Streaming Your Signal To The Car. Still A Challenge.

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Written by Kerry Brewer of Securenet Systems, featured on RadioInk.

Look around and you’ll see smartphones galore, but people aren’t just using them to surf the internet, check email, or update their Facebook status. Although in previous articles I have written about the growth of in-car streaming, there are still the proverbial pros and cons. In KnowDigital’s recent study, “Challenges and Opportunities for In-Car Streaming Radio,” they found that two-thirds of respondents listened to streaming radio in their cars, via the internet, and about 22% of Americans listen to some sort of streaming radio (Arbitron, Infinite Dial 2011).

Whether they are plugging their smartphone into their car’s auxiliary jack or streaming via Bluetooth, it still doesn’t have the convenience factor that AM/FM brings to the table. Major car companies like Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen have been releasing cars equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, which allow for a hands-free, and cord-free, streaming experience. But how hands-free is it? Although studies show that there is an increase in usage, there are still some challenges to in-car streaming before it can be fully adopted by the masses. Many people have yet to step up to the plate, and this is one market that will take a while to build out.

Some respondents of KnowDigital’s report stated that it’s a hassle for short trips and would prefer to listen to over-the-air radio instead of wasting time configuring their smartphones and finding their favorite online station. Some also reported it is a safety hazard and felt that fumbling around with their smartphone while driving isn’t safe – this is true! Just like the latest highway evil; texting. Even with voice control, it still can be a major safety hazard.

Whatever the case may be, most users of in-car streaming radio continue to use over-the-air radio extensively. About 90% of radio streamers still use terrestrial radio on a daily basis. This is certainly good news for the AM/FMs, as I have been saying for some time, the internet didn’t kill the radio star, it only created a shift in gravity. Maybe you like those morning chuckles from your favorite DJ to start your day, or you like to hear the latest news, evidence shows that over-the-air is not being drowned out by in-car streaming anytime soon. However, with the facts laid out, terrestrial broadcasters are going to have to work extra hard at building their brands now if they don’t want to be crowded out by the future of internet radio.

But all in all, terrestrial and internet stations need to be taking advantage of all the mediums of getting their broadcast out. The desktop player, the WiFi internet radio devices, the mobile apps and the bundled TVs; they are all part of the new era of radio listening.

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