Are Cars Keeping the Radio from Technological Extinction?

While most entertainment media tends to fly out of date at the speed of technological advancement (breakneck in our internet era), somehow the average person has maintained a long-standing relationship with radio, a media platform that has remained relevant for an astounding 80 years. What makes it possible for radio to live on in a digital age?

pandMany people attribute radio’s longevity to the automobile. Drivers like to listen to the news and pre-mixed music while they drive, and though satellite and digital radio do threaten to kill land-based FM and AM (and autonomous vehicles threaten the existence of all forms of radio), if the past is any indicator, radio will live on far into the future.

Pew Research Center recently released a report that found that the number of Americans listening to online radio (from Pandora to Google Play Music) has doubled since 2010. Smartphones make tuning in that much easier, and many cars now have infotainment systems that also enable online radio listeners to easily access their favorite stations. In fact, that same study found that 35% of American adult smartphone owners listen to online radio in the car, which is up from 21% in 2013 and up even more substantially from 6% in 2010.

While radio forms have proliferated in the past decade, good old-fashioned FM remains relevant in even the youngest millennials’ lives; Pew reported that its study in 2014 found that 91% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to AM/FM radio in the week before they were surveyed.

That said, many are feel that it’s time to phase out of FM; UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizy believes that the UK will soon grow tired of FM and hopes to double the amount of local digital transmitters in the country within the next two years. The Minister has also voiced intentions to double the amount of digital radio-equipped vehicles by 2017.

While that kind of progress would likely spell the end of FM, it’s much less likely that internet radio will die out anytime soon. The expansion and development of the cloud allows it to connect the internet with many major appliances in our lives, and people will likely find internet radio as accessible as FM when they’re driving.

car stereoAccording to Sirius XM, one of the global leaders in satellite radio services, has revealed that currently 75% of the new cars in America come factory-installed with Sirius XM. Sirius hopes to double the amount of cars equipped with its satellite radio propensity by 2025, which would bring the company to about 185 million vehicles.

“I joined the company in 2004 when it had 600,000 subscribers,” stated Patrick Reilly, now Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Sirius XM. “Now we have more than 30 million, despite the growth of streaming competitors and the advent of the connected car.”

“I was recently talking to a few automotive senior managers that are now seriously looking into [for example] providing a Spotify flat rate with purchase of a new car,” said Chris Fangmann, Director and CTO of Global Manufacturing Industry at IT firm CSC. Fandmann says Spotify is another popular iteration of digitized radio services.


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