iHeartRadio augments Talk with past radio episodes, but inconsistently

ih splash 250wClear Channel-owned iHeartRadio has been emphasizing Talk, the spoken-word portion of the iHeart app, since that section was introduced to the menu last year. A recent app update adds a feature with which you can listen to previous episodes of a talk-radio show. In doing this, iHeart aligns with the increasingly popular podcast movement to a certain extent. The focus of course is broadcast programming, of course, not pureplay podcasts. And iHeart doesn’t include NPR, the AM/FM podcasting champ.

Within this focus, the random access of past episodes is a welcome feature. However, the implementation is inconsistent across iHeart’s three main app environments — desktop, Android, and iOS (where the iPad and iPhone apps differ, splintering iHeart into four experiences).

The web (desktop) interface to iHeartRadio offers the most complete view of what iHeart is accomplishing with the Talk reruns. Naturally, the extra screen space allows a list of previous episodes to remain visible without tapping a screen control to reveal a hidden list on a phone. but more than that — there are actually more episodes available in the desktop app than in any of the other three apps. We don’t understand why the list is curtailed in the mobile environment (limited to 10 episodes according to our testing), and we wish it weren’t.

iHeart Dave Ramsey 300wIn Android, you have to poke around to find the (short) list of archived episodes. (It’s the button with the little dots in it.) An important new feature, promoted as a reason to upgrade the app, should be spelled out better on the screen. Furthermore, the episode list is unintuitively┬álabeled as “Show Information.”

Putting all that aside, it is nifty that a Talk program is set up as a Station — in other words, as an automatically advancing playlist of episodes, moving backward through time. Tapping the skip button leaps to the previous episode.

The least accessible experience is in iOS, where previous episode lists don’t exist at all — at least, we couldn’t find them in updated iPhone and iPad apps. The station-like setup works the same as in Android, and you can skip backwards through episodes. But no random access at all, which, arguably, and certainly for us, is the main attraction that keeps us stuck to a program, exploring the archives.

In our view, uniformity is a key attribute of successful brand experiences. When Pandora updated its apps to version 5, we noted the pleasure of uniform navigation and functions, in a neat vertical stack of experiences. We keep iHeartRadio in the most-used-apps folder, and appreciate the build-out of Talk. But we feel stuck in the desktop version to get full functionality … and that is directly contrary to the accelerating mobile trend. Nobody wants to keep track of iOS iHeart, Android iHeart, and desktop iHeart. We look forward to a unified iHeartRadio that works the same everywhere.

Brad Hill