Edison Research President Larry Rosin has been saying for quite some time that radio has a hardware problem. “Radio as a physical object is disappearing from homes. It’s nearly impossible to walk into a Best Buy and find a home radio these days.” And, as we know, radio’s future in the automobile is in flux as voice-controlled devices move to the vehicles — as they inevitably will.
New Edison research, presented at CRS this week, revealed that back in 2008, only 6% of 18-34-year-olds said they did not have a radio in their home. In 2016 that number had ballooned to 32%. Today, there are 39 million people who have smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa. And Rosin says one of the advantages of the explosion of these devices is that it reminds people to listen to audio. But, he adds, radio’s place is not guaranteed.
Edison’s 2018 study revealed that nearly one in six people now own some sort of smart speaker, and the expectation is that number is only going to continue to grow. There are many more products on the way, these devices are being heavily advertised, and they are easy to set up, which is a big deal to users. Of the 800 smart speaker owners in the study, 38% say they have more than one of these devices in their homes. So where is radio, and what should the industry do to compete?
One video showed a millennial who said he was actually listening to more radio because of the device. This particular user wanted to hear his “news briefing,” which is a skill your radio station can set up. The local weather is also important to have available as are contests. And that seems to be the key, according to Rosen, if radio is going to be a serious player in this space. He says radio stations cannot simply set up their stream and hope for the best.
Rosin worries about radio’s complacency and he gave a strong example, saying many radio
station apps have not really been successful because stations do not provide extra content or more interactivity for their listeners. But Rosin says there’s still time.
“You have time to get out ahead of this. Only 16% own smart speakers, but that will be going up. 11% of the time spent with devices, people are listening to radio, so you are in the game. Don’t be complacent. Be creative. Create fun and interactive smart speaker content. Smart speakers are bring radio back into the home, but not exactly the way
Rosin also said radio’s ratings system needs to be addressed. “If a PD’s bonus structure creates a disincentive to move listening from over the air to the stream, because of the ratings system, that needs to get fixed.”