ARN’s iHeartRadio has blown out nine candles, having celebrated the milestone birthday on August 5th.
Since launching in 2013, the platform has evolved to become an all-in-one radio, music streaming, podcast, and live events platform available to Australians in every state.
Mediaweek spoke to iHeartRadio content director Brett Nossiter about how the brand has developed so far, and what the future looks like.
Having been with iHeartRadio for seven years, Nossiter has seen the evolution of the brand up close.
“When it first began, it was largely based around streaming our ARN stations – KIIS FM, WSFM, all that jazz. Fast forward to today: because it’s an open platform, it’s now so much more. We’ve got ABC on there, we’ve got SBS, the CBAA and the community stations. We’ve brought in a whole ton of podcasts.
“In the beginning, iHeartRadio was an app just to stream our stations. Now, its purpose is very much at the centre of ARN’s digital strategy.”
It’s not just content that iHeartRadio has branched out in, with the evolution in technology since 2013 giving the team new challenges to tackle as well.
“We’ve all seen a huge explosion in the digital touch points,” says Nossiter. “It’s not just an app that sits on someone’s phone anymore.
“When we first started, smart speakers weren’t a thing. As soon as Google Homes were launched, we saw an immediate spike. We also saw the huge benefits of that through Covid, when everyone was at home with those smart devices – we saw a big spike in usage there as well.”
Back in 2013, Facebook users were being introduced to the Story Bump feature, the first time Facebook had moved away from a purely chronological feed. Nine years later, the News Feed algorithm is old news and Facebook – now Meta – has tech companies focusing squarely on something new.
“iHeart has got 200 developers who are constantly working on building out new stuff in new spaces. It’s even to the point now where they’re looking at exploring how iHeart lives in the metaverse – which is ballistic, but that’s where audiences are going.
“We’ve got the benefit of tapping into all of those resources to explore all these new frontiers. But if you rewind to nine years ago, there was no such thing as the metaverse.”
According to Nossiter, one of the big success stories of iHeartRadio in Australia is the rise in brand awareness through major events, both locally and internationally.
“We had our iHeartRadio Live series locally – which went by the wayside through Covid, but that will return. We’ve also got these huge events. At the moment we’re focussing on the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas – we’ll be running a national competition around that.”
Some of the highlights of Nossiter’s time at iHeartRadio include building a pop-up station for MTV’s 40th anniversary – that involved four new stations going to air over four weeks – designing the in-store radio experience for Woolworths, and creating the world’s first TikTok Radio station: TikTok Trending. The last one, in particular, is one of his “favourite projects” for a number of reasons.
“It was so liberating to come up with a brand new way of programming a station,” says Nossiter.
“We set out to break a lot of the radio rules. Instead of having blocks of shows that run for three hours, we now have shows that run for 30 or 15 minutes tops. It’s designed to replicate the experience of TikTok.
“I really had a lot of fun building that, and I’ve learned a lot. There’s a lot of new music, and there are a lot of crazy music trends out there. Its impact on the music landscape as a whole has been huge.”
Looking into the crystal ball of the next 12 months or so, Nossiter says that the team will be focussing on the iHeartRadio Music Festival, as well as getting ready for some annual projects.
“It’s the beginning of August, so in the next two to three weeks, I will expect to start getting my first inquiries about when Elf Radio will return – people love that station! That will be another big project, and then we’re going to do pop up stations for Valentine’s Day.
“We’ve got a few other new projects in development that I can’t share much about, but I’m really excited about them.”
As for the next nine years and beyond, Nossiter says that if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that the future is completely unpredictable. Whatever comes their way, however, the team at iHeartRadio will be there to meet it.
“Someone will invent some crazy new app, and we’ll find ways of producing an audio experience for that new environment. They seem to come up a lot more frequently these days!”