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.
It’s CES week, something that you probably aren’t aware of only if you live in a cave, because digital and devices news coming out of Vegas is fast and furious. There are always interesting announcements about the streaming audio space from CES. The first one to grab my attention came from a press release from JacAPPS, a radio focused app builder that will be the recommended mobile app development house for their new Ford Developer Program.
This is a big deal. Ford announced yesterday that they will “launch an open developer program that enables software developers to directly interface with the vehicle and create apps that will enhance the driving experience.” They become the first car manufacturer to offer an open api platform and invite anyone to create apps for it.
In particular, Ford is putting the focus on voice activated apps. “Offering voice control so drivers can keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road has proven to be popular with our customers. Now, with an even faster adoption rate of smartphones, there is a need for a renewed focus on voice control for the unique capabilities of these devices, especially for the use of apps.” said Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of Engineering, Ford Global Product Development.
Developers who have a great idea for an app but need some help building it can turn to jacAPPS who will be the recommended mobile app development house for the Ford Developer Program. The company has been chosen to provide development and technical support to third-party developers wanting to create voice-activated smartphone apps for Ford SYNC AppLink.
jacAPPS will provide support for all developers interested in integrating their apps with the SYNC© AppLink™ system for voice commands and other functionality. “We have been training and testing apps on the system for several months and we’re available to help the radio industry and all mobile app developers become major players on the connected car dashboard,” says president Fred Jacobs, while at the same time announcing that Greater Media stations will be the first fully integrated in the new platform.
- Ford Launches App Developer Program Marking New Course for Customer-Driven Innovation and Value Creation (sys-con.com)
- jacAPPS Chosen To Support Ford Developer Program; Debuts Mobile Apps For Greater Media Stations (allaccess.com)
- Ford introduces 9 new apps for the car at CES 2013 – @CNET (ces.cnet.com)
Triton Digital and Alan Burns and Associates recently released a new study Radio Tomorrow which focuses on listener attitudes and behavior with a focus on future prospects for the medium. It’s a dense study with a lot of interesting questions in it. For example,
25% of those asked stream music on a smartphone daily from AM/FM, Pandora and other sources, and the number climbs to almost 40% weekly. Pandora alone claims 11% daily and 15% weekly in terms of people using it, per the study.
Some of the news in the study is predictable: young people listen to radio less, want more control of their stations.
Some of it is less so – for example, the study found that 44% of listeners would be more likely to buy a phone if it had an FM chip in it. And of the nearly 20% who have internet access in their cars, many still listen to AM/FM (70%).
When asked if there is a medium that feels like a friend, 50% named RADIO. And they find radio ads more trustworthy and less annoying.
If you haven’t taken a look at this study you should. There’s meaningful takeaways for anyone programming a station, online or not…
One of the best universal portals to Internet radio on the planet is TuneIn. Formerly called RadioTime, TuneIn has been in the business of enabling listeners to search, find and listen to Internet radio for a long time. They’ve been through several rounds of funding and a management shift, not to mention some serious competition, and they’re still holding their own.
One of the things that TuneIn has done well is create partnerships with the auto industry to bring their technology into cars. This week, General Motors announced it will use Livio Connect technology to integrate the popular TuneIn music smartphone app with the Chevrolet Spark’s MyLink Radio dashboards manufactured globally.
This is good news for TuneIn and Livio, as well as all of Internet radio. TuneIn is the most sophisticated universal platform for online radio that is independent. They will play with everyone, regardless of the size of your station. No exclusive contracts necessary. Their success in creating relationships with car companies means that listeners will have more choices and stations will have more options. When Pandora and iHeartRadio announce integration with car companies, that’s good for them. When TuneIn announces the same, that’s good for the industry…
A NY Times article yesterday provides a nice summary of the ongoing attempt of iHeartRadio to grow its reputation as an Internet radio portal and compete with TuneIn, an independant company that has been in the business of offering a universal directory with links to Internet radio streams, and making it easier to listen to Internet radio with apps and software directories for device and car manufacturers.
While iHeartRadio has 12 million registered users (that would be those who have ever registered to use the service once), TuneIn has 40 million monthly users. As a frame of reference, Pandora recently said they have 150 million registered users and 49 million used the service in the last 30 days – so roughly one-third of their registered user base are monthly listeners. That would put iHeartRadio’s monthly users at around 4 million.
The NY Times article provides a good, if oversimplified, summary of the two services, depicting them as similar in offerings and battling it out to be THE Internet radio aggregator. In fact, it would be better for services and listeners, if there were more than two aggregators offering access to every service out there, making it as easy as possible to listen. And stations, broadcasters and pureplays, should work with all of them. After all, easy access is supposed to be what the Internet is all about, isn’t it?
In their newly updated survey of public radio listeners, Jacobs Media reports that listening to radio is growing, but listening to broadcast radio is declining. While public radio listeners who spent an hour or more a day listening to AM/FM declined 2%, those who listened weekly or more to Internet radio increased 16%. Now 87% of public radio listeners listen daily to AM/FM and 46% listen weekly online. 6% listen to HD Radio, a number that fell 3% in the past year.
Half of public radio listeners connect a smartphone or mp3 device in their cars to listen and nearly 10% of public radio listeners own cars with connected dashboards. 41% of public radio listeners say they do most of their listening to AM/FM in their cars.
As I was reading this study I was thinking about all the growth in listening that is going on these days. There are so many ways to get great audio content, and so many ways to listen. In a way it seems odd to keep focusing on WHICH technology listeners are using to access the content. It’s necessary and interesting of course, mainly because we are witnessing a major shift – away from listening via AM/FM exclusively. Many broadcasters are still trying to come to grips with that shift, and studies like this are helping them understand. It’s not HOW they listen that matters…