The Radio Agency was privileged to be one of several sources interviewed for last week’s CNN.com report on the past, present and future of music radio, written by Todd Leopold. This sprawling, well-written piece levels a fair-handed assessment of the state of music radio and how many Americans have whittled their time spent listening to AM/FM music radio in favor of other audio entertainment choices.
At the core of music radio’s challenge is the ability of broadcasters to influence device manufacturers to continue including AM and FM receivers into their products. Most new cars now come with Satellite Radio and Bluetooth Wireless, so that drivers can link their phones and tablets to the dashboard audio system. Earlier this year, two auto makers flirted with the idea of eliminating AM/FM from the dash, but quickly backed off under pressure by consumers. But will that last? Will that still be the case in 20 years when today’s 10-year olds turn 30?
The latest Arbitron Radar radio ratings show that teenagers had the highest increase of AM/FM listenership among any age group in 2013. That’s great news for radio, but only for as long as those numbers hold up. With technology giants Google and Apple entering the radio arena, we see local radio’s ability to remain local as its key advantage to be leveraged. Anyone can play the hits. But only live and local programming can reference current and future events and news stories that enhance the listener’s radio experience.
FM music stations may one day evolve into broadcast versions of the most popular web radio services. HD sidebar frequencies are an excellent place to test drive these concepts. And that may mean fewer commercials and more social media content, lifestyle-based information. But it’s near certainty that the share of AM/FM listenership as a percentage of the sum total of radio listening will decline. The question is how much and how soon?
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