Cell Phones Are Not Transistor Radios

There's new research I thought you'd like to know about that is in direct conflict with what I have been observing in my work with the next generation.

I'll report. You decide.

Let's breakdown a fairly recent RCW Wireless news account:

"A recent study from TNS Global Telecoms found that 43% of all mobile users listen to some form of music on their phones, and 73% of smartphones double as music players. And while the use of MP3 players on phones is up 78% in the last year, mobile radio uptake has seen a whopping 140% increase".

The high use of mobile devices for listening to music is not surprising, but mobile radio listening is. The reason may be that this study was worldwide in scope including countries where radio has not yet committed consolidated suicide.

"TNS — which polled an astounding 16,000 consumers in 29 countries for the study — also found that 45% of users list AM/FM as one of the top three factors in purchasing a mobile phone".

I'll make you a money bet that if you polled U.S. consumers only, you would find AM/FM's effect on purchasing a mobile phone almost negligible.

Ask anyone.

Who do you know that requires AM/FM access on a mobile device? The next generation will tell you that they have moved on beyond radio. It's simply not important to them.

"Meanwhile, a recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 17% of U.S. mobile users play music on their phones, nearly matching the 19% who use mobile e-mail or surf the wireless Web".

Note the lower use of mobile phones for listening to music. Keep in mind many of these folks listen to MP3s not streaming radio.

"Side-loaded tunes account for much of that activity, it seems. But an increasing number of listeners are tuning in to streaming mobile stations including satellite radio from Sirius and XM as well as terrestrial stations".

This is looking at mobile music through rose-colored glasses.

What's scary is the next great divide forming between proponents of live mobile radio and the next generation.

The next generation -- Gen Y -- has already been born. They are in various stages of growing up. Some are in college and soon to graduate. As a group they represent numbers equal to or greater than the huge baby boom population so without them there is no future.

My personal observations are:

1. Young people increasingly want to time delay their entertainment. They want to stop it, start it, advance it -- control it the way older people use a TiVo for television entertainment. This indicates to me that Gen Y would be a perfect market for podcasting once the music royalty issues are worked out. That's why I often call podcasting the new radio.

2. Radio does not interest the next generation -- at least not the brand that terrestrial operators are offering. They are more likely to enjoy Internet streams from "nobodies" if they are still up and running after the burdensome CRB ruling. The unfortunate overtaxing of Internet streamers at the hands of the CRB has put a crimp in what could be a great growth medium.

3. The next generation wants control of their music. They are, in my opinion, less likely to let content providers dictate the terms of the entertainment. I've mentioned this before and I'll say it again -- mash-ups are growing increasingly popular with this segment. In short, they want to touch, shape, edit, advance and change their listening experience.

None of the above cooperates with where radio and satellite heads are at right now.

Bright people looking for innovative answers must first study the market -- the way Apple's Steve Jobs' does by instinct.

To put it bluntly, the next generation -- the one you need -- doesn't want to save radio.

They want something different, new -- something they have a hand in programming.

This is lesson number one for those taking notes.

The cell phone may be everywhere but consumers don't necessarily want it to do everything.

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