Tag Archives: digital audio

Today’s Media Consumption Headlines

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.

-Warren Buffett

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?

-Bob Dylan

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.”

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Radio’s Leaking Listeners

The results of Techsurvey 2022* was presented in a webinar this week and two things about the latest data and the trend lines of the last five years struck me.

“We have met the enemy and it is us.”

-Pogo

Walt Kelly coined that phrase in a poster he made for an anti-pollution poster for the first Earth Day in 1970. He would later repeat it in a comic strip he created for the second Earth Day in 1971.

Sadly, the similarities between what needs to be done to preserve our planet and the radio industry are striking. We all know what the answer is, but aren’t applying the solution.

Personalities

Jacobs pointed out that “over the past four surveys, broadcast radio personalities have stayed ahead of the music as a key attribute of the medium.”

Yet, the big radio owners have done more to eliminate the very advantage broadcast radio has over its many audio competitors. Worse, our industry has no plan to create a farm team of new broadcasters that will replace personalities that are retiring or have retired.

Instead radio has tried to compete in areas where, at best, it’s a distant second; like music discovery.

Besides Personalities Radio’s Positives are Under Attack

Radio, we are told is easiest to listen to in the car. Unfortunately, when a person buys a new car, they learn SiriusXM is just as easy to access. Plus now everything on their smartphone easily connects to their dashboard. In fact, Fred Jacobs points out that in Techsurvey 2022 the feature most wanted in a new car is Bluetooth (76%) followed by an FM radio (70%) and having a smartphone connector or auxiliary input (57%).

My first blog article of 2022 told how even with older cars, like our 2009 Honda and 2006 Subaru how easy it was to make them connected cars. You can read that article here. https://dicktaylorblog.com/2022/01/09/why-i-stream-all-my-radio-listening/

It doesn’t take a Mensa to realize that this is another hole in the radio listening bucket.

Radio is “free,” with the tradeoff being forced to listened to very long commercial breaks, which radio listeners say is the thing they most dislike about listening to broadcast radio.

Radio’s covenant with its listeners was, you give us your attention to our advertisers, and we will entertain and inform you. Sadly, radio owners kept adding more commercials to each hour while eliminating the very programming elements that attracted listeners.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising, that is when it is in balance with programming content sought by the user. Podcasts understand this and enjoy increasing listening with advertisers seeing a positive benefit from sponsoring them.

Trends

No one called Paul Revere’s warning that the British were coming as being negative, and neither should anyone who cares about the radio broadcasting industry call those who are trying to promote positive change, “negative.”

Techsurvey 2022 should be a wake-up call to radio people with trends that show eight in ten people that can now connect a smartphone in their cars. Those who own a car with a “connected system” now spend the majority of the in-car time with digital audio or SiriusXM.

The car is the last beachhead that broadcast radio has left, and it is under Sirius attack.

SiriusXM

Techsurvey 2022, like all the surveys that have been done before, use as their database, fans of radio broadcasting. They are the core of our industry and so when we see these folks leaving us for other forms of media, it’s like seeing the canary in the coal mine lying on the floor of its cage.

One of the reasons given by people who still listen to broadcast radio, as to why they continue to listen is, it’s become a habit. When a person buys a new connected car and gets SiriusXM to listen to for free, what is happening is that a new habit is being formed. Not only do they now have access to a myriad of content options, but often their favorite radio personality might be rediscovered hosting one of the music channels.

During the pandemic, SiriusXM removed the paywall for their App as well as listening on a smart speaker, both of which had been available for an extra charge. What Fred Jacobs showed on his webinar was how this positively impacted listening at home, at work and other places for the satellite provider. The habit of listening to SiriusXM was now something that could be done everywhere, and that should keep any radio broadcaster awake at night.

The tipping point is that magic moment

when an idea, trend, or social behavior

crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

-Malcolm Gladwell

I fear we are at the tipping point.

*Watch the full presentation of Fred Jacobs webinar on Techsurvey 2022 here: https://jacobsmedia.com/techsurvey-2022-results/  

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Only Change is Here to Stay

Every night, the music of Enya lulls us off to dreamland. One of our favorite songs is “The Humming.” A line from that song is “only change is here to stay.”

I’ve often written in this blog about the only constant in life is change, and that if you’re not changing your life for the better, you’re changing it for the worse, for nothing stays the same. Nothing.

Changes in Communication

Watching the Ken Burns documentary on “Country Music” it was very clear the important role that radio played in spreading the popularity of this musical genre. But that was then, today the smartphone is at the center of everyone’s life.

Smartphones

The latest from Edison Research now says that 88% of Americans over the age of 12 own and use a smartphone; 250 million, to be exact.

The wireless phone companies will tell you that today we use our smartphones primarily for data. Edison Research tells us that 82% of Americans are now active on social media platforms, the top three being Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Smart Speakers

While 32% of homes in the U.S. don’t have a single AM/FM radio in them, 47% now have a smart speaker.

Today, 193 million Americans – or 68%  of adults 12 years of age and older – digitally consume audio using one of these smart devices.

Car Radio

AM/FM radio’s last place of dominance is the vehicle dashboard. WFH (Work From Home) eliminated the need to commute for a lot of people, thereby causing them to spend less time with traditional radio in their cars.

McKinsey Global Institute says at least 20% of people currently in the WFH mode won’t ever be returning to an office after the pandemic ends. Just as alarming for radio station owners is the recent report by Edison Research that shows the percentage of people who listen to audio on their smartphone in their cars is now at 50%.

“We’re recovering to a different economy.”

-Jerome H. Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman

ZOOM

Before COVID-19, we already were doing video conferencing and phone calls on platforms like Go To Meeting, Face Time, WebX, or Skype. But then the world was shut down by a novel coronavirus and it was ZOOM that suddenly became the dominant platform for teaching school, conducting government, running our courts, attending church, working from home, celebrating our weddings and birthdays, and just about everything else we used to do in person.  

ZOOM is the best example of how fast our world changed when COVID-19 struck.

How did ZOOM do it? By investing the time to know what their video conferencing customer wanted, knowing it better than anyone else and then delivering it best when the critical moment – a global pandemic – arrived.

“Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.”

– H. Ross Perot

Your listeners are changing, your advertisers are changing, your world is changing. So, you’d better be listening carefully to understand how you must change to be relevant to their wants, needs and desires.

Because as Enya sings “only change is here to stay.”

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