You can't run away from technology. I'm not sure who originally said that, but in 2006, it has never been more true. Last year, our Tech Web Poll showed iPod ownership at a very strong level of 21% – pretty solid levels after the first big Christmas season for these personal MP3 players.
But we also asked non-owners about the likelihood of them purchasing an iPod-like device in 2005, and the numbers strongly indicated the trend was likely to continue.
Fast-forward to the new 2006 study – and iPod ownership has zoomed to 34% – an increase of 67%. That's impressive growth.
And guess what? There are strong indications, yet again, that iPod growth will continue at a strong pace this year. In the same follow-up question, a similar percentage of non-owners say they will buy an iPod or similar device in 2006.
But there's a rub. At least initially, iPod ownership cuts into radio listening. We don't know whether this is a long-lasting effect, or whether it's akin to how children initially go nuts over toys at Christmas until the newness wears off.
So, some broadcasters have literally run away from iPods, forbidding their stations to give them away. On one level, we get it. But looking at the bigger picture, the iPod is a cultural phenomenon, it's a fashion statement, and it is a wave that we must deal with.
The Tech Poll provides a revenue map – a way for radio to make money from podcasting – our contribution to the iPod phenomenon. Unlike other new media that radio cannot participate in, our content can create a financial windfall. If everyone (already more than half of Alternative fans) is going to own an iPod, providing free (that is, sponsored) content is the key.
NPR's figuring that out. Their podcasting activities are skyrocketing, and so are their "underwriting credits" that precede them. Commercial radio has the same opportunity. But we've got to realize it, embrace it, and figure out how to benefit from it.
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