What can AM broadcasters in the United States do in the face of news that major carmakers appear to be willing to drop over-the-air AM reception from their cars?
Consultant Fred Jacobs has some ideas today. He wrote partly in response to the news that Ford apparently will phase out AM reception from most of its new vehicles, not just from electric ones.
(As we’ve also reported, Volvo also appears to have made that decision. Read our sampling of what the individual carmakers told Sen. Ed. Markey.)
Jacobs knows these are depressing developments. In a blog post, he writes that the NAB and Sen. Markey “are on it” and understand “the gravity of the moment.”
But he advises AM broadcasters to develop “a strong, simple app for your station or make sure your current one is updated and providing a seamless streaming experience on smartphones and tablets as well as on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.”
He reminds AM stations that their listeners tend to be older and perhaps less tech-savvy than others. “If your AM station is on an aggregated app containing hundreds and hundreds of other choices, consider a dedicated app so consumers can easily find your station and its streaming audio without having to jump through too many hoops.”
Also, he advises AM owners to look for an FM signal that they might move to. “Even the best AM stations will be challenged in the coming years by more of this abandonment. Getting into a safe space on the FM band just makes good sense.”
Jacobs said poor AM programming choices over many years “are coming home to roost.”
Another important data point: Jacobs says his company’s annual Techsurvey finds that an all-time low of new-car purchasers now rate AM radio as essential in the dashboard — and that’s among a survey population that consists mostly of core radio listeners.
He adds, “FM radio is in a much stronger position, but it, too, is off from its highs … [F]or the last two years, Bluetooth now ranks higher than FM. … So when it comes to dashboard equipment, we’re not seeing a ringing endorsement for AM radio, while FM has weakened over time.”