If there’s one thing that keeps broadcasters up at night, it’s the future of radio in the car. Automobiles and radio have gone together like peanut butter and chocolate since the 1930s. But with the rise of smartphones, sophisticated in-car infotainment systems and music streaming options, what are the prospects for radio in the car? NiemanLab takes a look:
Last year, for the first time ever, my husband and I bought a car. At the dealership, one of the first things that the sales guy wanted to show us was how to hook up our phones to the car’s Bluetooth entertainment system. When we said we’d be able to figure it out, he explained that enabling the technology for us was a dealership requirement. Apparently, Boch Toyota Norwood is assuming that a lot of people aren’t going to just turn on the radio in their new cars for their first drive home.
The audio listening habits that we’d acquired during years of public transportation-and-walking commutes came into our new car with us. We listen to the radio if our phones are low on batteries or if we’ve forgotten to download podcasts. Our two-year-old hates the radio and only wants to listen to music we’ve saved offline to our phones from Spotify. In dire tantrum situations, we’ll stream music, data plan be damned. Our car is the basic model — it doesn’t have its own Internet connection or anything like that. But its in-dash entertainment is good enough to let us skip the radio completely if we feel like it, and we usually do.
We’re used to hearing that young people are no longer reading newspapers or subscribing to cable. Logic would suggest that a similar transition is inevitable for radio. But radio is also in a unique, lucky spot because it’s usually free, it’s ubiquitous in cars, and it can be listened to as a form of background entertainment. So will it manage to escape newspapers’ fate?