Who’s in Their Ear?

When radio was first introduced, to listen to it, you needed to wear headphones. Radio was one-to-one and very intimate. As the technology evolved the radio speaker would change the medium from one-to-one to group listening. Radios were expensive. If you owned a radio you shared it. A family would gather around the radio and listen together. Families would transfer this together media habit to TV and the transistor radio would become the refuge of teenagers who wanted to go in a different direction.

Zenith Transister Radio

My first radio was a Zenith transistor with a little ear piece for one ear. I would go to bed and turn it on under the covers and listen to “the world.” It was all AM radio and after sunset, the DX’ing of the nighttime skywave would always bring a new radio station into my ear to savor.

In the mid-70s the Boombox would be introduced to America and these radios grew both in size and the amount of bass they 1could produce. By the 80s they could be as big as a suitcase and carrying them around on your shoulder was a status symbol.

Go to a beach resort, and whether you were walking the boardwalk or on the beach, radios were blasting music from every direction.

When Y2K didn’t impact our fully computerized radio stations, we all breathed a short-lived sigh of relief because it was quickly followed by a new threat; the iPod and ear buds. Once again listening to music became a very personal activity.

The ear buds would transfer to the iPhone and iPad. The introduction of the iPhone6 may have killed the iPod, but not the use of headphones or ear buds to listen to your audio.

So what exactly are all those people listening to? lady listening with ear buds

The latest research from Edison Research says American Teens are spending more time with streaming audio services from places like Pandora and Spotify, than they are listening to either streaming AM/FM radio or over-the-air radio. Edison reports this finding in their fall 2014 “Share of Ear” report.

Remember it was my generation that grew up hooked on radio & TV that were credited with eroding newspaper readership. (Full disclosure: I read all my news online using my computer, iPad or iPhone.)

It’s not all bad news for AM/FM radio. It is still popular Edison tells us “by a significant margin among all other age groups.” So where did the teens go? Pureplay Internet streamers. What do they love most? The ability to skip a song they don’t like.

That’s really not hard to understand. I love my DVR for a similar reason. Especially when it comes to award shows. I never watch them live anymore. I record them for later viewing and I can watch a 3+ hour awards show in about 20 minutes time. I skip all the bad parts.

In fact, I rarely watch anything on TV live anymore. Everything is recorded so I can control it. So is it any surprise that teenagers once they are given this kind of control will ever want to give it up. A new habit is being formed.

The other aspect about pureplays that AM/FM radio could be addressing is their complete focus on the quality of their streaming product. What I’m hearing is a clean commercial insertion. Nothing gets cut off in the middle or repeated multiple times in the same long break. Pureplays deliver their commercial messages in a style that compliments the music programming; in a way that actually has you enjoying listening to the commercial message.

The teenagers have moved their listening to streaming and podcasts. The spectrum auction being held by the Federal Communications Commission is all about creating more wireless connections for all kinds of mobile devices.

I live in South Central Kentucky. I can stream my iPhone into my car’s seven speaker sound system through Bluetooth and everywhere I drive it’s clean and clear with no dropout or buffering. It’s scary good. It’s as easy to do as turning on my car’s audio system. Nothing to plug in or connect. It happens automatically.

South Central Kentucky is also blessed with some excellent over-the-air radio stations. So they very effectively compete, in my opinion, with streaming. But I wasn’t raised on streaming. I also like a good air personality.

The next generation is being raised on streaming that they have some power over to skip things they don’t wish to hear. Reminds me of the old saying “How are you going to get the kids back on the farm, after they’ve seen New York?”

baby listening to ear buds


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio

2 responses to “Who’s in Their Ear?

  1. spotmagicsolis

    Great Post, Dick. Since I haven’t listened to pure plays much can you please explain what you are speaking about with this each of these things? Thanks!
    “What I’m hearing is a clean commercial insertion. Nothing gets cut off in the middle….Pureplays deliver their commercial messages in a style that compliments the music programming; in a way that actually has you enjoying listening to the commercial message.”


    • I enjoy Scott Shannon mornings on WCBS-FM out of NYC and Shotgun Tom Kelly on K-Earth 101 out of LA. Both of these stations have really unpolished cut-aways for their commercial breaks. And then once they’re into the breaks the repetition of the same spot or promo is insane (see my “Do The Bartman” post). IF someone were paying attention to the Internet stream, this could be changed for the benefit of both the listener and the advertiser. *** Pureplays worry about the stream, because that’s all they’ve got. They’re as focused on their stream as broadcasters are focused on their over-the-air sound and their Nielsen Audio ratings. My pureplay of choice was called Sky.FM/. But they’ve changed their name to RadioTunes.com/. I’m now a six year subscriber. I love their Smooth Jazz, Solo Piano and New Age channels. And YES, I pay them to take out the ads. I fell in love with Smooth Jazz when I put two different radio stations on the air with this format and had the artists come in to perform LIVE for my audience at special venues. Smooth Jazz left the airwaves of American radio for the most part and so I was forced to find another way of hearing this music. RadioTunes is now the way. It’s NOT radio, it’s a curated music format that is programmed by folks who know and love the format and the artists. I can’t skip tunes (NOR would I want to, because I would play everyone of them if I were programming the channel). Ironically, its a service that doesn’t grab the headlines. I might not have found it if I hadn’t been on a manic search for Smooth Jazz music. RadioTunes now offers four or five different Smooth Jazz channels in addition to just about every other format you could possibly want or imagine. For me, it provides an oasis of music while I work preparing my university lessons. It masks the noise of students in the hall outside my office. It keeps me focused and in the zone.

      Liked by 1 person

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