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It's The End Of The Radio As We Know It

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1942 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet radio

1942 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet radio

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Radio is a standard feature in most automobiles. It keeps us company on long road trips down desolate highways, inspires fights between siblings, and encourages wallflowers to sing forgettable pop tunes at the tops of their lungs.

And in five years, it'll be dead.

At least, that's what most folks appear to believe.

Harris Interactive recently asked 2,066 American adults about their media consumption habits. The news wasn't good for traditional radio -- or cable television providers, for that matter. Millennials are forcing such companies to think long and hard about the way they do business. The study's major findings include: 

  • Among adults 18-34 who watch movies, 52% would rather watch them always or mostly on demand, using services like Netflix. For TV-watchers in that demographic, on-demand preference was slightly lower, but still strong at 41%.
  • Among adults 18-34 who regularly listen to music, 46% would rather do so always or mostly on demand, using services like Spotify. Only 23% of their older relatives in the 35-54 demographic expressed the same preference.
  • Of those who prefer on-demand services, 81% use them so they can watch or listen to programming at a more convenient time. And 68% use them to avoid conventional advertising. 
  • Most importantly, 57% of all adults surveyed believe that within five years, a majority of Americans will listen to radio programming on demand, rather than traditional AM/FM radio.

Of course, this isn't really big news. Folks have been predicting the death of radio since Pandora debuted years ago, if not before. Many radio stations have already died or been put on life support with a diet of non-local programming (thanks Live Nation!). Others have rolled with the punches, growing audiences with new offerings and streaming options.

Also, the move that this survey documents is clearly part of a larger trend, away from pre-packaged programming and toward a la carte media consumption. This is exactly the idea behind a cable TV bill proposed by Senator John McCain (R-AZ). 

In other words, most of us look at the Harris survey and shrug.

There is one caveat, though: the Harris study was funded by Stitcher, an app that streams radio programs to mobile devices. It's in Stitcher's best interest to promote the idea that traditional radio is dying; doing so gives Stitcher more authority to say that it's the proper distributor for streaming content. That, in turn, gives Stitchers more users, more advertisers, more investors, and more value. 

That's not to say that the survey's results are rigged or in any way false. Just consider the source. And enjoy flipping your AM/FM radio dial while you still can.

[h/t John Voelcker]


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Comments (10)
  1. I'm not sure where this falls in the scheme of things, but what woudl happen to local radio? I find that when I take road trips, I like listening to small town radio. I recently rented a vehicle with satellite service. While on the road where AM/FM reception was sketchy, it came in handy. I'd imagine I'd use those streaming apps there as well. But as soon as I hit a town with local radio, I found it more interesting as it gave a good sense of place. I guess for me, it's about leaving the familiar for a new experience. I would hate to see that go.

  2. I feel the same way -- though as an information junkie, streaming news stations on Stitcher has its allure, too. Can't we have both?

  3. Stitcher is oppressive bloatware I can't get off my Android phone. Different generational interest, perhaps. I use TuneIn to follow stations.
    I listen to "local" radio but that to me is NY City AM stations that I hope don't go away. We watched the rise, fall and plateau of programmed radio. I was at a Detroit industry car show in 1998 and Sirius and XM had big booths. Neither had actual working equipment - it wasn't designed yet! Only 2013 and that market tanked and plateaued. Their stock was up in the mid $60's around year 2000. It is now $3.51. Two reasons I never got it: 1) two words - Howard Stern, and 2)Monotonous programming. Helpful for low reception areas but there is something about listening to local while traveling long distance.

  4. Where do you get these surveys? Everyone I know listens to the radio. Not at all what you write about. Satellite radio is good when your in rural areas but in the mountains that can be blocked.

  5. I had the same experience a few years ago with satellite radio on the OR coast. On nearly every curve it would drop out.

  6. I listen to both XM and local radio and would hate to see local radio fade away, well unless WDHA here in NJ went first.

  7. I'm 48 and have not heard the radio in a solid decade. I only listen to music. (No news, talk show loudmouths, etc.) via my iPhone (and formerly an iPod). I currently subscribe to Rdio and Pandora, which gives me added variety and it works 90% of the time - we have T-Mobile, which is spotty when venturing outside the city or 'burbs, but 27,000+ songs in iTunes library more than makes up for it).

    Also, we do not subscribe to cable, though Comcast does get nearly $50/month for internet so we can watch movies on Netflix and HuluPlus, on demand. We also get DVDs from Netflix for those titles not streaming that we want now, though usually we wait as it will not kill us to wait. Haven't bought a DVD or Blu-ray in at least three years.

  8. I bought a new car that had satellite radio, never activated it, and I've since sold the car - I can't imagine why it would be useful. I listen to local stations where the DJ is a human and the programming is by the choice of the human - I'd rather listen to someone who loves music play something I don't like than to a machine play stuff I've heard before a million times.

  9. We may listen to our music on different media. But we will still listen to the radio for short commutes. Talk radio, sports radio and news will keep radio alive for a long time to come. Best thing about radio: it's free!

  10. Oldschool commercial radio has been dying a slow and painful death ever since Sirius and XM became available. As stations lose more and more listeners to other high-tech options, the commercial content of their broadcasts has increased from "irritating" to "appalling". The saddest thing about modern high tech is that the internet has just about killed international shortwave broadcasting.

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