Business News Media

Radio still dominates in-car listening, for now at least

By | Published on Tuesday 16 February 2016


While in-car listening surely plays its part in keeping CD sales higher than you might otherwise have expected in 2016, it’s even more important when it comes to radio sustaining its audience. Radio seemingly remains a popular listening option for those on the move, with new research published by Radioplayer last week reckoning that 75% of all in-car listening involves tuning into a conventional radio station.

Of course, Radioplayer has a vested interest here, but the organisation was keen to stress that its stats were based on a survey of 1500 drivers in three countries – UK, France and Germany – who had bought a top brand car in the last three years, meaning plenty of its sample group would have access to new-fangled in-car entertainment systems.

The arrival of the internet in the car presents a big opportunity for online audio services, of course, and most streaming platforms have deals in place with one or another car manufacturer to get their system onto the interactive digital dashboard of the future. And if and when such net-connected in-car entertainment systems become mainstream, that’s when streaming services could become a big head-on competitor for traditional radio.

However, says the Radioplayer research, for now at least drivers like traditional radio. 69% of those surveyed said that if they could only have one entertainment source in their car it would be radio (73% in the UK), while 84% said that they listen to radio programmes on most journeys, and 82% added that they’d never buy a car which didn’t have a radio inbuilt.

If you think this is all old people talking, researchers say there wasn’t a huge disparity across different age groups, with 78% of respondents in their 20s also saying they’d never buy a car with no radio installed. Though, you could probably assume those in their 20s are less likely to have a high-end car with a super-duper interactive entertainment system installed, and if and when they get such a thing, and if and when the YouTube music app pops up on said system, their loyalty to conventional radio channels might decrease.

Radio retains its dominance in-car for now though, meaning traditional broadcasters still have an edge to exploit as interactive services start to push themselves to net-connected drivers. Though, it should be added, the fact that radio is free (which fully interactive streaming may not be) is also an attraction. And 90% of respondents said radio should remain free and ad (or otherwise) funded.

But still, some positive stats for radio people, which Radioplayer intends to use to ensure car-makers don’t get all carried away with the Spotify/YouTube/Pandora future and forget about good old fashioned Radio 2 and Heart FM when honing their entertainment systems.

“Seatbelt, ignition, radio”, said Radioplayer MD Michael Hill last week, possibly under the impression he was recording a new ident for Capital Radio. “That habit’s clearly as ingrained today as it was 20 years ago. Now we need to act in partnership across the European radio industry, share this research with the car companies, and work together to build the dashboards of the future”.