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AG News: 12/21/2006

Clear Channel Online

There's an article appearing at Radio & Records that every person involved with the radio industry should read. It outlines, in a few quick and not too-detailed paragraphs, radio's involvement with the internet since the mid-nineties.

According to the author, Brida Connolly, radio was running smoothly online until the copyright ruling of 2001 forced stations to pull their streams. (Actually, the pullback was caused by an AFTRA ruling around the same time. It stated a station would be fined six times the normal studio rate if it was found to be using an AFTRA talent's broadcast work online.) To stay on the subject though, Brida states that after this time "...interest plummeted on all sides-among listeners and among the broadcasters, who were originally so well-aligned with the new technology."

Now, I've been writing about radio and the internet since Audio Graphics went online in January 1997, and I'll challenge that comment about the radio industry ever being "well-aligned with the new technology."

The Radio & Records article goes on to speak of an "aggressive initiative" from Clear Channel to improve its internet presence through the hiring of three persons to guide the company's web sites in New York City, Chicago, and Rochester, NY.

The newest Clear Channel internet radio programmer to get most of the press so far has been Zena Burns, who took over for the New York cluster of stations December 4. And this is where the story gets interesting. Commenting on what she's stepping into, Ms. Burns is quoted as saying: "They've [Clear Channel] got such great content already that it's going to be my responsibility just really to make sure we're connecting the dots and bringing it to life on the Web in a way that's compelling for the user...."

From here I'd like to wish her a very merry 2007, and a suggestion she not carry these thoughts of "great content" already existing on the web sites too far. I've just returned from visiting the New York City CC web sites, as well as the Clear Channel station web sites in Chicago and Rochester; you can see what I found through the links below. Make your own decision as to whether there is anything close to great content. Take it another step too. Look at the esthetic, functional, and interactive experience offered to users at these web sites.

Truth is, if you take away the call letters from each site and the changing background colors, you find a fairly bland internet presence that's filled with an in-your-face, loud look which goes against everything one would read in a web site design manual such as "Creating Killer Web Sites," written by David Siegel.

Clear Channel's online initiative is bursting with possibilities. Stripped has been hailed here; CC's New Artist Initiative, likewise; ditto on its "Video on Demand." It's just that having the ingredients to produce a great meal doesn't mean the meal will be great. There are too many things that can go wrong in the execution... which is where Clear Channel falls short.

Breeze through the links below. Could you define which station sites belong to which call letters if the calls were removed? So much for branding an image of your station online.

Go through the different sections of each web site. For our example, we'll use the Community Events page present on all but KISS FM Chicago's site. Information is, in many instances, missing or outdated. (Note: Chicago's Clear Channel cluster uses the same template and content for each of its local stations, which doesn't easily allow for keeping the content to a particular audience's needs.)

Online, radio still has a long way to go before it becomes a force that brings viewers back. The first step is to design a web site that reflects what users are doing online by giving them a clean, intuitive layout that doesn't have to be viewed through squinted eyes to separate the text, ads, and graphics. An example of this is Bonneville's WDRV, The Drive 97.1 FM.

A next step would be to stop giving one programmer the responsibility of improving up to six station sites. Too much attention is needed for each site to make this a viable job description for just one person. No human can possibly be effective under this workload.

Thirdly, believe in the internet's ability as an advertising medium. Don't just try and sell it to clients as a vehicle for getting their word out.

If CC believed in the internet for advertising, you'd find the words HD Radio plastered over each of its sites, prominently, and there would be a link to its HD Radio streams - the most diverse in all the industry. Instead, what you find is that only a few have this HD brand displayed in a manner that grabs attention; a few more have an HD mentioned in a small graphic or text.

All but one of the CC Chicago station sites fail to mention HD Radio at all.

Note: Clear Channel is not the only radio group that fails to carry through with this belief in advertising HD Radio online. Follow these links to see others:
Emmis - Power 106-FJ Cumulus - KFOG
Emmis - Movin 93.9 Entravision - OYE 97.5 FM
Entercom - Eagle 96.9 FM Entercom - 107.9 The End

It would be nice if the article in Radio & Records reflected the real story of what's happening online in the radio industry, but it doesn't. What it does present is another attempt at glossing over reality with words, in hopes that nobody will look.

But, look. Go through the links below. See what I mean by saying that Clear Channel needs some serious work online, even if it does currently stand head and shoulders over its competition - which alone is a frightening thought.

And, have a merry 2007.

Clear Channel's New York Online Cluster
Q104.3 FM
Power 105.1 FM
WALK 97.5

Clear Channel's Chicago Online Cluster

Community Events Pages - New York
Lite FM Community Events - nothing in this page
Q104.3 Community Page - one event
Power 105.1 FM Community Page - no events
WKTU Community Page - one event
Z100 Community page - no events
WALK 97.5 Community Page - 13 listings ...
6 happening in March-May 2007

Community Events Pages - Chicago
WGCI Community Page- Excellent try, but first 11 entries are outdated.
WGRB Community Page - same page as above
WNUA Community Page - same page as above
WVAZ Community Page - same page as above
WLIT Community Page - Very good. Eight events listed, none outdated.
KISS FM No community events page

PS: If you want a real eye-opening experience, try looking at Clear Channel's KISS 96.5 Cleveland web site. Only a suggestion, first take two Tylenol.

About Contact Indie Artists Radio Stations Audience Data Privacy

President, Audio Graphics
Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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