In-Car Listening Is Under Attack!


(By Randy Lane)
Is your show the reason listeners clock in late to work, miss appointments, or sit in parked cars? My wife, JoAnn, regularly sits in her car in our garage to hear the end of her favorite NPR feature.

Radio is the undisputed king of in-car listening.

Do you know that Spotify is aggressively targeting your in-car listeners?

Spotify recently launched a marketing campaign titled “Driveway Moments.” The TV commercial humorously features people in various situations staying in their cars to hear the end of a song. Fred Jacobs got it right in a recent blog when he stated that this is the commercial radio should have produced.

As cars become more connected, it’s urgent that radio defends this important piece of real estate.

Strategies To Defend In-Car Listening:

1. Deepen drive-time personality relationships with listeners. 

Blake Hayes, morning host at Coast 93.1 Portland, ME, received countless email responses after he vulnerably shared his struggles concerning the unexpected death of his young partner and his father’s addiction and subsequent death.

The emails consistently mentioned the fun and the humor of the show, but what compelled them to actually write in was the emotional connection they felt to Blake’s story.

2. Focus your company’s imaging, branding, and marketing on high-performing morning and afternoon shows.

Don’t forget that the number of personality-driven afternoon shows is growing. The afternoon drive total audience is now equal to or greater than mornings in most markets.

3. Do you image and market your drive-time listening as vigorously as Adult Contemporary stations image and market for at-work listening?

Take inventory of how many promos your station devotes to personality-driven shows versus contest promos or commercial-free Mondays. Engaging personalities attract long-term loyalty. You will get more bang for your buck by promoting drive-time personalities throughout the day.

4. Strengthen your drive-time shows in the community. 

Your listeners want to see you. Take advantage of social media and local TV to champion community needs like Ace and TJ in Charlotte did for Hurricane Dorian victims.

5. Personality shows must be on-demand.

WMMR’s Preston and Steve have their full show on-demand, a fun-size podcast that features the best segments of each show, and they highlight bite-sized clips.

6. Your stream is not a stepchild. 

People at work listen primarily online. As cars get more connected, streaming is now a priority. Common complaints include processing quality is low, there are long periods of dead air, or commercials just pop in and interrupt the content. If your stream does not sound like your show, you are losing listeners.

Randy Lane launched his media talent coaching and personal brand development company in 1996. He can be contacted by phone at 805-497-7177 or email at [email protected].


  1. Note to Jackson:
    The worthwhile and to my mind, necessary strategy as it concerns those tawdry commercials we have all come to, not only tolerate, but accept as “normal” is to make tremendous efforts to make those commercials far more entertaining, interesting and yes, more effective.
    These are achievable concepts.
    Ignoring this factor, again to my mind, is just this side of criminality on the part of owners and managers.
    It certainly is a dereliction of duty. And it most assuredly would be, added to many others, more lost opportunities.
    We, as an industry, really do need to: Snap Out Of It!

  2. I think there is a bigger more fundamental issue that we have to deal with. Advertising as we know it is becoming less and less effective and valuable. Listeners simply have too many other non-commercial options. It’s interesting that you note your wife’s driveway moments listening to NPR – a non-commercial network. How do we support our radio stations with advertising when it gets easier and easier to avoid the advertising that supports us all?

  3. All good points from Randy, and all well-taken.
    The beasts lurking in the dark recesses of the stations are about the quality and skills of whatever current talent is already on board and whatever new hires are being shipped in.
    If they are unable to retain audience attention in entertaining and/or effective manners, the other adjustments will be of a lot less value.


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