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Rosin: Should Radio Still Provide Traffic In-Car?

AM/FM still dominant in-car, but new technologies quickly encroaching in the dash

Radio, which has long been associated with providing consumers traffic information in the car, is being challenged by emerging technologies. Should the industry care?

That’s a question posed by Edison Research President Larry Rosin today at the Arbitron Client Conference taking place in Baltimore this week.

“When I talk with stations and the topic of should we keep traffic information on the air comes up, the general manager says, ‘We make money on it.’” Almost never does the question of whether the consumer wants to hear traffic information on the radio discussed, Rosin added.

While station managers usually think in terms of traffic programming, they need to consider the hardware that delivers the content in the car, Rosin said. The discussion arose during Rosin’s presentation of new information from the combined Arbitron, Edison and Scarborough Research study called “The Road Ahead: Media and Entertainment in the Car.”

The study, conducted with more than 1,500 phone interviews this summer, found consumers are spending more time in the car commuting than they did in 2003, and while radio still dominates in-car entertainment, other technology is encroaching. Some 96% of respondents said in 2003 they listened to radio in the car. This summer, 84% said they did so, with cell phone use at 56% and GPS at 36%.

About 6% said they listen to the Pandora Internet music service using their cellphones connected to the car and 2% said they listened to HD Radio in the car.

Demographically, 91% of respondents age 45-54 said they listen to radio in the car, followed by 89% age 35-54 and 86% age 55-64. The latter is a demo that advertisers, and therefore stations, don’t really target. Rosin suggested more research should be done with this age group.

Asked what one device P1s, or a station’s core listeners, would want in the car, 51% chose radio in 2011; that compares to 71% when the study was last done in 2003.

— Leslie Stimson