Does The Dashboard Display Really Matter?


According to a presentation Fred Jacobs made at the Radio Show last week it sure does because more listening takes place in the automobile than in any other location. Jacobs and the NAB released details of a new study that analyzed how radio stations look on the Dash.

The dashboard has evolved into an in-car computer looking entertainment system and radio needs to keep up with the new and exciting technology trying to edge in on the space the industry has dominated for so long. Radio can no longer simply be a band a button.

Consumers expect to see a radio stations call letters, the name of the artist, album art and more all displayed on the digital dash. And Jacobs reports that radio is very inconsistent in how they display their stations on the Dash. “Good examples were few and far between. Radio needs to come together with a standard approach.”

An example of this detailed report concludes that there’s a lack of consistency during commercial breaks. “There is no industry standard for showcasing advertisers. Some stations continue to scroll or chunk information, such as call letters or slogans, on RDS systems during commercials. In HD Radio receivers with Artist Experience, some receivers display a generic format slide in the absence of any broadcasters-supplied images, while others present a station logo, missing a valuable selling advertising opportunity.”

Jacobs provided a list of five recommendations that could help the industry improve its look on the Dash. They include conducting a review of cars using RDS and HD Radio and having both engineers and PD’s collaborate on the look. Jacobs also says the Dash is a great way to optimize your brand by displaying personalities and programs, rather than only highlighting what the music business is putting out. He would also like to see better promotion of spoken word stations with the display of the format, artwork about the show and names of hosts and guests.

We spoke to Jacobs after his presentation to get a better idea about how radio is doing with the Digital Dash

Radio Ink: Give your audit of radio’s dash presentation (A+ to F) and why?
Fred Jacobs: I’d give radio an “incomplete.” There were some variations by market (generally, the bigger the market, the better the display). But the results were all over the road. Some stations look good-to-great, but there’s an awful lot of inconsistency as you scan from 88 to 108.   The hope is that all operators will improve their dashboard displays in an effort to better the overall listener experience.

Radio Ink: Is radio trending better or worse in their presentations on the Dash.
Fred Jacobs: We don’t know because this is the first time that anyone (that we know of) has done an audit like this. Kudos to the NAB and its board for greenlighting this because now we have a benchmark. For as long as I’ve been in radio, I had never done anything like this before either. And that’s the point – we’re encouraging companies to perform their own audits in their markets. We think they’ll learn a lot.   Radio has more control over its dashboard displays than most people think.

Radio Ink: What would you like to see done better right away on this for radio to be more competitive?
Fred Jacobs: We outlined several steps radio can take, starting with a shared audit with programming and engineering, cleaning up the metadata, and the Artist Experience artwork.  We learned that music stations tend to look better than spoken word stations, so that’s another key area where improvements can be easily made. And HD multi-channel stations can also benefit from better identification and artwork.   None of this is brain surgery, and the NAB’s “Digital Dashboard Best Practices Report” approaches improvement from both a programming/branding and engineering point of view.

Radio Ink: Your biggest takeaway from this study is…
Fred Jacobs: The future of automotive and radio in cars is murky. All the experts tell us the next five years will be fast-paced and game-changing. But the radio industry – right here and right now – can vastly improve how its displays look in both RDS and HD Radio cars. This can have positive ramifications for radio among car manufacturers, local dealerships, advertisers, and of course, listeners. Those are four very important constituencies.

Reach out to Fred Jacobs by e-mail at [email protected]
A handout of the presentation was made available immediately after the session at the Radio Show.


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