John Paczkowski

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Radio Is Social, Says Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman

When Bob Pittman first joined media conglomerate Clear Channel as chairman, he swore he’d never take the CEO job.

A year later, he’d done just that, raising his already big bet on radio — a business that many would argue is in decline. Now, under his guidance, the nation’s largest radio broadcaster is implementing an aggressive digital music strategy in the hopes of stealing the online radio spotlight from Pandora.

In an interview with Kara Swisher at our D: Dive Into Media conference, Pittman chatted about Clear Channel, the future of radio and why social networking is one of its greatest allies.

“Radio is a party,” Pittman said, contrasting it with music-collection services like iTunes and Spotify, which are more individual experiences. “It’s like walking down the street and seeing a crowded bar and wanting to go in and socialize. One of the reasons radio does so well is that it’s inherently social.”

If that’s the case, how important are social networking services to Clear Channel’s future? Pittman said that some are more important than others, and the most important of all is Facebook.

“In terms of the social platform, Facebook is where you want to go,” Pittman said, noting that the company does partnerships very well. “Google is also trying to do social in other ways, but it’s just not a company that builds partnerships in the ways that we like to do them.”

Pittman continued, noting that radio is a much broader service now than it is perceived as.

“What we build in radio are these incredible franchises,” Pittman said. “However our listeners want to get to those franchises is fine — whether it’s radio or Internet or TV,” Pittman said. “Everyone’s trying to protect business models, but in the end it’s the consumer that rules, and we have to deliver the content to them however they choose to consume it.”

How worried, then, is Pittman about music services like Pandora and Spotify. Are they rivals?

“We look at other radio as competitors,” Pittman said. “We do compete with Pandora on some aspects, but music collecting is really not what we do. At the end of the day, we are radio people, we know how to curate. What you see with iTunes and Spotify is a new way of merchandising music. We don’t do that, nor do we have an expertise in it.”

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