In a game-changer for broadcast radio in the digital space, iHeartMedia has unveiled an interactive feature from Amazon Alexa designed to allow listeners of an iHeart radio station’s audio stream to make song requests and dedications — bringing a new level of interactivity to what’s largely been “FM” for two generations.
Introducing voice-enabled air personality interactivity with Alexa.
It’s available as of today for Alexa users who listen to Country WCOS-FM 97.5 in Columbia, S.C.; and Top 40s KZZP-FM 104.7 in Phoenix, WXXL-FM in Orlando and KHKS-FM “Kiss FM” in Dallas. More stations will launch their capabilities soon, iHeartMedia says.
“Ever wish you could talk directly to your favorite radio DJs? Now you can!,” boasts the iHeart literature.
For a broadcast media company that pioneered voice-tracking and the importation of air talent across multiple markets, the very idea of communicating with a “live on the air DJ” is perhaps a chuckle-inducing notion.
That said, radio stations across all ownership groups over the last decade have rarely seen listeners phone in to request a song.
Thus, iHeartMedia deserves applause for using the smart speaker — the leading at-home device for audio content consumption — as a tool allowing listeners to better connect with the radio DJs and stations they hear on the company’s radio stations.
How does it work? “One can simply use their voice to seamlessly request songs and even dedicate them to family and friends,” iHeart explains. “Alexa will then send the request to the station, where radio DJs can queue them for on-air playback in front of millions of other listeners.”
Consider it the 2021 version of a once-normal activity seen for any popular music station, minus the telephone.
“We’re excited that for the first time our listeners will be able to talk to us directly through Alexa,” iHeartRadio Chief Product Officer Chris Williams said. “This is a direct line to allow our audience to talk back, to share their thoughts and help influence what you hear on the radio.”
Song requests and dedications “are just the beginning,” iHeart says, noting that iHeartRadio “is already experimenting with the latest Alexa updates to deliver even more interactive features in the future.” This includes Q&As with on-air personalities and show hosts, voice-driven polls, and contests.