In-car Internet radio seems to be on the verge of becoming a
mass-market medium. According to the Wall Street Journal, “A recent survey by
Deloitte LLP found 59 percent of car buyers aged 19 to 31 viewed in-car
connectivity as the most important aspect of a car’s interior, and 72 percent
wanted to use smartphone apps in their cars.”
such as Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are equipping
their vehicles to provide this kind of connectivity. Add the fact that today’s
smartphones link to the Wireless Web, and the in-car connection path for
Internet radio is now in place.
‘Dark alternative’ Nightbreed Radio plays Goth,
Deathrock, Witchhouse and Horropunk music.
For Internet-only radio
stations, the opportunity now exists to go mainstream. The question is, do they
have what it takes to capitalize?
In today’s overcrowded
media marketplace, the car is one of the few places where radio enjoys a solid
footprint. The reason is simple: Cars are an audio-only environment. Watching
TV or browsing websites not only is not recommended for drivers, it is illegal.
Historically, the car has
been the domain of broadcast radio. Although subscription satellite radio
services have gained some traction, FM and AM radio still dominates.
But the advent of in-car
Internet connectivity is changing this — and Internet-only broadcasters are
hoping to profit from this change.
“HKGFM is very excited
that we may soon be nearing a stage where Internet radio is as easily
accessible for listeners on the move as traditional radio has been,” says Shaun
He is a spokesperson for
Hong Kong’s HKGFM.net, an Internet-only multi-channel music service that claims
to reach 2.5 million listeners every month. In the meantime, “HKGFM is
currently available through Nokia Ovi Player, as well as on the iPhone through
our own custom app. HKGFM is also currently exploring opportunities which will
allow us to reach our listeners on as great a range of devices as possible.”
Los Angeles’ New Normal
Music is another
Internet-only station that is eager to get into cars. The reason: “Radio,
whether it be distributed through terrestrial or satellite means, is consumed
in the car more than anywhere else in terms of one-on-one active listening,” said
station co-owner Art Webb. “Not being available in cars, for us, has been the
biggest detractor in being widely accepted by the general public as something
being in cars is not enough to help Internet-only stations, Webb said. What
will really make the difference is listeners being able to tune to New Normal
Music as easily as they now tune to their favorite FM station.
has been so easily used for so long that even the slightest amount of effort
required to tune in is a turnoff,” he says. “Once we’re as easy to access as
the rest, the playing field will be levelled.”
READY TO CAPITALIZE?
getting into the car isn’t enough for Internet-only radio. To tap into this
vast sea of listeners, stations will have to break through the clutter of
thousands of other radio stations on the Web and off-air.
some instances, an Internet-only station may be able to capitalize on the
uniqueness of its format, and the fact that nothing like it is available on
AM/MW, FM or digital radio (in Europe).
New Normal Music is among theInternet-only stations eager
to get into cars.
certainly the hope of Afterhours.FM (AH.FM),
which plays “trance and progressive mixes produced exclusively for AH.FM by the
hottest DJs from around the world,” says owner Dan K. Designed both as an
online music source and a social media community, “Afterhours.FM’s mission is
to provide our valued listeners from all over the world with The Best in
Electronic Dance Music at high-quality 192 kbps (audio) all for free, a service
that makes us unique in this industry.”
might debate whether AH.FM is the only free service of its kind online; www.sensegenerate.fm is listed online as playing
the same format at the same bit rate and is also free, but was offline when we
checked. However, U.K.-based “dark alternative” Nightbreed Radio is uncommon, given its
playlist of Goth, Deathrock, Witchhouse and Horropunk music.
mainly use social media to publicise the station; our Twitter and Facebook
page,” says Nightbreed DJ Cruel Britannia. Yet “Despite the worldwide communication
capabilities of the Internet, there is always going to be
someone who’s never heard of you,” she said, “so the challenge is reaching
those people either through the physical promotion of flyering at gigs, or word
Britannia’s comments apply to Internet-only radio’s overall marketing dilemma.
If listeners do not know your station exists, they won’t tune in; whether on
their PC, smartphone and in the car.
although New Normal Music’s Art Webb says, “Internet radio in vehicles is the
last puzzle piece we need” for the medium to take off, he’s not correct. Once
Internet-only radio is available in the car, stations that want to be noticed
will have to promote themselves aggressively to cut through the clutter. Just
being in the car won’t be enough: Listeners will need to know that you are
there, and good reasons why they should tune to you.