Lakamp on Jimerson and Online Radio's 'Social Value'

Clear Channel Media and Entertainment recently announced the appointment of Jerrell Jimerson as senior vice president of Product for Digital. To get an idea of what Jimerson will be tackling in his new post, Radio World spoke with President of Digital at CCME Brian Lakamp.

How will Jimerson’s experience at other companies help with what he’ll be doing at Clear Channel?

I lead the division. I’ve been playing a key product role for a while and needed someone who could take on those responsibilities. Jerrell is an incredible hire for us. His career spanned all of the key things we’ve been looking for. (He has worked at) companies that have been leading design in small startup environments. He’s dead in the sweet spot of that, and incredibly strong as a leader and manager. It was a huge coup, to get somebody that’s been at Apple, Netscape, been involved at AOL, PayPal, eBay and startups like Songbird.

Can you tell those who might not be familiar what Songbird is?

Songbird is an open source sort of startup. Technically it may not be open source, but open mentality software platform, highly oriented toward music, fast-moving. It’s directionally in all these areas toward what we want to do. Definitely want to take a fast-moving startup approach.

How would you characterize the success of iHeartRadio to date?

I think the numbers show that we’re killing it right now. A couple months ago (in May), we put out a press release about having grown to 10 million users. It speaks to the power of radio to activate and engage audiences to do something like use the products, so we’re showing the power of radio as a way to connect users to outcomes. On our side, you only need to register if you use our custom radio feature. What’s notable about that is that even though only part of the product requires registration, we (outpaced) everyone from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest to Spotify. We’ve gotten (to 10 million users) far, far faster.

In what areas do you think iHeartRadio could improve, and in what areas can we expect to see Jerrell’s work?

What I can comfortably do is talk directionally and philosophically and give you guideposts on what we’re thinking about. A lot of that comes from radio history. Radio has always been an incredible vehicle for discovery. The product itself has always felt inherently social. You know that you’re sharing an experience with a lot of people. Jerrell will be focusing on how we make the radio experience online pose more social value. That’s part of the promise of radio, is connecting users with new music.

How do you rate Clear Channel’s efforts in building this new medium, compared to Pandora’s specifically?

What Pandora has done is they’ve built a product that consumers have shown an affinity for. We recognized that two years ago and we integrated that [personalization] feature. I think we’re doing an incredible job. I think we have a better product than Pandora at this point.

Has “personalization” taken us as far as we can go, or are there advancements still to come in how much a consumer can “personalize” his or her content?

I think there’s more that can be done. Technology is moving fast.

Some say that streaming has yet to prove itself as a moneymaker for the U.S. radio industry overall. What do you say?

We’re very profitable. Our digital business, for example. So we’re working with our partners to see a balance in the ecosystem.

Apart from iHeartRadio, how effectively is the radio industry using its websites and other online tools? How can it do better?

A couple years ago, when we set up iHeartRadio, there was significant modernization that needed to occur to bring them up to speed. There’s work to be done. I’m not sure if that work will ever end for us. We follow the consumer’s lead.

What should we in the industry be watching for as the next important developments in the mobile space? In the dashboard?

A huge thing you just hit on is mobile. It is growing at a really healthy clip. It goes beyond radio but it is an attractive opportunity.

Some broadcast companies have partnered with iHeartRadio, but others say it’s not a smart move for any broadcasters that compete with Clear Channel elsewhere. How do you respond to that?

I think what we’ve built with iHeart is the best radio experience online, and a number of our partners recognize that and recognize the importance of going where there are users. It may not be right for everybody, but I think moving forward a couple years, all of our partners are going to look like they’ve been insightful.

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