Driving is down in the US, according to an AP article that I read in my local paper over the weekend, causing folks that study that kind of behavior to conclude that our love affair with cars here in the US is coming to an end. The average number of miles drivers individually rack up peaked in July 2004 at just over 900 per month. Since then it’s been dropping, off 9% by last year at 820, and down again for the first half of this year.
Apparently, many factors are contributing to this trend, including the high cost of buying a car, the high price of gas, and the increased ability to purchase things online and even socialize online. Job losses due to the recent recession are a factor as well.
Which leaves me thinking about the impact that decreased driving is having on radio. Is the actual decline in driving one of the factors in radio’s declining AQH? The fact is that for the past decade, broadcast radio’s time cume has remained fairly steady at around 92% of the 12+ population, while it’s AQH keeps dropping. Some of this is due to younger generations preferring to listen on other platforms, like streaming.
But I’ve never heard anyone mention that the drop in time spent listening to AM/FM radio is tied to an overall drop in time spent driving in the car. And not only that, but this trend may be more closely tied to younger generations choosing other listening platforms over broadcast radio as well. Twenty years ago, two thirds of 18 year olds had their license. Today fewer than half of teenagers get their license in the first year they are eligible. That’s got to be having an impact on their time spent with radio.
Radio’s dominance over drive time has long been its mainstay. The waning of the time that folks spend in the cars is surely having a significant impact on the amount of time they are spending listening to their favorite drive time media…
How does this trend impact the future of radio and streaming? Don’t miss a great panel discussion on the topic at RAIN Summit Orlando featuring execs from Pandora, Ford, Pioneer Electronics, Slacker and others. You can see the full agenda and register here. Use the code Audio4cast to save a few bucks. See you there!
Innovative technology for connective cars continues, this week Pioneer Electronics debuted a new line-up of in-dash receivers that offer bluetooth and usb connectivity for Androids and iPhones. These affordable, aftermarket products make it even easier for consumers to connect and listen to streaming audio in their car, featuring Siri technology for voice commands, simplified Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and audio streaming, enhanced playback compatibility, and Pandora internet radio.
“The smartphone has become a part of most consumers’ lifestyles and a source of both entertainment and communication,” said Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for the Car Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. “Pioneer’s new CD receivers provide various means for integrating a variety of smartphones into the vehicle.”
At prices starting at $90. That sounds like a pretty affordable price point to me.
Pandora continues to lead the pack of services that come integrated into the new offerings, they recently announced that they are now integrated with more than 100 car models and 23 manufacturers. That doesn’t mean other services are unavailable – just that Pandora is front and center as the featured service in the car. Mazda recently integrated Pandora into its 2014 Mazda6, incorporating voice commands that make listening while driving very easy and fun.
Pioneer Electronics Ted Cardenas and Pandora’s Director of Automotive Business Development Geoff Snyder will join a panel discussion at RAIN Summit Orlando on Dashboard Integration. Other panelists include Ford’s Global Lead, Business Development and Partner Management Scott Burnell, Slacker SVP Steve Cotter, and TuneIn VP Kevin Straley.
RAIN Summit Orlando takes place Tuesday September 17 starting at noon and finishing with a cocktail reception in the evening. Register here, and use the code Audio4cast to save a few bucks. I hope to see you there!
Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio has added an interactive platform for talk radio to its offering. The newly announced iHeartRadio Talk will feature on-demand listener-created talk content alongside popular news, celebrity and entertainment “audiosodes.”
“Listeners who have been accepted into the iHeartRadio Talk library will be able to record and instantly share their perspective on any topic they choose – it’s basically like offering ‘audio Twitter.’” said Brian Lakamp, President of Digital, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, ”We are giving a voice to the everyman, and at the same time are enabling iHeartRadio users to discover and enjoy thousands of ‘audiosodes’ from the best talent around the country.”
Through a partnership with Spreaker, a platform that enables listeners to create personal radio broadcasts, iHeartRadio will also feature user generated content. iHeartRadio Talk will offer “Daily Pulse,” a customizable Talk channel featuring the most up-to-date news and culture highlights, which allows users to add content that is most important to them. The service will also enable listeners to search for their favorite talk programming from ABC News, American Public Media, TMZ, the Wall Street Journal and others, not to mention Clear Channel’s own featured talk show hosts like Ryan Seacrest, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others. Local news weather and traffic reports can also be integrated into the offerings.
Adding talk programming and user generated content to the iHeartRadio platform greatly expands the offering and is a nod to several popular platforms like Stitcher, SoundCloud, and even NPR, which has a huge talk presence online. It’s a smart move for iHeart that greatly expands their service and probably makes them a more interesting standalone platform for dashboard integration as well – something that I’m sure was part of the plan..
Pandora will be installed in one-third of the new cars sold this year, which represents an impressive effort on the part of the leading Internet radio station in the US. That fact appeared in wsj.com recently. Pandora’s strategy of gaining automotive deals also gets them lots of listeners – Pandora says they have seen more than 2.5 million unique activations through integrations from the 23 major automotive brands and eight aftermarket manufacturers they are installed with.
Meanwhile, the popularity of streaming and the connected dashboard is not being overlooked by Sirius XM. Despite deals that already have their satellite service installed in a long list of vehicles, Sirius XM has been improving its streaming offering of late, and just announced a deal with Ford that will pair both its satellite and online radio offerings in new Ford cars with Sync AppLink.
Smaller Internet radio stations that don’t have the brand power to create their own automotive deals have options as well. Harman’s Aha Radio and TuneIn are two aggregators that have deals with car manufacturers to offer access to a wide variety of content through their platforms, and Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio has announced deals with Toyota, GM and Chrysler.
While market leaders like Pandora and Sirius XM make deals that put them front and center in your next new car, the truth is the dashboard of that car will probably have a unit installed that will enable you to access any content you want. At the Connected Car Conference during CE Week in New York recently, Audiovox President Tom Malone discussed the automotive aftermarket products his company is bringing to market, which are all about letting the consumer bring whatever content they want into the car. Solutions that enable the consumer to connect to their content wirelessly through a variety of options – smartphone, usb, cellular, and stored content in the car, for example – are the focus now. Connected car discussions are about more than just the dashboards these days too. Today’s consumers share listening less, and personalized content solutions are coming to the car as well, with rear seat docking solutions.
Content delivery to cars is diversifying, putting the consumer in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing what they will listen to. Receivers that are dedicated purely to AM/FM or satellite are quickly becoming a thing of the past, replaced with devices that enable easy access and endless choice. In a way, you could say that it’s a game in which content is king…
As iTunes announces their streaming radio service to launch this fall, Pandora continues to make deals that put their service in the dashboard, where they can continue to expand audience. According to wsj.com yesterday, Pandora will be available and installed in one-third of new cars sold in the US this year.
That impressive stat brings the streaming service a lot of new listeners – Pandora says they have seen more than 2.5 million unique activations through integrations from the 23 major automotive brands and eight aftermarket manufacturers they are installed with.
Meanwhile, the popularity of streaming and the connected dashboard is not being overlooked by Sirius XM. Despite deals that already have their satellite service installed in a long list of vehicles. Sirius XM has been improving its streaming offering of late, and just announced a deal with Ford that will pair both its satellite and online radio offerings in new Ford cars with Sync AppLink.
Meanwhile, tuner platforms like TuneIn and Aha Radio both have integration deals with auto manufacturers as well, and folks like me connect just using their smartphones. Audio options in the car are expanding, and the big services have taken note. Is the next new thing an iTunes radio in your dashboard? If so, it will likely be one that will sync with your iPhone…
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?..
Connected audio in cars may be last year’s news, but the level of interactivity is challenging auto manufacturers to work with developers to create some pretty inventive applications. Enter Gracenote, an independent division of Sony, that collects data points on millions of songs and provides backend services that enable song recommendations to streaming services (for example).
Now Gracenote has found a way to tap into the Control Area Network of a Ford Focus and use the data to create song recommendations based on the way you are driving. For example, when the windshield wipers are on, you might hear a bluesy tune to match the rainy road, but when you’re driving fast down the highway, your playlist may serve up a song like the Beach Boys, and high beams might trigger Ray of Light by Madonna.
More than anything, this puts a whole new meaning on the “connected car” concept. Your car is not just connected to the Internet, it’s connected to the weather, and traffic conditions and the way that you are driving. Really, you have to marvel at the concept (while you kind of wonder about it’s usefulness).
While the connected dashboard is a concept that holds lots of promise for streaming stations, it’s no secret that it poses a point of concern for platforms that already own the dashboard real estate – like broadcast and satellite. Last year Sirius XM added 2 million net subscribers, and a lot of those came from folks who bought cars with the product already installed. That’s a big source of new audience for Sirius XM. While the streaming industry is busy declaring victory with every new car that integrates Pandora, iHeartRadio, Aha or TuneIn, Sirius is busy thinking about protecting its turf from the new dashboard.
Enter MySXM, the satellite company’s streaming option for listeners. CEO Jim Meyers positions the new streaming platform as a defensive move, pointing out that SiriusXM will have an advantage by offering both satellite and IP options in the dashboard. “Listeners also don’t need to constantly lean forward to create a tailored listening experience. They can just tune to the music channels they already like and adjust the channel’s unique slider controls and set them once for good or change them any time they want….This new feature will further enhance our IP offering, which has been greatly improved over the past year and now includes the ability to time shift up to five hours on many stations, start songs at the beginning when tuning to a music channel and the ability to play thousands of hours of talk and entertainment from over 300 shows from our library of on-demand content.
Though there is no official launch date for MySXM yet, information from the call yesterday was that the platform will be available across all platforms and devices.
The connected car, once a concept, is now a reality and one that offers significant promise for the audience growth to online stations. One company that’s really driving the integration between your car and connectivity is Aha Radio. By the end of 2013, Aha will be installed into vehicles by more than 10 auto manufacturers which in total represent more than 50 percent of all cars sold in the USA/Canada and up to 30 percent in Europe.
Using a cloud based platform, Aha lets the consumer organize their content on their phone and then integrate it with their car. Aha has content partnerships with more than 30,000 stations, including names like AccuRadio, Slacker, Rdio and Deezer. The also are integrated with innovative audio content from location based weather service Custom Weather to targeted content from Men’s Fitness and TV Guide, to Storynory, a service that offers audio content for children.
“Aha lets consumers access their favorite Web content as audio preset buttons wherever they go,” said Robert Acker, VP of Connectivity for Harman. “By connecting people to the web in way that makes sense at 65 MPH Aha is delivering the next-generation of driver connectivity in a format as familiar as radio. We look forward to the day when drivers of any vehicle can safely access their favorite Web content using Aha.”
Streaming news at CES 2013 last week was all about integration into cars, with big announcements from Ford and JacAPPS, Pandora and Chrysler, Livio, Tunein, and lots of others. The news about Sprint and Nextradio is big as well.
Connected cars are a reality now, and Pandora has played a large part in that evolution. Pandora’s been concentrating on getting their service integrated into connected devices for a long time, and their efforts have had a very large impact. They’ve led a coordinated effort which can take a lot of credit for the high level of interest in connected cars at this year’s CES. Sure, lots of companies are enjoying the advantage of that increased buzz, that’s how it works – pioneers lead the way, open the doors, and others follow, and hopefully flourish.
I’ve said it before and I think it bears repeating – the Internet radio industry has benefitted enormously from having a giant like Pandora in the space. They’ve generated lots of buzz and innovation that others have and will continue to benefit from in terms of listeners as well as technology. This Techcrunch interview with Pandora CTO Tom Conrad offers a nice overview of where they have come from, and how they do it.