Perhaps the greatest negative impact that COVID has had on radio, according to Jacob Media’s TechSurvey 2021, has been on AM/FM listening in the automotive mediascape. The short answer as to why might be more time spent at home, and less in cars. It’s more complicated than that, though. Information provided in the recent survey focuses on that. Some of the information seems to contradict. Fasten your seat belt, this could be a rough ride.
Of the leading 71% who said they spent less time listening to radio, spending less time in the car was the main reason they gave. This documents a well-established trend, AM/FM has been losing ground in the home to smart speakers and streaming media for some time. The last bastion is the car, and now that is under siege.
Advances in automotive entertainment system technology is also having an impact, according to TS 2021. Newer vehicles make it easy to connect smartphones into the system, and younger drivers especially, seem to be doing so. The spread ranges from the Greatest Generation’s 67% to Gen Z and Millennials’ 85%.
Get ready for a sudden lane change. TS 2021 says that the most important feature for those buying or leasing new cars is FM radio, with 74%, followed closely by Bluetooth, with 73%. AM radio ranks 6th with 34% overall, with a callout noting it is 59% for news/talk listeners, and 44% for sports radio fans. An interesting note is that the CD player now follows AM radio in the 7th position with a distant 29%.
All of that being said, when asked what percentage of time in the car they spent with each entertainment source, AM/FM is the clear winner with 58%. SiriusXM is a distant second with 18% of respondents. The data suggests that while people are spending less time in the car than they used to, they still prefer radio when they are behind the wheel.
When the survey factors in those who own “connected cars,” AM/FM still leads, but the number has slipped to less than half, with 49%. SiriusXM is still number two, with 24%.
It’s hard to get an exact fix on radio usage in the car, there are so many factors and different ways of looking at the data that is presented. Perhaps the 10,000-foot view is that all analog media is slowly losing ground to digital. One constant that this data seems to demonstrate is that localism still matters, and while AM/FM may be slipping in some categories, there seems to be a commensurate gain in listening to the hometown stream.