What a Radio Looks Like in the 21st Century

first iPhone introducedIt was only 11-years ago that Steve Jobs took the stage and held in his hand the future. It was an iPhone.

Many people were skeptical that this device could compete with the very popular Blackberry. I think I may have been one of them, as I was a Blackberry owner/user until 2012.

I quickly realized that I knew how to operate an iPhone, after buying an iPad in the fall of 2011.  All Apple devices share a core eco-operating system that makes learning them fast and easy. My first iPhone was the 4S. The “S” stood for Siri and I quickly learned to use Siri to type all of my text and emails via dictation. In 2017, I upgraded to an iPhone 7.

OK, so I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. But in just a decade, have you ever stopped to think about the impact that the smartphone has had on our lives and the technology we use?


In America today, 29% of households don’t have a single working AM or FM radio. But it gets worse. The percentage of households without a single working AM or FM radio grows to 50% for the 18-34-year-old age group.

Edison Research recently reported that even 63% of heavy radio listeners now consume their audio online. 82% of those listeners own a smartphone and the most commonly downloaded App is Pandora (40%).

For many, a radio in the 21st Century looks like a smartphone.


Crosley AM FM Radio

Often it appears like radio people think they are the only ones who are not affected by the innovations of technology. Such as, no matter what comes along, AM/FM radio will always be there. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is like sticking your head in the sand.

Let’s think about how smart phones have replaced other “must have” technologies:

  • My Nikon camera no longer goes on vacation with me, it has been replaced by the pictures I take on my iPhone
  • Same for videos using my very expensive camcorders
  • My iPod is now my iPhone
  • My newspaper is my iPhone
  • My calculator is my iPhone
  • My eBook reader is my iPhone (or iPad)
  • My pocket voice recorder is now my iPhone
  • My GPS when on foot is my iPhone, though I still prefer my Garmin SmartDrive 61 in the car
  • My flashlight is now my iPhone
  • My iPhone is my compass, barcode scanner, and portable video player
  • My iPhone is the way I access Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn away from home
  • My iPhone is the way I get both my local weather forecast as well as access weather radar. Weather alerts come in immediately to my iPhone replacing the need for my weather radio.
  • I’ve been a cellphone only household since 2000
  • My smartphone is my household answering machine
  • My smartphone is my alarm clock
  • I no longer wear a wrist watch, as my iPhone is my watch
  • I use my iPhone as a timer when I’m cooking
  • I have my digital library on my iPhone
  • My work and personal calendars are all on my iPhone
  • I keep notes and other records on my iPhone
  • Since I take all my pictures with my iPhone these days, my photo album is also my smartphone. (Note: I have 2-TerraBytes of iCloud storage to back up everything)
  • My entire “rolodex” (contact list) is now on my iPhone (I started with a Day-Timer and went digital in 1989 with a Casio Boss. Then moved to a Palm Pilot. Then to the iPhone.)
  • I check my email when not at home on my iPhone
  • I surf the internet frequently on my iPhone
  • When I call the kids & grandkids, it’s using Facetime on my iPhone
  • My credit cards, plane tickets, show tickets are now all in my Apple Wallet on my iPhone
  • I can even use my iPhone to run my Apple TV as a remote control


A new research study by Pew finds that 54% of U.S. teenagers, age 13 to 17, worry they may be spending too much time on their phones. While they also say they are trying to reduce their smartphone and social media time spent, 56% of teenagers find that doing so makes them feel anxious, lonely, or upset.Group Of Children Sitting In Mall Using Mobile Phones

And it’s no better for parents (and may I add, grandparents). Pew’s survey tells us that we are struggling with the same impulses over the time we spend on our phones and social media, sometimes with even worse results than teenagers.

Adults lose focus on their work and students lose focus in the classroom, by the constant need to check their smartphone.


echoMost research today indicates that since the introduction of the smart speaker, the device that’s getting a little less use is the smartphone. I would concur that is the case in my home as well. Our 3 Amazon Echoes are the way we access at home radio listening, get flash briefs, find out the time and latest weather forecast.

At home, 100% of our radio listening is streamed through a smart speaker.

Speaking of Voice Command devices, my Garmin GPS SmartDrive 61 is now programmed by my voice and I can add via points while driving simply by telling my Garmin where I want to go next. It’s the best improvement in automobile navigation since the GPS itself.


on-demand-cpeWhat the smart speaker and the smartphone have in common, are both devices give the user what they want, when they want it. On Demand is the real game changer of the 21st Century communications world.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV etc. are delivering on demand television. The smartphone and smart speakers are doing that same thing for podcasts, radio, news, weather and everything else.

Edison Research noted, in their recent research, that the hardware challenge in the home is significant. Getting analog radio back into the home (and I would add, in the very near future, the car) seems unlikely


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

18 responses to “What a Radio Looks Like in the 21st Century

  1. Rick Starr

    Actually it would be pretty easy to get a radio in most of those homes, and to do it practically overnight. Nearly all smartphones have an FM chip already in, they just haven’t been enabled by the carrier (who wants you to use more data) or the phone manufacturers (who accede to the carrier wishes.) Having a working FM chip would be a great public safety feature for times of natural disaster when lines are down and/or service is heavy. Radio has a role to play in such times. Just get Congress to mandate that the FM chips be enabled, done. I’m sorry, did I say it would be easy? Get Congress to… Nevermind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The smart speaker offer thousands (millions) of listening choices. However, listeners are creatures of habit and will search for streams of comfort. In most cases, that is your local radio station (if you have a connection in the community). if your station is not promoting the benefits of the smart speaker with your station, you are missing out. Sure it is nice to access that rock station in Sweden, but in the long run the average listener wants to hear what is going on in their town or neighborhood Even the local morning network TV shows (like GMA) have expanded their local news and weather affiliate windows to allow for that local content.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Beno

    I see people here spouting about the “immediate services” or “public safety” that radio brings to the listener.
    Yesterday, as I make my way driving back from Chicago around the Lake, I encounter a blinding rain storm. I dial around my FM dial looking for at least a “mention” of anything that resembles a weather report.
    I did hear a couple of football games….and a Drake song every 10 minutes, but not a word regarding the weather good or bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, that is too often the case Don, in the world of voice tracked/automated radio. And people who find themselves in such a situation will seek out alternate sources for vital information and once they find them, won’t be easily woo’d back.


  4. Two radios in our house…an emergency radio (with a side of fresh batteries) in my bedside drawer, and a shower Radio. I can’t tell you how many showers I’ve taken to the accompaniment of a 5 minute commercial break!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mike Buxser

    The comment on trying to find local information while driving thru a rainstorm speaks to one of radio’s biggest problems. Too many stations are “radio in a box”, running off a hard drive in unattended buildings with no plan to cover a local weather or news event. Most of these stations have no local content. Many of them aren’t even voice tracked. Music fades into commercials, supported by old, tired imaging that never changes. It’s over the air Pandora stations. Rarely does anyone even monitor these stations. When something goes wrong they go off the air for hours. But, if you go to your phone you can pick up the latest weather including any warnings and the latest radar. The info is always there and easy to get. Radio has given up the community coverage of local events. And we wonder why time spent listening is dropping like a rock.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ds52

    I use my Droid phone for “all of above” (except books – too small) – We have an Emergency Radio in our RV as well as the built in radio that we use all of the time. No NPR station in Michigan City, Indiana last night so we had “talk radio” same weather and news ad nauseum… I miss WAMC out of Albany, NY when I travel … such a diversity of programming … local. Thanks for the thoughtful commentary

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m surprised with all of your time on the road, you don’t opt for a satellite radio subscription. That way you’d have NPR programs everywhere you travel. Sue & I enjoyed the continuity that service provided when we did our cross country adventure.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with your smartphone and OTA radio.


  7. Harley Benner

    The job I retired from was managing a college owned public radio station and teaching Broadcast Practicum classes. During the course I would spend one full class teaching the challenges that terrestrial radio faced today and how many more choices a consumer now had with smart phones and access, not just to radio station websites the world over, but essentially being able to program their own personal “station” via services like Spotify and so on. At one such class I had one of the college music teachers attending. Afterward he asked me if I really believed that radio as a medium was in danger and I answered, yes. He debated me a bit using the standard arguments…that radio had been around for so long, that it weathered challenges from television, MTV etc. I told him that the challenge wasn’t so much from a completely different medium (TV), but rather portable audio consumption via a completely different device that had access to thousands and thousands of sources. Not just the 20-30 stations in our area.

    A few weeks later the semester ended at the Christmas holiday break. When school was back in session, I saw this same instructor. He told me that, over the break, he and his wife bought a new car. One with Bluetooth technology that allowed him to link to his phone and the music contained therein. He said, “You know how much radio I’ve listened to in the last two weeks?”


    Is that to say that the newness of this new toy didn’t wear off and he started listening to his radio, at least SOME of the time. No.

    But folks, there is a serious challenge for the listener’s ear out there. And they carry it with them wherever they go. It’s a game-changer of seismic proportion and radio is playing the same game it has for the past 30 years.


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