I can’t help but be struck by the headlines I read each morning when I log onto my computer or pickup my smartphone to read the latest news.
Here’s just a few recent ones:
- More audio is now consumed in the U.S. through mobile devices than through traditional radio receivers. -Edison Research
- 83% of U.S. Homes have enabled smart TVs or streaming media players. -Hub Research
- 49% of registered voters don’t have traditional TV, 80% stream. -Samba TV & HarrisX
- The steady climb of podcasting’s reach in the U.S. -Edison Research
- Why mobile first is radio’s road back. -Jacob’s Media
- Survey finds older adults are slowly warming to streaming audio. -Broadbeam Media
This last headline flies in the face of traditional wisdom that people over the age of 55, who grew up with AM/FM radio, won’t abandon the medium. However, the COVID pandemic has caused rapid shifts in media habits, even among older Americans.
Not surprising, it has been the shift to streaming video that’s taught people how easy it is to stream audio content as well.
Traditional Radio vs. Digital Audio
For twenty years, we’ve seen this day coming. With each passing survey, research study or anecdotal observation it’s clear that listening to audio content is moving from the world I grew up in, AM/FM radio, to digitally streamed audio.
The trend line is clear, everything is moving in one direction and there’s no signs of it reversing. Today 53% of audio time spent listening is to digitally streamed audio.
I started off this year of blogging with an article about how ALL of my radio listening is digitally steamed, whether I’m at home or in one of our cars. You can read that article HERE
Hallmark Christmas Movies
My wife Sue and I love watching Hallmark Christmas Movies. One of the things I’ve noticed about today’s movies, is how ubiquitous the smartphone has become in storylines. Everyone is constantly texting or video chatting with others in these movies.
But what really struck a nerve with me, was a scene in a recent Christmas film where a character in the movie tries to explain to another character what radio is:
Actor 1: It’s like TV without pictures.
Actor 2: You mean it’s a podcast?
It’s clear that we are living in the future that was predicted decades ago.
Life Is Change
It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Both public radio and Christian radio have found audiences that will listen and support them whether they are received by traditional radio broadcasting or via a digital stream on a smartphone or smart speaker.
Many of our country’s smallest radio markets are also some of the most successful radio operations. Why? Because they know their listeners, and engage with them on a very personal level.
It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked.
In other words, everyone looks like they know what they’re doing when business is good, it’s only when things become challenging, that we know who is prepared to not just survive, but thrive.
How many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Radio broadcasting, like the mountain in Bob Dylan’s song “Blowin’ In The Wind,” is dealing with its own type of climate change, a change in people’s habits for how they receive and consume their media.
Let’s hope the answer to radio’s future isn’t “Blowin’ In The Wind.”
6 responses to “Today’s Media Consumption Headlines”
Might we sum up your post by using the expression, “only the strong survive”, or perhaps “survival of the fittest”? Back in the days when having a radio station license was akin to being able to print money, it was easy to have a successful station, but trying times really show who knows what they’re doing, and who’s just riding the wave. Can’t help but think the corporate radio environment doesn’t help a station to rise above the rest, when you’re trying to program 1,000 radio stations from a central office without local knowledge.
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I wholeheartedly agree with you Frank.
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What can OTA radio do to encourage more OTA listening? Program in ways that encourage “right now” listener participation.
Why would this work? Most streams are delayed by an amount ranging from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Therefore, those who listen OTA have an advantage in contests, “first five people through the door” remotes and other audience participation.
The keys here are to ensure that the OTA audio itself is not delayed anywhere — on the parent station, repeater or HD signal — and maintain the OTA signal(s) for maximum signal strength. Stations can’t neglect their OTA operations just because “everybody’s streaming”.
(Or I suppose stations could simply work to make sure their streaming delays are eliminated or minimized.)
Today after church, I went to Target & Walmart to buy a CD player for a senior shut-in. My church has a giving tree and parishioners take an ornament card off the tree and buy that person a Christmas gift.
Target didn’t have any CD players. Walmart had two. I bought the one that also came with an FM only radio too.
Neither of these major retailers had any traditional AM/FM radios on their shelves.
But both retailers had a wide variety of bluetooth and streaming audio devices for sale.
When I want to hear WETA-FM or WTOP-FM, it’s much easier for me to stream these Washington, DC radio stations than try and pick them up OTA. The OTA signals are filled with interference, but their stream (home & car) is crystal clear. Both stations offer unique programming delivered by professional broadcasters.
Might be too late, Dick. It was AM. Then AM/FM. Then FM. Then FM/Digital. Now Digital. Yet, AM still exists. But when markets “fish where the fish are”. . .remember where the “fish food” is. Not so much on AM now. Slowly it’s diminishing on FM. With the proliferation of communication devices that do much more than let you talk to your spouse, those with time to fiddle with internet and apps and…..you name it, the digital world has allowed us to keep everything in our pockets…and all on one device. AM/FM has lost it’s mojo and the only way to get it back is to be live ‘n local. Here in SoCal, for example we follow wildfires. Would be great if local AM/FM could be on the spot to follow the latest. In many cases it’s not. Florida? Hurricanes. Buffalo? Snowstorms. In 1977 a snowstorm in Western New York thrust a number of AM stations into the hearts and minds of its residents. In 2022 the monstrous weather event was covered by a minimum number of local broadcast outlets, but luckily those with access to digital devices could get the info from AM, FM and TV-all coming through their digital devices. Used to be research would suggest the station that people would get their “news” from in the event of a major event. Today? Tik Tok. Facebook. Instagram or any of it’s related apps. AM/FM/Local TV has a long way to go to reclaim prominence in local coverage. As you said- the answer my friend, well it’s out there. Many local digital only resources can’t provide multi-media coverage..but AM/FM/TV-also on digital needs to do its part or lose the race. Keep monitoring the finish line, will ya Dick ?
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Thank You Dave for sharing your perspective on this.
We’ll monitor things together.