Study: Radio Still Dominates In-Car Audio
September 27, 2010

Vision Critical has released a study of drivers in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, examining their in-car audio habits. While terrestrial radio still dominates listening in the car, digital music options continue to gain in popularity. In the U.S., 85 percent of those surveyed listened to the radio in the previous week, along with 78 percent in Great Britain and 90 percent in Canada.

CD and cassette players were the second most popular option, with 49 percent of those surveyed in the U.S. listening in their car in the previous week, along with 62 percent in Great Britain and 49 percent in Canada as well. Smartphones, iPods and other MP3 players were all together in one category, as 23 percent in the U.S. listened in the previous week, along with 26 percent in Great Britain and 25 percent in Canada.

Sirius XM Satellite Radio was listened to by 16 percent in the States and 15 percent in Canada (it is unavailable in Britain, of course). The last category of "streamed audio programs or podcasts on their smartphones through their vehicle's stereo system" was listened to by nine percent of U.S. respondents, seven percent in Great Britain and just two percent in Canada.

When asked to gauge their interest in in-car audio systems featuring online music and streaming radio services, 20 percent of U.S. respondents were "very interested," while 38 percent were "somewhat interested." Vision Critical notes that:

- Online music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify appear to be driving interest in online in-car audio. Interest in online in-car audio is highest in the U.S. (where people have access to Pandora) and Britain (where Spotify is available).

- Younger, male-skewing radio formats are likely to feel the first blast of any impact. Men and younger respondents show the greatest interest in hooking up in-car audio alternatives.

- We should be careful to assume that increased use of in-car audio alternatives will displace listening to terrestrial or satellite radio. Even considering the prospect of online audio services in the car, these new alternatives may simply replace the use of other forms of music such as CDs, much like CDs replaced cassettes and 8-tracks.

- Online in-car access provides opportunities for radio stations that embrace interactive and mobile platforms. Given the options that are becoming available, listeners will be expecting more from their radio station than a linear broadcast.

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