Radio: Some Good News and Bad News

First, the good news. New research out of Europe say that drivers still want and use radio.  Of those surveyed, 84% say that they almost always listen to the radio on every single car trip. Fantastic!

Now, the bad news. This comes from the US. Recent consumer research found that 68% of smartphone users access streaming music every day–up to 45 minutes during each session. If they’re doing that, they’ve moved away from listening to radio.

Then there’s this about the decline of radios.

Radio listening has kept its reach during this time of digital disruption. As measured and documented by Nielsen, broadcast radio touches over 90% of all age groups. Young people touch it for less time than older groups, but the reach is nonetheless mighty.

One interesting fact in yesterday’s Infinite Dial 2016 revelation was that radio ownership among consumers has seriously decreased. From 2008, the percentage of Americans who don’t own a radio has grown from 4% to 21%. Narrow it down to the 18-34 group, and the non-ownership of a radio is 32%.


Infinite Dial revealed a corresponding statistic: Only 12% of cars have online listening built into the dashboard. So, despite the relatively low 21% reach of online radio in the car for 2015 and 2016 (see the above chart), the flip side is that a lot of people created a listening option that doesn’t natively exist in their cars. That’s 67-million people listening to in-car streams, based on a total population of 319-million people (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014).

Let’s dig in a bit further. There are 253-million cars on U.S. roads (L.A. Times, June, 2014). If 12% of them have an “In-Dash Information and Entertainment System” (as labeled by Infinite Dial), that means 30-million cars are equipped with an online radio option (according to the 12% in Infinite Dial). So, of the 67-million people who listen to online radio in the car, 37-million fashioned their own “online radio” to do that, presumably by plugging a phone into the dashboard in most cases.

Note: These calculations are a bit warped because the population and automobile statistics are from 2014, and the Infinite Dial survey was conducted in early 2016. But the point remains — it’s easy to turn on a radio that sits in the middle of the dashboard. Especially when it’s the only practical choice. It takes more motivation to “turn on” online radio when it doesn’t exist in the dashboard. Millions of people are doing that.

Read more at RAIN.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38573 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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