Over the years as I’ve been writing this blog, some of my critics have accused me of being negative on the future of radio broadcasting, comparing me to a “radio chicken little” that each week proclaims the sky is falling.
It’s hard to read something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
I’ve been a fan of Dan Ariely, with his Predictably Irrational books and his column “Ask Ariely,” which was published in the Wall Street Journal for just over ten years. If you don’t know, Dan Ariely is an Israeli-American professor and author, serving as a James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University.
On September 26, 2022, he announced that he was ending “Ask Ariely”, a weekly column that he has been writing since June 2012.
At that time, the reasons he gave were “our society now confronts some big, important, collective problems. We haven’t yet made up our minds as to how we will treat our planet, confront fake news, cope with a post-COVID workforce or mitigate the effects of inequality, hatred and political fragmentation.”
WOW, it kind of makes anything I write about concerning radio seem trite, doesn’t it?
Then, in December, Dan emailed his subscribers a letter called “End-of-Year Alternative Ask Ariely”, with thoughts that I’ve been mentally marinating.
Stay or Change
In life we are often faced with Stay or Change decisions.
- Stay in our current job or Change to a new one
- Stay married or Change to go our separate ways
- Stay on the couch watching TV or Change to a more active lifestyle
- Stay in the radio format we’ve done for the past 10 years or Change to something new
“In general, when we look at the decisions we make each day, most of them are not an outcome of active deliberation,” says Ariely.
The Future is Digital
One of the tough facts facing the radio industry is the move to an all-digital world. Inside Radio started off the new year with the headline story “Digital Audio Listeners Expected to Top 225 Million This Year.”
The facts they presented in the story were:
- 74% of American internet users listened to digital audio in 2022
- Time spent listening (TSL) to digital audio is increasing by its users
- Digital audio consumption is nearly even with the TSL of broadcast TV daily
- Digital TSL beats streaming video, using social media or playing video games
- Digital adoption remains most common among younger generations
- 91.1% among people aged 16-24
Last year saw the majority of Americans listening to digital audio on their smartphones while at home, and this number is expected to grow to 55.8% of the U.S. population by 2026 according to eMarketer.
eMarketer also points out that more than six in ten digital audio listeners in America were paying for a streaming audio subscription in 2022. (Full disclosure, I pay for two different streaming audio services that began in 2022.)
The latest from Dave Van Dyke at Bridge Ratings research shows that digital media was the big winner in 2022, with 95% of consumers using websites or apps and 88% interacting with social media.
Then there was this headline from Edison Research, “Mobile’s Share of At-Home Audio Listening Leads AM/FM Receivers.” Edison has found that Americans over the age 13 now spend 35% of their daily audio listening time with digital audio via their mobile device while in their home. In contrast, Americans who are still listening on an AM/FM radio receiver is down to 26%. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the most recent Infinite Dial research found 39% of American households have zero radios.
BBC Without Broadcast
BBC Director-General Tim Davie was recently reported saying: “A switch-off of broadcast will and should happen over time, and we should be active in planning for it.” Davie went on to say: “consumers are awash with choices from traditional broadcast and new streaming services [and that] a change to [the BBC’s] traditional model is necessary.”
The internet has removed
the historical distribution advantage
of broadcast media.
Changing Your Perspective
Most of the people who read this blog, have grown up with broadcast media, but a person born just 10 to 15 years ago is presented with two options for listening to audio content, broadcast or digital. For these young people, these two options have always existed.
Think of it as buying a new car with or without air conditioning. People buying cars in the mid-90s didn’t even consider buying a car without it, as it was offered as standard equipment by virtually all manufacturers on new cars.
Broadcasters weighing whether they should “stay” with what they’ve always done versus “change”, should reframe this question by labeling the choices as “Option A” or “Option B”.
- Option A: Broadcast Media
- Option B: Digital Media
As Dan Ariely explains, when you change the framing of this decision from one that considers “stay” versus “change” to one that considers Option A versus Option B, you put each choice on a more equal footing.
“The problem is that the natural framing of “stay” versus “change” gives an unfair advantage to the “stay” decision because it is simpler, it require less change, less work, and does not make us feel that we are making a decision. It also doesn’t make us think much about what we would risk if we made the wrong decision. Of course, staying might feel like we are not making a decision, but by staying we are making a decision. By reframing the decision as “Option A” versus “Option B”, some of the advantages of the stay options are reduced and it becomes clearer what we really want to do.”
So, what say you? “Option A” or “Option B”?
I’m all ears.