iHeart and Google make pre-iTunes Radio updates

Whether by coincidence, or as deliberate attempts to steal a bit of the spotlight on “Apple event day” (arguably a national holiday for the technorati), iHeartRadio and Google introduced updates to their Internet radio products.

iHeartRadio, Clear Channel’s broad aggregation platform that offers live terrestrial streams, house-curated stations such as the popular All Beatles & Stones Radio, and user-generated artist stations, put a spotlight on talk radio with additional enhancements for the iHeartRadio Talk function on iOS and Android mobile apps (see more on iHeartRadio’s Talk feature in RAIN coverage here). The new directory is live on the web interface and the updated iOS app which dropped into Apple’s store yesterday (Android update coming Thursday).

The new Talk section breaks out a list of talk-radio genres stocked with a range of listening options. Major-network participation from ABC News is apparent in several categories. Welcome exposure is given to specialty programs that many users might not be aware of, or would have difficulty tracking down, such as Paul Shaffer’s Day in Rock. Podcasts are sprinkled about. The iOS app experience is impaired by lack of a persistent search box (which usefully exists on the web site), and is aggravated by pre-roll video ads, which are persistent.

Meanwhile, the unfortunately-named Google Play Music All Access updated its Android app with genre stations — a default feature of most interactive streamers. Adding them now underlines Google’s failure to launch with a genre directory when the service started in May, and emphasizes a certain slapdashery in the Internet radio space (we’re looking at you, too, Xbox Music).

All signs point to a more deliberate and imperialistic rollout of iTunes Radio, possibly as early as this afternoon. The Apple event (1pmEDT / 10amPDT) will certainly deliver information about it and its release date.

These update maneuvers from iHeart and Google do not diminish Apple’s publicity clout, but they perhaps do insert themselves into the internet radio mindspace which is on full alert this week, and re-engage the interest of users at a dangerous time when everyone will want to get a taste of Apple’s new music experience.

Brad Hill

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