Since our company ebraced the “connected car” as lightning rod radio issue several years ago, we have been joined by many others in the industry who share our concerns about radio’s place in the dashboard. Along with our DASH conferences, and raising awareness of the industry’s in-car challenges, it has enabled many conversations with concerned broadcasters. Clearly, some of the highlights on our CES tour last month took place at the Ford, Toyota, Daimler-Benz, and Visteon exhibits.
And rightfully so. Radio continues to have prime presence in cars, and they’re not going away anytime soon. And consumer desire for AM/FM radio in the car remains steady and robust. The speed bump is about choice, and there’s lot of it in “connected cars,” thanks in large part to the driver’s ability to bring in smartphone content, as well as dashboard apps like Pandora and the omnipresent free trial from SiriusXM when consumers purchase or lease a new vehicle.
But beyond the car, radio faces another problem that we continue to see up close and personal in the Millennial interviews we’ve conducted in a project on behalf of the Public Radio Program Directors and a group of 15 stakeholder stations. In the past few months, we’ve visited young Gen Y professionals in their homes and workplaces (often the same place), and we keep noticing something missing: a working AM/FM radio.
Statistically, we’re continuing to track radio’s presence at home, at work, and in cars. And on the home front, radio’s presence is like a tire with a slow leak. We’re witnessing the gradual erosion of radios at home among the entire population. But when we zoom in on Millennials, it’s becoming a larger problem. The last two Techsurveys have tracked it well. A medium that prides itself on a weekly cume reach in the low 90% range is going to have more and more difficult maintaining that level, when those old clocks radios and boom boxes fail.
TS13 is in the field as I write this post, and this is a question we’re continuing to track. Radio’s in-home problem among young people is a direct reflection of the medium’s value and utility among an emerging audience of consumers with myriad options that are more accessible and more in-line with their tastes.
At our last DASH conference, auto industry analyst and consultant, John Ellis, spoke with our Seth Resler for our podcast:
“Guys, you have a bigger issue than just the car. ‘What is radio?” to this new group that’s coming up?”
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And when “radio” is not on at home (or doesn’t even exist there), the medium moves further away from the consciousness of a new generation, adept at finding the right option at the right time on the right device.
That’s why we’re so bullish on voice command technology, specifically Amazon Echo and Google Home that are increasingly showing up in kitchens, family rooms, and all sort of places in homes, condos, apartments, and ostensibly dorms and other college abodes.
At CES, “Alexa,” in particular, was the name most often heard on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. As the voice of the Amazon Echo, many device makers were featuring her presence in their gadgetry. This included robots, security systems, and other devices.
Ford has also announced a partnership with Amazon to bring Alexa into Fusions, Explorers, Escapes, and their other vehicles, opening up even more options to drivers.
Since becoming an Amazon Echo owner last year, I’ve been able to personally experience the convenience of having Alexa around the house these past several months. And one of the results is that I’m listening to more radio at home – commercial and public – thanks to the ease of voice commands and the simplicity of this device.
I’m not alone. MediaPost reveals the most used Amazon Echo features by those who own one of these devices. For 85% of these consumers, Alexa has been asked to set a timer. But the second most common command – mentioned by more than eight in ten Echo owners – is “Play a song.” Turning on the radio is just a short hop away, signaling opportunity for radio to regain its footing at home.
For radio on these devices, the entry point (at least for now) is generally the TuneIn app, but consumers who own an Echo may not even know this is one of her “skills.” As we’ve learned over the past several years, we cannot take for granted that people somehoww know how to tune in our radio stations in their new cars – or on voice command devices.
Our team at jacapps has been hard at work, developing new “skills” for Alexa. From podcasting to morning show previews, there’s a lot these devices can do. We’ve been playing with our Echo (and yes, our Google Home) because of its huge potential to redefine the way consumers inform and entertain themselves where they live.
The first step is grasping the changing culture of consumer technology (and this year’s visit to CES was an eye-opener), as well as understanding adoption patterns from your own audience. We’ll be rolling out the results of Techsurvey13 to stakeholder stations first, and then at Joel Denver at Sat Bisla’s Worldwide Radio Summit in L.A. in May.
Radio’s at-home challenge – like so many of the others – starts with awareness. Then it’s about devising smart strategies to take advantage of the available technology.
Yes, radio’s being disrupted by any number of channels, devices, and platforms. But many of these same game changers provide the industry with solutions, if we’re smart and prescient enough to figure them out.
“Alexa, let’s listen to the radio.”
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.