iHeartRadio brings talk online

Clear Channel's digital arm fires up an on-demand talk radio feature in beta that lets listeners shuffle user-generated shows made on Spreaker into their mix.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Part of iHeartRadio Talk is a customizable channel, Daily Pulse, which listeners can use to cobble together a stream of their preferred talk-radio content. iHeartRadio

Got ambitions to be the next Ryan Seacrest?

iHeartRadio, the digital arm of radio giant Clear Channel, is adding a talk-radio wing. It not only has shows from big-name personalities on Clear Channel's network of stations but also will allow aspiring talk-radio stars to record their own episodes on Spreaker and submit them to the iHeartRadio library for listeners to pick out and sandwich in between the likes of Glenn Beck and Mario Lopez.

Online radio options, dominated by Pandora, have long been a music-centric domain, perhaps because the podcast format has produced a handy facsimile of talk for the online community. But online demand for talk radio appears to outstrip supply in some corners. Before the new feature's launch Wednesday, iHeartRadio previously offered talk-radio listening by streaming Clear Channel's terrestrial talk stations directly. Talk content has accounted for 25 percent of iHeartRadio listening, while just 16 percent of terrestrial radio is people tuning into talk.

"People have expectations of what radio is," Brian Lakamp, president of digital for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, told CNET. "This is us extending the promise of what radio is."

Talk radio also creates a friendlier landscape for advertising. With custom music, Lakamp noted that sticking in ads can be discordant. "One of the things we've learned with talk, listeners are more receptive to hearing about what the latest movie is," he said, offering an example.

On Wednesday, iHeartRadio launched its custom-talk-radio feature for what it expects to be an approximately two-month beta period. Its biggest project since unrolling custom music, iHeartRadio Talk is available on the Web, iOS, and Android, and iHeartRadio expects full mobile iHeartRadio Talk availability in September

Content that listeners can chose from includes top-rated favorite shows like Good Morning America, TED Talks, Direct from Hollywood with Ryan Seacrest, and Rush Limbaugh's "Rush Daily Update Minute."

The feature includes a Daily Pulse customizable channel, letting users add any talk content into their own personally selected stream. Users can also listen in on Show Pages, which allows listening to episodes of the same program one after another or selecting certain episodes of interest. Users on the Web can choose to include local news, traffic and weather in their iHeartRadio Talk stations.


Alongside that, homemade talk episodes recorded on Spreaker will be vetted by Clear Channel's army of programmers, some of whom run the most popular terrestrial stations in the country. Those they like will be promoted on the site, others could feasibly transition to terrestrial airwaves. Clear channel has 243 million monthly listeners across all properties, and of that, 60 million are on its digital network.

"We can drive awareness through all those outlets, drive a show to a mass-market level," Lakamp said. He raised the example of a electronic dance music station that iHeartRadio developed last year that moved from digital to stations in Miami and Boston.

"Is that going to happen here, I don't know, but it's certainly something we could see happening," he said.