Monday, April 08, 2013

My Radio Streaming State of Mind!

I haven’t used an alarm clock or a clock radio in many years but I still couldn’t come to dispose of one the other day.  I was thinking I might still need it if I wake up during the night and because it is an atomic variety, it is a cool clock.  But at my age, it isn’t bright enough to read.

According to a new study by Arbitron and Edison Research, a third of Americans over the age of 12 now use their cell phone to wake up compared to 12% who use a clock radio and 22% who still use a dedicated alarm clock.

Surprisingly,  a full third use some other means, probably meaning they rely on someone else to wake them up. I doubt they are all disabling “helicopter” parents.

In fact, I hardly listen to over-the-air radio anymore except for the local NPR station in snippets when I’m shaving or making coffee in the morning or occasionally in the car.  I find it more efficient to read NPR news shows via a smartphone app.  Reading is much faster and more flexible than listening.  It is also easier that way to forward something of interest.

I may not renew my subscription to satellite radio which has been useful on several cross-country road trips.  Being among the 28% who now have a Bluetooth in-car connection, I discovered a few years ago that it is much easier to stream the news via my smartphone through my car radio and much more enjoyable to listen to music that way via Pandora.

Pandora is measured as part of what is called online radio. In use by more than 80 million Americans since its launch in 2005, Pandora has an incredible 69% awareness level according to this new study.

If you are among the 3 in 10 Americans who are unaware, Pandora permits you to set up personal radio formats using a particular artist or song and then fine tune it by pressing a thumbs down to eliminate a song or a thumbs up to encourage more of that same type in the future.

More than 27% have listened to Pandora in last month and a fifth listened to it within the last week.  More than 45% are already aware of iHeart, a Pandora wanna-be but  driven more as a means to access over-the-air radio stations through streaming (app downoads of Pandora lead by more than 3 to 1.)

iHeart lumps Durham, where I live, in with what it calls the Raleigh, NC market, so if I’m ever inclined to use it to reach an old-fashioned radio station, I am probably just as inclined to select stations in Austin or other areas with stations that haven’t been homogenized (smile.)

Regardless, I find it easier when listening to old-fashioned stations or specific albums or artists or tracks at home or in the car to stream using Rhapsody as I have since 2004 which peaked my interest the following year in Sonos, a wirless, multi-room home HiFi system with access to countless online music services.

All of this is a huge shift.  In 2010 when I retired, only 6% of cell phone owners had ever listened to online radio via their car stereo.  That is now up to 21%.  As the scope of over-the-air radio becomes more and more the same, Pandora and Rhapsody are also a great way to explore new music.

For instance, when I became aware of a new country-folk group called The Lumineers while watching a Hulu Plus-streamed clip of the Chickeneers on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last week (shown on YouTube here,) it took only seconds to tap into not only The Lumineers but a lot of other artists in that category that were new to me.

Not bad for someone who is now Medicare-eligible!  Of course, to my grandsons, ages 7 and 9, things tethered by a cord or restricted to over-the-air broadcast are historical artifacts.

By the way, the new study notes that in the month prior to the survey percentage of Americans over 12-years-of-age who watched TV shows by streaming or downloading them did so as follows:

21% on a television screen

19% on a desktop or laptop

8% on a tablet

7% on a cell phone

Studies such as this try to put the best face possible on traditional formats for TV and radio by pointing out that 45% of the population have digital video recorders (DVRs) and more people listen to online radio (including Pandora) than watch videos online through services such as YouTube.

Lost in the findings that 84% in a car and 62% at work still rely mostly on AM/FM radio is that these numbers are rapidly shrinking.  A sign that the “hoofbeats” of streaming are rapidly gaining is that 67% of homes now have a WiFi network compared to just 9% in 2011 and one in four already have five or more devices connected.

More than half of Americans over 12 have a smartphone including 17% my age or older and three-quarters of those between ages 18 and 34. More than half download music, and 44% listen to online radio compared to 57% who play games, 83% who browse the Internet and 90% who use this device to take photographs.  One in three Americans already have a tablet.

If this all sounds strange to you, just blink.  While I doubt they will ever become entirely extinct – after all we still use fax machines – the writing is on the wall for over-the-air radio and TV as well as cable.

Not only is this of great concern for those who make their living or fortunes with these technologies but even given just the capital costs involved it must seem as the saying goes, “like changing a jet engine in midair.” But shift they must.

The only thing in question is which replacement business model will be most successful in the future and how fast will it become obsolete as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your vast knowledge and inestimable curiosity are an incredible asset to Durham.

Joel Reitzer