Like the eager guy in the Meatloaf classic tune Paradise By the Dashboard Light, the upcoming DASH connected car conference [link] promises to be “A survival guide for radio broadcasters.” While such hyperbole may sell tickets to the conference, the facts about adaption and use of new technologies is a mixed bag.
In-vehicle listening has been key to radio’s success ever since the 1930s. Today about half of radio listening is in vehicles. Over the years radio listening has remained strong despite challenges by 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and auxiliary jacks.
Rather than replacing radio, new platforms and devices are additional choices for new vehicle buyers. Many new vehicles offer connected car features as standard equipment. But, as HD Radio promoters have learned from experience, having a particular device available doesn’t mean people will use it.
It is the consumer’s choice and many are choosing old-fashioned FM and AM:
• In its Sept. 30 RAIN presentation Dashboard Dynamics, Strategy Analytics showed that 72% of potential vehicle buyers insist on AM/FM, followed by a CD player (50%), portable music player access (50%), apps (37%), satellite radio (29%), Internet radio (27%) and HD Radio (20%).
• According to an April 2015 Ipsos study 84% of Americans choose traditional radio for audio entertainment over new technology options, with 62% listening to radio daily in their cars and 67% saying they tune in as soon as they put on audio in the car. Likewise, among those that are currently streaming digital audio services, 80% say they are not willing to pay for audio entertainment.
• In an August 2015 report we covered last summer [link], JD Power’s 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report, found that at least 20% of new vehicle buyers never used 16 of the 33 technology features 90 days after acquiring the car. For Gen Y buyers, the number of never used features is 23 of 33 particularly technologies related to entertainment. 32% of the respondents have ignored apps embedded in the infotainment system such as Pandora.
• Many connected car entertainment systems are beginning to resemble a combination laptop and airline pilot’s console. This causes many consumers to wonder: Is this too much of a good thing? For instance, the user’s guide for media in new Honda Accords runs 27 pages.
HAVE IT YOUR WAY: LEAN FORWARD OR LEAN BACK
Entertainment choices seem to be driven, in part, by what kind of experience the consumer expects: Active control or passive listening.
Lean Forward indicates types of media where users lean forward to interact and control the flow of information in an active manner.
Lean Back indicates types of media where users can lean back and receive entertainment and information somebody else produces. Of course these are not precise definitions but an indication of the user’s mindset at a particular moment.
An additional important dimension is present for in-vehicle media choices: Safety. In most states texting and driving is not allowed. So is surfing the web okay? How safe is it to read and reply to email while driving?
The JD Power research indicates the technologies most new vehicle buyers most often want are ones that enhance the driving experience and increase safety. The reasons respondents gave for choosing an in-vehicle technology are convenience, habit and seeing a need.
KEY TO THE FUTURE: STANDARD FEATURES OR OPTIONAL EXTRAS?
The most important factor is which technologies continue be standard features. If a device is no longer included in the purchase price will the consumer choose to pay for it?
The JD Power study concludes that manufacturers are loosing millions of dollars when they provide technologies that most consumers don’t use and don’t want. Plus, vehicle insurance providers are concerned that driver distraction can lead to accidents and higher rates.
Perhaps the best “survival guide for radio broadcasters” is to focus on the things that radio has control over: Content, personalities, curation and local service.