Clear Channel Radio Launches Free Mobile Service

Clear Channel Radio announced Monday the launch of a free text-based mobile service that will allow listeners to send text messages to the company's radio stations. The rollout of the program will begin with Clear Channel's five big stations in the New York City area, then extend to other cities across the country by year's-end.

Those utilizing the service will be able to access news and traffic reports, make song requests, participate in polls and contests, take trivia quizzes, and obtain station playlists.

The new program is not a continuation of an earlier prototype mobile content initiative pursued by Clear Channel with Cingular (now rebranded AT&T). This subscription-based service--which required Cingular listeners to pay an extra subscription fee of several dollars a month--launched in September, but is not being pursued, according to a Clear Channel spokesperson. The new service offers features not included in the current one, like listening to live streaming broadcasts and downloading podcasts of celebrity interviews.

Clear Channel Radio is aggressively extending its presence into a variety of digital platforms, focusing mostly on its network of station Web sites and mobile-enabled content. Under the leadership of Executive Vice President Evan Harrison, formerly an AOL executive and now the head of Clear Channel's online music and radio unit, the company revamped most of its station Web sites in 2006.

It also rolled out new online offerings like "Stripped," a series of live in-studio jam sessions and interviews, and "Sneak Peak," which gives viewers a chance to listen to albums before they are released, and "Video Six Pack," which invites celebrity musicians to be VJs.

The Yankee Group is quoted by Reuters as estimating that the mobile ad market will hit $275 million in 2007 and reach $2.2 billion in 2010.

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