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Broadcast Resources

TUNING IN

A blog dedicated to the world of broadcast and public relations

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Technology Versus Traditional Radio Listenership

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In one corner of the ring, there’s roadcasting, podcasting, webcasting, MP3 players, and satellite services, and in the other corner there’s just a box. An audio receiver with a couple of dials that you can use to tune in music, news, and lots of chatter. It’s called a radio, and as the two duke it out to attract listeners, the heavyweight champ continues to be: TRADITIONAL RADIO.

To track the latest trends in radio, Arbitron, the company which provides ratings for radio companies, completes a study every year called ‘Radio Today.’ In the latest report, Arbitron found that in the last seven years, traditional radio’s reach to those 12-years-old and older continues to hold at about 94%. Despite all the latest gadgets, gizmos, and alternative ways of getting information, traditional radio’s popularity is second only to television.

News-talk formatted stations get the biggest share of the audience. Sixteen percent of Americans say they regularly listen to the news on the radio. And it’s interesting to note, a third of those listening are in their cars, a third are in their homes, and the rest are listening in a variety of places, such as while exercising on the bike path or working on the job site.

But how much longer will traditional radio hold its listeners? This question weighs heavily on the minds of local radio stations. Many are gearing up to make sure listeners stay tuned-in.

The biggest threat to traditional radio right now is Internet radio. Listeners are being lured away by companies like NetRadio.com, an Internet radio provider, offering 120 channels of music. It claims to have 1.5 million listeners and is steadily penetrating office walls and college dormitories.

In response, local radio stations are creating their own Internet presence with audio streaming broadcasts, trying to attract Internet radio listeners with everything from free e-mail, concert and artist information, to DJ profiles, and online sales of CDs and other merchandise. This is where traditional radio is putting its greatest resources: marketing, promoting and encouraging advertisers to run more ads on Internet broadcasts. Arbitron/Edison research shows Internet radio listeners are 43% more likely to make purchases from a web site than those who are not Internet radio listeners.

In the future, satellite radio may also be a formidable opponent to traditional radio. For the moment it has less than four million subscribers, but cnet.com reports that in five years, more than 20.1 million households will be hooked to satellite radio creating a challenge for traditional radio to hold on to its listeners.

New media is keeping the radio industry on its toes. The good news is for the majority of listeners, whether the radio signal is captured by the car radio, satellite radio, portable radio or PC, an audio receiver is simply an audio receiver and there’s one nearly everywhere. Society has talked about radio’s demise since it was born. First it was TV, then VCRs and 8-track tapes. Radio has survived through every technological advancement, you can think of. But history has proven that radio is here to stay.

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