iHeartRadio Opens Its API

Third-party developers may expand availability, attract brands

Digital streaming services are expanding their self-definition by turning themselves into platforms.

Last fall, Clear Channel revamped its iHeartRadio streaming site to include customization features on top of the its 800 streaming radio stations. The company Tuesday announced it would open its API to third-party app developers and hopes to extend the current browser-based iHeartRadio service onto new platforms and devices, said Brian Lakamp, president of Clear Channel Digital.

The API is already used in apps created by Grace Digital, Xbox and Yahoo TV, for example.

The announcement echoes a similar move from new-to-the-U.S. competitor Spotify. In November, the Swedish streaming operation opened its platform to third-party app developers. Its announcement included apps from launch partners including editorial properties like Rolling Stone, Billboard, Fuse, The Guardian and Gaffa, as well as recommendation engines like Moodagent, We Are Hunted and Last.fm.

Spotify’s apps have not yet been made available to users, but they exist as added functions on the desktop program’s interface. iHeartRadio, which exists in a Web browser, is first focusing on increased availability on devices, Lakamp said.  The company made the decision to open its API nine months ago during its Lady Gaga promotion on Zynga, he said. “Our mission is to be everywhere our listeners expect and want us to be, and while we have an incredible development team in-house, there are only so many opportunities they can tackle at once,” he told Adweek.

The open API creates potential for brands to build engaging apps on Spotify or iHeartRadio’s platforms. At this early stage, however, the benefit beyond digital audio and display advertising remains to be seen. iHeartRadio is currently free of ads, a bonus it recently extended to users through April.

Spotify, which earns money on a mix of subscriptions and advertising, last year hired Jeff Levick of AOL to ramp up its advertising revenue. The two companies, alongside Pandora, Mog, Rdio and others, compete for attention from listeners—and ultimately, ad dollars—in an increasingly fragmented, competitive market.

The open API is one way iHeartRadio and Spotify hope to stay ahead of the innovation curve while bypassing some of the heavy lifting on the developmental side.