There’s been a lot of talk lately about car dashboards, and connectivity, and the threat that new technologies like streaming may pose for AM/FM, which currently owns all of that real estate. For those of you who read this blog, or attend RAIN Summits, it’s not news that connectivity in cars is impacting dashboards, with more listening options available. Nearly all the car manufacturers have announced partnerships with streaming platforms. Just yesterday Volvo released news that its new connected dashboard, with a 7 inch touch screen and voice activation, will feature TuneIn and Spotify.
The dashboard of the future won’t eliminate AM/FM, instead it will offer more options. Connected, interactive options that enable listeners to choose stations from a mix of delivery platforms. Streaming options alongside HD options alongside AM/FM options, alongside – dare I say it – maybe even satellite options. All-in-one dashboard players.
No one (okay, maybe someone) said, or thinks, that AM/FM will be eliminated from car dashboards. The NAB would never let that happen. More than 90% of the population listen weekly. (Although, that number may drop as other options become available).
After that article appeared came letters and statements from car manufacturers, eager to assure broadcasters that they are not eliminating AM/FM from cars. General Motors Chief Infotainment Officer Phil Abram told Radio Ink that:
“While we are excited about the possibilities of Internet radio services and other emerging services, we understand that AM/FM radio is still a significant source of news and entertainment. In fact, it is an expected feature. We can’t speak for other automakers, but to be clear, GM has no near term plans to eliminate AM and FM from GM vehicles. We are committed to providing consumers innovative services that dramatically enhance the driving and riding experience. We expect AM/FM radio to be one of the choices consumers have in our vehicles.”
There, now doesn’t that make you feel better?..
Digital revenues generated by US radio broadcasters shot up 11% in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year, and pushed the full year over year increase to an impressive 8%. Spot dollars increased a mere 1%, further emphasizing the brightness of the digital horizon for radio.
“The continues stellar showing of the Digital sector…underscores the fact that th eRadio industry is finding additional ways to monetize these streams and that advertisers are taking advantage of new platforms to reach our listeners,” said RAB President and CEO Erica Farber. The digital revenues category represents revenues generated by websites, Internet/web streaming and HD Radio including HD2 and HD3 stations.
As the overall contribution that digital revenues makes to radio’s revenue edges closer to 5%, Internet advertising revenues are hitting record highs. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that Q3 of 2012 was up 18% over a year earlier, with Q4 numbers yet to be released. With spot radio dollars stuck in barely positive territory, digital solutions that enable broadcasters to unlock a portion of that pie become an important piece of the radio economy.
RAB president and CEO Erica Farber will deliver a keynote speech at RAIN Summit West on April 7th, offering her perspectives on radio’s digital initiatives and prospects for the future. Other panels will explore online options to capture more revenue as well. For more information and to register, click here. (Early bird registration ends next week.)
HD Radio has made no progress in the last couple of years in terms of raising awareness, according to a recent study by Mark Kassof and Company. In fact, according to the report, ”Awareness has actually declined. In ’08, 67% had at least ‘heard of’ HD RADIO; now, 54% do. And consumers’ understanding (and misunderstanding) of HD is virtually identical to what we found three-plus years ago.”
While people who have heard of it seem to understand what it is – that understanding seems to come mostly from the “HD” which – thanks to tv technology, is easily understood as high definition. Very few understand that it is much more than that, more channels and choice, music tagging, traffic and other innovations.
Bob Struble, President and CEO of Ibiquity, the HD Radio company, recently noted that AM/FM radio was the only analog technology on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. He was distressed to note that “AM/FM radio[was] the only analog technology remaining at CES, everything else [was]digital.”
Struble notes that many other industries have already advanced to digital. “Broadcast and cable television, mobile phones, audio and video physical media, … all were analog, now are digital.” Digital technology provides a better customer experience, and that has spurred competition. Automakers were on display in force, thanks to the exciting developments with a digital dashboard.
The reason awareness of HD Radio is so low is because so few broadcasters have invested, adopted and promoted it. Thinking their position on AM/FM dials was secure, they never felt the urgency to spend a lot of money improving the quality of their offering. As connected devices in dashboards become more ubiquitous, radio’s final bastion will be challenged.
Americans are spending more time in their cars, time spent in cars on weekdays has increased by over an hour since 2003. Last week, Arbitron, Edison Research and Scarborough presented an update to a study from 2003 called The Road Ahead that looks at in-car listening options and adoptions.
While radio continues to the the audio listening choice in cars, its dominance has dropped by 12% since 2003. Back then 1% of people chose satellite radio, and listening to ipods and Internet radio streams was not an option. Now, 8% of folks who have driven or ridden in a car in the last month have listened to satellite radio, and a whole slew of new choices have bubbled up to compete with AM/FM broadcast radio. 6% listened to a Pandora stream, 4% to an AM/FM stream, and 2% to another non-Pandora stream. (The numbers are not exclusive so we can’t add them up).
The study also looked at the way people “feel” about various listening platforms, and the results are very insightful. At the top of the list of things people “love” listening to in their car is satellite radio with 54%. 34% “love” listening to Pandora via a mobile phone. And 30% love listening to AM/FM streams via a mobile phone, while 28% “love” listening to the same content on their AM/FM radio. New technologies, notes the study, get better “love” ratings, even if the content is the same..
Despite a proliferation of new in-car technologies, radio remains the “king”. But that’s not a license to be complacent, cautions the study. Instead, radio should recognize that “digital platforms are crucial to protecting radio’s in-car franchise. In fact, the authors of the study believe that HD radio has the ability to “provide the ‘wow’ factor for AM/FM in-car radio. This must be based on the higher “love” ranking that HD Radio gets among people that have it.
Emmis has implemented technology on all of its stations that enables visual song ID and tagging on mobile Apple devices. The system, called TagStation, was developed by Emmis Interactive, the innovative online division of Emmis, and Broadcast Electronics. Basically, it enables iPod, iTouch, iPhone and iTunes listeners to Emmis’ FM and HD stations to get artist and title on the radio display info and iTunes tagging.
What is iTunes tagging you might ask… According to info on the Apple website, it’s an easy way to hear a song on a station and click to tag that song – on a connected iPod device. Then when you sync the device with iTunes on a computer, a playlist of songs that you have tagged will show up, complete with handy links to download those songs on iTunes. Stations earn commissions on the songs sold through iTunes.
No doubt, stations also earn points with listeners for enabling this nifty technology that creates a much more interactive experience for FM and HD listeners. It is available to non-Emmis stations through either BE or Emmis Interactive.
HD Radio units sold, currently at 3 million, will reach 4 million units by the end of this year, according to ABI Research. That number pales in comparison to the 13.5 million DAB radio receivers sold in Great Britain and Europe, but it’s a healthy increase of more than 25% this year. Digital radio technologies, including satellite radio and Internet radio, are expected to reverse trends of decreasing listenership to radio.
You got that right.
TWICE, a consumer electronics magazine recently produced a special print issue focusing on the changing nature of radio listening as well, citing satellite radio, digital radio and Internet radio as the fuel for future radio listening growth. Summarized in Radio World – an online industry publication, the article notes that the meaning of the word radio has changed to encompass all these various listening platforms.
“Like it or not, our industry consists of more (than) AM and FM over-the-air signals. If we don’t change our own thinking about that along with the market, we unnecessarily limit ourselves; we exclude radio’s businesses and our own careers from potentially exciting growth.”
The broadcast radio industry is at a crossroads. The choice…view themselves as audio content businesses and proceed to foster, develop and expand as many new listening technologies as they can, or remain focused on AM/FM over the air signals, sacrificing other channels.
The demands that FM receiver chips be mandatory in cellphones as part of a deal broadcasters are striking with record labels is a wrong turn for broadcasters. Heavyweight industry associations are lining up against it – Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro is incandescent with rage. “Rather than adapt to the digital marketplace, NAB and RIAA act like buggy-whip industries that refuse to innovate and seek to impose penalties on those that do.”
Arbitron publishes an annual report Radio Today that provides an interesting snapshot of radio listening in the US. For the first time, the 2009 report includes streaming stations in its list of National Format Shares and Station Counts.
48% of all FM stations are streaming their programming while only 10% of those stations are rebroadcasting it on HD. 32% of AM stations are streaming, less than 4% are distributing it on HD. Of the stations that are also producing additional HD multicast channels (537 in all), 46% are also streaming that programming on side channels.
Classical stations are most likely to stream their programming – 82% of classical stations are streaming. After that, Contemporary Christian, CHR, Alternative and AAA formats are most likely to be streamed. Interestingly, only 52% of news/talk stations and 48% of talk/personality stations are streaming. Those stations don’t have to pay per performance music royalties, which keeps some broadcasters from streaming, so it’s surprising that they’re not distributing their content online.
You can download the study here.
In the UK radio listening is booming. Radio listening in the UK has reached an all time high of 46.5 million adults, or 90.6% of the UK population (15+), according to new data released by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research).
Radio is well positioned for a transition to a digital future, according to a new study by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. Radio has the ability to maintain and grow its audience through several digital audio platforms and is doing a better job than other traditional media such as television, newspapers and magazines.
Radio is on its way to becoming a new medium called Audio, according to this study. Listeners are tuning in via many channels including Internet radio, podcasts and satellite radio, which are contributing audience growth. Not all newer digital audio technologies are growing audience however — the study notes that HD Radio continues to struggle both with the lack of audience and a static number of stations converting to the HD platform of delivery.
Radio is experiencing an “intriguing fragmentation” across other audio platforms, which are also providing broadcasters with opportunities to grow revenue. Over the next five years, Internet radio and mobile revenues will continue to increase.
The main focus of the study is the impact of new media on news, and the appetite for radio news is dropping on AM/FM stations. But 24% of adults 18+ indicated they had listened to a newscast online – either streamed or downloaded. A stated conclusion is that the slow increase in online listening corresponds to a simultaneous loss of broadcast radio audience.
All of this emphasizes the wisdom of broadcasters who are distributing their audio content across multiple channels. It’s more important than ever to strategically develop a diverse digital audio platform that feeds the digital audio audience’s diverse appetite.
Big news for HD Radio this week is that it’s available on iPhone. While the HD Radio app for iPhone is free, listening requires the purchase a Gigaware HD Radio receiver accessory, which costs $80 and is only available at Radio Shack.
In this interview with wsj.com, iBiquity chief executive Bob Struble mentions that first HD Radio went portable with Microsoft’s Zune, and now extends its mobile offerings to Apple’s incredibly popular iPhone. In addition to being able to listen to your favorite stations digitally, the app enables you to tag songs that you hear and like for future purchase.
HD is simply a brand name for the digital upgrade to AM and FM, says Struble. AM/FM is the last analog medium in the US, and HD is the digital version of those offerings.
The question is, will listeners adopt the new HD technology and move to HD devices and listening, or will they shift directly to an alternative like Internet radio? Streaming Pandora, for example, is free for everyone on iPhone. The reason to purchase the HD Radio iPhone accessory, according to Struble, is that it will allow listening to HD Radio stations on your iPhone even when you don’t have a wifi connection. (but your purchase of the iPhone required you to pay for a monthly data plan that gives you unlimited broadband…)
He hopes they will convince Apple to build HD Radio receivers directly into iPhones and iPod Touch devices, which would eliminate the need for additional hardware. It sounds far fetched to me, but a while back I was betting against FM on iPhones…