iHeartMedia – Great Move! But, Gone are “Clear Channel” and AM Radio

iHeartMedia

Well I guess radio station lobbies will need some new signage!

The name Clear Channel has been thrown on the heap of now gone radio companies.  Jacor, AM/FM, Taft, Citicasters, Citadel, Clear Channel.  All gone.  We’ll now only get to remember the “good old days” of Clear Channel, just like when we watch the DVD box set of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” soon to be released – this time with the original sound track.

Radio’s “good old days” to some.  Bailey Quarters was unbelievably smoking hot.  But, I digress.

bailey_quarters

Looking at social media today, the typical criticism of Clear Channel iHeartMedia continued.  Mostly the comments focused on a “pig” and “lipstick.”

Critics couldn’t be more wrong.  Talk of $20 billion in debt is for another posting.

Clear Channel

The old brick and mortar of a former corporate headquarters.

After Clear Channel gobbled up Jacor, which I worked for, there were discussions back then of changing the name of the company.  That was more than 15 years ago.  We knew Clear Channel had a bad corporate brand image, for no other reason than it was radio’s version of Pacman eating up competitors.  So today’s news of the name change really is about 15 years too late.  Granted there was no iHeartRadio App to brand the company back in those days.

Here are the reasons this makes sense:

  1. iHeart is a “consumer facing” brand.  I know that’s corporate speak.  It means “iHeart” means something to the CONSUMER.  That’s a good thing.
  2. Clear Channel means nothing to the consumer, never has, never did, never would.
  3. Clear Channel means radio and is not sexy to advertisers.  iHeart, meanwhile, sells the future.
  4. Clear Channel had the perception of being “Cheap Channel.”  I guess “iCheap” can be used, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
  5. Yeah.  Yeah.  iHeart is hip to hipsters.  Got that.  Not the reason to change lobby signage though.

Here’s the big thing and something I’ve been saying for years.

Wagon_Wheel

A radio company has to transform from a radio company to a digital company at its core.  Think of a wagon wheel.  The hub being the digital core and a spoke of the wheel terrestrial radio.  Right now most radio companies are just the opposite, with terrestrial radio serving as its core and digital a spoke off that.  This is opposite of media’s future and the future of advertising, unlike what you heard at this year’s “Radio – What Me Worry” convention in Indianapolis, better known as the NAB’s Radio Show.  Check out researcher Mark Ramsey’s missive wondering if “Bob Hoffman is full of crap.”  It’s a classic.

Radio is in the media business and not the radio business. Having the biggest gorilla in the rain forest make this declaration is a very good thing.  And it was done with a simple name change.

The former Clear Channel got its name by using the license designation given to 50,000 watt clear channel AM stations. 70 or 80 years ago stations like WLS, WGN, WHO, WOAI provided radio service to rural farm areas. The signals from these stations covered vast amounts of land.  Today few know what a clear channel designation means for an AM station and even fewer care.  Candidly, a clear channel AM signal is no longer needed.

One other thing was signaled today with this name change.

In the Los Angeles Times, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman said, “We have a company that’s doing progressive stuff, and yet we’re named after AM radio stations.”

Ouch!

If you’ve followed Pittman’s quotes over the years, he never says anything that isn’t calculated, meaningful or rehearsed.  As the CEO of a company you can’t.  He never speaks extemporaneously. He never speaks off the cuff.

While I love AM radio, it’s Clear Channel’s iHeartMedia’s actions of dumping conservative talk formats off its FM stations and translators that speaks volumes, the most recent being in Toledo ending an FM translator simulcast of WSPD-AM.

The replacement format?  Christmas music. Urban and called 94.9 The Beat.

Now iHeartMedia’s CEO is declaring AM radio old and anything but “progressive.”

If you’re wondering about the future of talk and AM radio, Bob Pittman gave you a clue in 16 words.

  9 comments for “iHeartMedia – Great Move! But, Gone are “Clear Channel” and AM Radio

  1. September 16, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    I always thought Jan Smithers was smokin’ hot!

  2. George Corneliussen
    September 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

    There’s a clip in episode one of the Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts” documentary that has an actors reading a quip from Teddy Roosevelt about how amused he was that all he had to do to get Republicans in his administration to agree to seating a Democrat on a committee was change the name of the position the Democrat held to something the Republicans liked. Not a single thing other than what Democrat’s job title was changed! So yeah, changing a name has a big impact on a product. Some of us consider this acute business savvy and some of us sigh and shake our heads.

    • September 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      George, I watched “The Roosevelt’s” last night. With all it’s hype, I must say it is terminally boring. Not one of Ken Burn’s better efforts.

  3. Dick Taylor
    September 17, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Tom Taylor wrote this morning in his NOW digital publication “A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet.” What interesting about that old Bill Shakespeare line from Romeo & Juliet is that researchers have actually found that would not be true. Turns out a name can affect how we perceive a lot of things – smell, attractiveness etc. Teaching the next generations at the university I can pretty confidently say that they have no clue what “clear channel” means when it comes to either class of AM radio station or to the behemoth media company (The exception being those who take my History of American Broadcasting class). Since the Clear Channel name is posted on tons of billboards across our land, they most likely equate the name with that form of media. (And iHeartMedia is not changing the name of the billboard division). However, ask my students about iHeartRadio and not only do they have an opinion, but the App on their smartphone. To the radio diehards it may feel like the tail is wagging the dog, but the reality is digital is now the dog and broadcasting is the tail. But what a mighty tail it is and radio has an incredible advantage if it puts that tail to work for it’s future in digital.

    • September 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Dick, very well stated. Thank you. Darryl

  4. September 17, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I know what the future holds as far as the old ways of AM broadcasting, but I will miss AM directional arrays. They are so much fun!

    Chip Longshore
    Chief Engineer
    Cumulus Kokomo-WWKI-FM

    • September 18, 2014 at 1:10 am

      Chip. The good old days of WIOU. Now that was directional. 🙂 I hope you’re doing well. Darryl

  5. Danny K.
    September 24, 2014 at 4:34 am

    Clear Channel as a brand is toxic … and that goes back to the WFLZ days when Randy Michaels kicked their butts even then.

    https://www.facebook.com/thepowerpig

    I’ll take the old Taft Broadcasting, Jacor and Great Trails over almost anything Clear Channel.

    They should have done this a long time ago

  6. spotmagicsolis
    November 19, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    before you write about the debt, i hope you realize that bain is a corporate raider and they used CC to drain off money. that’s just what they do. borrow and siphon, fire and bleed.

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