Over the past several years, we have been tracking what people wake up to in Techsurvey, our annual online survey of radio listeners. We've observed a steady decline in the number of people who wake up with a clock radio, while an increasing number of people use their smartphones to wake up. In other words, radio has been losing its place on people's nightstand:
In addition to tracking the hardware that people use to wake up, we also ask about the content on that hardware — are people waking up to hear a local radio station, an alarm or ring tone, or another stream? After all, the change in hardware isn't a concern for radio broadcasters if people simply use their phones to wake up to their local radio stations. It's only when this hardware change causes people to wake up to different content that it becomes a concern.
In 2019, 21% of people reported using “some other way” to wake up. A rooster? A crying baby? A snoring spouse? One of those newfangled natural light alarm clocks? While there are many possibilities, we may soon need to add another option to our list of choices: Podcasts.
Landon Mitchell has developed a new app called Next Up, which bills itself as a “podcast alarm.” This iOS app (sorry, Android users) allows people to wake up to the podcast of their choice. When I asked him about his inspiration, he told me:
“The decline of the radio alarm clock is definitely something I had in mind when I was making the app. A podcast alarm felt like its natural modern successor.
He explained that one of the problems he was trying to solve was finding the right content to wake up to. He doesn't like alarms, but when he sets a specific song or playlist to wake him up, he “ends up hating those songs.” On the other hand, when he sets a radio station to wake him up, he's “stuck with whatever happens to be playing when I get up,” and he doesn't like that lack of control, “especially if it might be ads.”
Landon solved the problem by building an app that allows people to wake up to a podcast. The app seems particularly suited to daily podcasts, such as NPR's Up First, the New York Times' The Daily, or ESPN's ESPN Daily. (Landon confesses that he doesn't enjoy waking up to the news unless it's Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me!. He prefers to start his day with Happiness Spells or LeVar Burton Reads.) Fans of podcasts that don't release new episodes daily can set the app to use a backup alarm when they've run out of new episodes.
If the concept of podcast alarms takes off, radio morning hosts may want create a daily condensed version of their shows to be included in these. After all, radio morning shows aren't 4+ hours long because we expect audiences to listen to the entire show; they're that length because we don't know when people will start or stop listening in the morning. But as people increasingly move towards on-demand audio, a shorter version of the show consisting of the best material may be the best way to compete — especially for control of that nightstand.
Register for Techsurvey 2020
If your radio station would like to learn more about how its listeners are using new technologies, you can now register to participate in Techsurvey 2020, the industry's largest online survey.