Clear Channel has launched a Beta version of the new iHeartRadio, which includes the much-anticipated “Pandora-like” Custom Radio service.
Simply put, the new iHeartRadio feels like the best effort from a broadcaster yet to take on customizable pureplay webcasters. The service feels well-designed, easy-to-use and cohesive — especially when compared to CBS Radio’s Radio.com, which struggles to weld together separate services.
The new iHeartRadio website presents Clear Channel radio stations clearly alongside the new custom radio features. Users can choose from featured custom stations — with the usual suspects at the center: Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, etc. — or create their own via search box (a la Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm and others).
Custom stations can be created around a specific artist or song, like on Pandora. The player itself (pictured below) mimics Pandora’s new HTML5 site (more here), down to the thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons. However, unlike Pandora, iHeartRadio offers a slider which allows the user to request more familiar music or opt for more discovery (reminiscent of MOG’s radio slider, more here).
Taking another page from Pandora’s book, the new iHeartRadio offers its own social network of sorts. Users can see what their friends are up to on the site: what stations they’re listening to, what music they recently liked and so on. The site also offers artist information, lyrics, song bookmarking and sharing features.
For now, there are no ads in Custom Radio and no monthly listening caps, though users can only skip 6 songs per hour due to licensing restrictions.
In short, Clear Channel has built a contendor. Though nearly identical to Pandora, the service has a few new features that should encourage visitors to stick around — plus it keeps Clear Channel’s over 800 AM/FM stations within easy reach.
You can try the new iHeartRadio for yourself here. — MS