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CLEAR CHANNEL PHONE APP TAKES RADIO ON THE ROAD

It's observing-the-obvious time. Technology has changed, is changing and will continue to change the role of the so-called legacy media platforms of newspaper, radio and television. It's not that they'll disappear completely, or that they can't be profitable, but their stranglehold on information and entertainment will be progressively lessened.

It happened first with the daily afternoon newspaper model and trickled to the morning dailies, largely gutted by the consumer's ability to retrieve information almost instantaneously.

Terrestrial radio is next in line, a victim of an iPod demographic that listens less frequently to over-the-air options—cookie-cutter format approaches that have dreadfully staled any originality the medium might have had (which in turn has boosted the interest in satellite radio); mass automation-related cutbacks that have largely sucked any incentive for on-air personalities—the few who actually remain—to attempt anything creative; and signal strength that limits its traditional listener pool.

Clear Channel is hoping a technological approach can improve its position. It is one of three radio clusters, and the only with stations in Tucson, to adapt a smart-phone app that allows listeners to pick up stations anywhere through improved Internet streaming capabilities. It's an effort to provide local station coverage to a wider listening area while offering a service it hopes rivals the likes of XM.

"Iheartradio is the future," said Clear Channel Tucson Operations Manager Tim Richards. "We are reaching a point of critical mass, whether it's five years, 10 years, more or less than that, where more people will consume KRQ (93.7 FM), or KWFM (92.9 FM), or KNST (790 AM) via the stream instead of the terrestrial station. That will happen. The stream numbers are growing. When we flop over, the whole paradigm shifts. Not that terrestrial radio will be obsolete. It won't be. We just have these other transmitters where we can reach an audience we could never reach before. For me it's one of the most exciting aspects of radio. Now that you can listen to it in your car or on your smartphone, it's really next-level."

Iheartradio.com currently offers in the neighborhood of 750 Clear Channel stations, and a variety of other format options, through the application at a level of clarity Richards argues rivals the best terrestrial reception.

"The quality is 99 percent that of the actual signal," Richards said. "If you plug in the iPhone to the car radio and switch back and forth from the stream to the radio signal, some people like the stream better. When you compare KNST, when you can't get it in some areas after dusk, it pales in comparison. You can take Clear Channel Tucson radio with you anywhere in the country with iheartradio. ... Whatever you can imagine, we've got it, much like satellite radio. We don't charge anything for those, and a lot of them are commercial-free."

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