Variety: Legacy Radio “Faces a Grim Future”

(Source: Variety)

Traditional Radio Faces a Grim Future, New Study Says

A new study published today by the head of New York University’s Steinhart Music Business Program casts a sobering outlook on the future of terrestrial radio.

In the 30-page report, Larry Miller argues that traditional radio has failed to engage with Generation Z — people born after 1995 — and that its influence and relevance will continue to be subsumed by digital services unless it upgrades. Key points made in the study include:

*Generation Z, which is projected to account for 40% of all consumers in the U.S. by 2020, shows little interest in traditional media, including radio, having grown up in an on-demand digital environment;

*AM/FM radio is in the midst of a massive drop-off as a music-discovery tool by younger generations, with self-reported listening to AM/FM radio among teens aged 13 and up declining by almost 50 percentage points between 2005 and 2016. Music discovery as a whole is moving away from AM/FM radio and toward YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, especially among younger listeners, with 19% of a 2017 study of surveyed listeners citing it as a source for keeping up-to-date with music — down from 28% the previous year. Among 12-24 year olds who find music discovery important, AM/FM radio (50%) becomes even less influential, trailing YouTube (80%), Spotify (59%), and Pandora (53%).

*By 2020, 75% of new cars are expected to be “connected” to digital services, breaking radio’s monopoly on the car dashboard and relegating AM/FM to just one of a series of audio options behind the wheel. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the typical car in the U.S. was 11.6 years old in 2016, which explains why radio has not yet faced its disruption event. However, drivers are buying new cars at a faster rate than ever, and new vehicles come with more installed options for digital music services.[…]

Continue reading at Variety online…

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11 thoughts on “Variety: Legacy Radio “Faces a Grim Future”

  1. Eddie Walden

    In the area around Salt Lake City in Utah the broadcasters are doing the best they can to drive people away from terrestrial radio. There are so many commercials and they are so awful that I can not stand to listen for more than a short time. Up north where I live in the Cache Valley, they aren’t as greedy. The ads are fewer and more simple and down to earth. “Come on in to Doc Bob’s Dentistry and we’ll fix your teeth.”

  2. TomL

    So one-sided. Music, music, music. Is that all GenY listens to?? Seems like more fake news and not allowing for a place for radio by talking it down (Music Business is the only measure???). I mean, its a “Study” after all. Then how come most of those young people don’t really understand how to understand news feeds, how to read between the lines and see the possible agendas that the media is pushing at us to accept? (Variety is not exactly a magazine that speaks for most people!!!) Radio is an excellent compliment to the internet if you bother to use it properly! But is anyone teaching the young ones this?? No.

    We are too bothered acquiescing to family with mounting monthly subscription fees for devices, services, and more and more choices (maybe up to 1/3 of monthly disposable income)! Except that, when you analyze that over years, less and less of those so called choices are actually owned by anyone that actually speaks for us. No, they speak for themselves, and we need to choose from all of the mediums how to educate ourselves as well as entertain ourselves and our families.

    Radio definitely has a place, from music, sports, news, talk shows, local variety, and then using the internet to research those things that we decide we like, it is a great combination for self-determination and thinking for oneself instead of Big Brother telling us what to believe (or worse, what Social Media Mobs tell us to believe with incomplete sound bites). Or for that matter, a “Study” pushed by a narrow Music Industry view to shape what we are to accept. Music superstars and the industry they promote do not usually speak for me and IMHO, we need to teach our children how to take their self-importance with a HUGE grain of salt……..

  3. Keith Perron

    Radio has had it’s days number for many years now. Now while it will remain for the foreseeable future, it will change and has already changed.

    We need to let go and stop holding on to the “good old days” and move forward. If you take a -look at television. The way television is consumed today is very different. DVDs are on their way out and have been replaced by services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. your also seeing more content being produced and viewers themselves deciding when they want to watch the content.

    Of all distribution platforms. Radio has been one the slowest to adopt to the changes.

    All except one of my cars even has a MV and FM radio. The others all have IP radios that connect to G4 networks. Why would I need FM or MV? If I want news I just go to the BBCWS. If I want music i just go o a music streaming service. If I want traffic I used a phone app, same goes for weather. Even when I cross Taiwan through he Hsuehshan Tunnel, which is 12km long FM and MV cut out, But the IP radio continues to work.

  4. Tom Reitzel

    LoL … Time will tell, eh? I suspect radio will disappear SOON!

    I wonder how well Pandora and cell traffic fared in Houston recently …

    Snicker … 🙂

  5. Kire

    I agree with the purpose of this study, to show radio programmers and owners, as well as listeners what is happening to our aural listening habits. Am/fm at least in my neck of the woods, central california is composed of coorporate rock, talk, religious, oldies, talk, and a good smattering of foriegn language stations.
    Absolutely nothing to interest me, and while my listening habits are more toward the eclectic, i am not the only one. The coorporate conglomorates did it to themselves. There is no reggae, punk, or what the kids would listen to on the radio.
    That is why they use internet, they can hear what they want without the ads, politics, and religious dogma. They dont hardly even consider radio. Why would they?

  6. Mario

    Interesting post, thank you Thomas. While the study paints a dark picture for AM/FM radio it considers only Generation Z, assuming they are the sole influence on legacy radio’s future. Also, AM/FM radio still beats most satellite and digital services as far as price, portability and simplicity; factors which may be important to those not as financially endowed or digitally-literate. Guess I somewhat biased as AM is my main form of radio entertainment hi hi.

  7. Jason

    It’s interesting from the other side of the world to compare that article, with this one on the habits of Australian listeners:

    Down here, it’s extremely common to have no mobile phone reception when driving between cities and towns, and that’s where the “connected car” idea will struggle. You can almost always get at least 1 or 2 AM/FM radio stations in that situation though.

    Plus the laws on mobile phone use see many people putting their phones in the boot/trunk, back seat or glovebox. A provisional driver (ie someone who just got their license, for the first few years) can’t use a phone AT ALL, not even to listen to music or use google maps for navigation. No phones allowed, full stop.

    Even for full licensed drivers, the police make mistakes, and the fines are huge

    The AM/FM radio will be king in the car for many years yet. Most people I know who don’t use the radio in the car use USB sticks filled with music instead. Very few people are using in car bluetooth for anything other than taking calls.

    1. RonF

      Although you’re right about the areas in remote Australia lacking phone/data coverage, CRA’s press releases & ‘state of radio listening’ surveys should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. They’re almost always more interesting for what they choose _not_ to highlight – or, indeed, leave out entirely – and really need a bit of ‘between the lines’ reading to uncover the truth about radio listening in Australia.

      For example they rarely show actual numbers, or even % of potential listeners – things are almost always presented in term of % of actual audience (i.e. people _already_ listening to radio!). If you did a bit further into the actual survey data & compare year-over-year, you start to discover the disturbing trends:

      – Actual audience numbers are dropping at about the same rate as the population (& the survey’s stated potential audience number) grows – so, in reality, radio audiences are shrinking by about 3%~6% per year
      – In the critical 10-17 age group, it’s about double that – that audience is shrinking by 6%-10% per year.
      – Hours spent listening to radio are down; hours spent listening to streaming are up. I don’t have the actual figures to hand, but from memory it was by ~10%~15% in both cases, mostly amongst the 10-39 age group, and they were listening online to alternative services, not traditional radio station’s streams.
      – Lots of other stuff in there if you look carefully and compare results across years…

      The upshot is, despite the situation painted in the CRA’s glossy graphs & press releases, that broadcast radio in Australia – be it by AM, FM, or DAB+ – is shrinking at about the same rate as the rest of the world. And for the same reasons – younger people are choosing alternative sources (e.g. iPods, streaming, etc), and older listeners are ageing out / dying off.

      Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy toying with radios as much as the next SWL DXer & radio restorer, and will miss it if it disappears in my lifetime – but I can’t kid myself that broadcast radio is not heading downhill at a reasonably fast rate…

    2. Thomas Post author

      Very good points.

      In fact, the US is similar to Australia in this regard. We have vast areas of land in the midwest and west that have little to no mobile phone service. Even where I live in North Carolina there’s only one phone service with decent coverage at my house–none of the others have signal here. I think it will be many, many years before car makers totally drop analog FM radio.

      I just purchased a new Subaru Forester and its radio has AM/FM analog and HD reception. It has SiriusXM satellite radio and, of course, connects to one’s smart phone for Internet stations.

      No one where I live would want FM radio dropped as mobile service is very spotty in our mountains.

  8. John Timmers

    I never thought the AM/FM radio in the dash of my car would be extinct one day. Growing up with it (well, AM radio in the beginning) then adding an 8 track and a set of speakers. Then vehicles showed up with cassette players and finally CD slots. Now my vehicle has an outlet for my USB stick (64GB) and I have so much music on it, I am giving up my satellite subscription service. Just don’t need it – how do I know that? I rarely play it.

    So I’m not surprised that AM/FM is being phased out – new generation of vehicles will provide other ways and manners of getting audio in vehicles.

    Although I’m sorry that the internet is getting close to ruining the shortwave experience, I’m also grateful for the many ways it benefits us.


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