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Bluetooth Beats FM in Public Radio TechSurvey

The technology is now a "must have" in new cars, says Fred Jacobs

If you were buying a new car but had to choose between having FM radio or Bluetooth in the vehicle, which would you take?

A new data point from Jacobs Media shows how important Bluetooth has become in how we consume audio.

Jacobs conducted its annual TechSurvey of media preferences among public radio users. One of the questions asked car buyers to list “very important features” in a vehicle, and for the first time in the Jacobs survey, Bluetooth outranked FM radio as top of the list of audio options:


Graphic from Jacobs Media Public Radio TechSurvey showing Bluetooth as the number one response from car buyers to a question asking them to list very important features

Fortunately, car buyers generally don’t have to choose between those options (nor did the respondents have to choose only one). And it makes sense that people would value a technology that provides access to multiple external sources.

But this particular Jacobs Media survey focuses on core users of public radio, with an average age of about 64 years old. It is an audience that presumably would be more inclined than others to rank radio highly; yet even among this group, Bluetooth was mentioned more than any other audio option (including AM radio at 21% and HD Radio at 17%).

The conclusion, said President Fred Jacobs, is that Bluetooth is now a “must have” feature in new cars.

However, he said, broadcast radio continues its dominance as far as the percentage of time respondents spend with it in the car on an average weekday, at 59%. SiriusXM comes in second at 15%. (Read about other results of the survey.)

Jacobs is in New Orleans presenting his company’s study, “The State of Public Radio in Post-Pandemic America,” to the Public Radio Content Conference. It is a web survey reflecting opinions of about 27,200 consumers, identified mostly from the databases of 69 U.S. public radio stations.