. "We made the decision this past year that the right solution for the perfect music service is a world-class free personalized radio service that extends to an integrated on-demand offering and then letting our customers choose what works best for them. With the Thumbplay acquisition, it appears that ClearChannel is coming to a similar conclusion and are now trying to assemble those pieces."

The big advantage Clear Channel has is the obvious one, it's girth. With all the media properties it has, it can out market a little guy like Slacker. Even with the media falling all over itself about Pandora these days, perhaps, its not crazy to think that Clear Channel may wind up dominating this space when the dust settles. It's not uncommon for a few small innovators to start a business, take the arrows, make the needed modifications to the business model and be beaten down by the big guy who cranks down on the giant marketing hammer. We already see Groupon starting to worry about some big company coming along, duplicating what it does, and beating them at the online coupon race.



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