Americans Are Driving Less, Listening Less

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.Traffic jam

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!

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