Radio…Still Not Just For AM/FM Anymore

I had the chance to sit in on the Infinite Dial presentation by Arbitron and Edison Research. (Check out my post on last year’s presentation.) Of course I encourage you to take a peek at the presentation. In the meantime…the highlights!

First and foremost, a bit of perspective. Sponsored by Arbitron, who serves the broadcast industry, this webinar was designed to target terrestrial broadcasters, you know, AM/FM. So keep that in mind as you read this and as you look at the actual presentation. Hopefully it will continue to push them to adopt and take advantage of the online opportunities that are present today.

Second, the term “online radio” for the sake of this research, references the 11% who listen to the online stream of an AM/FM station plus the 9% that listen to an online only, or “pure-play” product (Pandora, Slacker, etc.)

Continuing to dispel the myth that only the “young” audience listens to radio online, of the now 42 million who listened to online radio in the past week, this years research noted strong use balanced nicely across all age demographics. In addition, the listener tended to be more “upscale” as it applies to income and education.

What is attracting listeners to online? The answer is really of no surprise to regular readers of this blog. It’s all about control and it’s step-sister choice. Note the nod to “variety” which I think really means choice. (Of course, to many of my colleagues in radio, will see this as justification to continue to totally overuse the word in station imaging and branding. Ick.)

Arbitron took the time to remind us that, as it applies to the PPM (Personal People Meter), internet only radio or podcasts are not encoded and are not reported. I think it’s kind of cool to point out the lack of efficacy of the Arbitron product in a world that is rapidly using other platforms to hear radio. To be fair, in answer to my question, “Will Arbitron be seeking to encode and track said online delivery?” they did answer yes! (Though, no timeline was given.)

The study did note that 27% of Americans have purchased digital audio online. BTW, online radio listeners who buy jumps that number to 43%. No numbers on pirated music was noted.

In the world of downloadable content, of particular interest to me and my involvement in the Association for Downloadable Media, the term Podcast (love it or hate it) has taken hold with 43% of Americans being aware of podcasts. Always the master of the understatement my friend Tom Webster of Edison pointed out that “podcasting is now mainstream!” Hey, 27 million Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month can’t be wrong!  One last podcast tidbit…podcast  use already eclipses satellite radio. There’s that “control” thing again!

Speaking of other content sources, here are some quick hits…

  • Satellite radio use…leveled off.
  • HD Radio…though 32% are interested in HD the presentation didn’t make mention of usage, which can’t be good. “HD Radio…Hello, is this thing on?”
  • Cell phone…has the biggest impact on on listener’s lives. Prompting Tom’s comment that the cell phone is the transistor radio of today. (For those of you who are saying “Transistor Radio? It’s what Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa carried before the boombox or iPod…groovy.)
  • Video…just plain blowing up online! (“America is literally looking outside the box.”)

So here’s the upshot, the big kahuna of take-aways, from this presentation for radio and any content producers: Consumers expect to find their desired content online and that includes them wanting expanded media options while in their cars. Can you say Wimax? That’s not to say the current mediums are dead. Clearly they still reach ears. However, if you can’t give it to them on multiple platforms through multiple channels, your chance of them hearing you is diminishing everyday.

It’s Thursday, Must Be Radio: HD Opportunity Knocking…Who Will Answer?

“HD Radio’s Prospects May Improve”-Wall Street Journal
“Hands-On: Radio for the deaf”-PC Magazine

With CES in full swing, the radio trade press is buzzing that HD radio is one of the shows “stars.” Of course, we have to chalk a lot up to the HD Radio Alliance and its PR efforts. But the fact is there are some headlines…this time relatively positive ones.

“Checking Up on HD Radio”-Washington Post
“Ford to Make HD Digital Radio Available Across Nearly All Product Lines”-Motortrend
“HD Radio rolls out iTunes tagging”-Engadget

Readers of RemainComm know that I’m not a big believer in HD. Not that more reasons to turn on the radio is a bad thing. My problem has always been how radio chooses to prioritize its issues and then doing a poor job of committing to them.

The fact is that right now, right this very minute; there are actual headlines about HD. Who will jump on this opportunity to tell the consumer…finally…what they can get on HD? Not what it is, not who’s behind it, and not just on the radio in free spots. After two years of hearing the commercials for HD in my own city (Minneapolis/St. Paul) I have yet to hear what I can actually find if I were even tempted to purchase an HD radio. Oh, I can hear all sorts of pitches that I need HD radio and even some explanation, though not much, about what it is. But no one is telling me that there is a blues channel, a comedy channel, a jazz channel, etc. (I only know that because I was at CBS when we launched our HD channels.)

The only headline above that actually addresses content is the one about Radio for the deaf. Let’s be clear; this is a great use of the digital technology to make radio accessible to all. But, I’d hate to think that radio companies around the country are budgeting additional dollars to their engineering departments to install and maintain new transmitters only to put something on that can’t be heard.

Yep, getting the technology out there is important. Getting content that is compelling enough to get someone to invest in that technology is vital.

What do you know? Content is once again the most important thing about radio.