Radio's New Competitors

According to a new survey, four out of five people say they never leave home without their cell phones.

Think for a minute.

Do you know many people who go out without their cell or smart phones?

The advantage of observing human behavior makes research most meaningful.

In fact, over 23% of the respondents including 504 in the U.S. say they are likely to own two cell phones.

The survey is fascinating and I thought you’d like to see it or forward it to someone who would – click here.

Around a third of US respondents agreed they did not know how to use most of the features on their phones, according to the report, but putting aside the almost ubiquitous calling and SMS functions, the features most used by U.S consumers on a regular basis are:

* Camera (68%)
* The alarm clock (56%)
* Games (31%)
* Email (26%)
* Browsing the Internet (26%)
* Social Networking (15%)

Look at some of the findings:

• One third of all respondents globally had flirted with their partners by text, including 36% of Americans and 16% of Americans have flirted with someone other than their partners.

• 9% of Americans have set up a first date via text (20% for the entire global sample).

• 4% have broken up with someone via text.

Nowhere in this study do you see traditional media or their new age offspring.

The study was conducted by Synovate and their global head of media, Steve Garton reminds us that mobile devices are everywhere and that they are an opportunity for marketers as a media platform even though people “tend to classify the mobile phone differently to mainstream media like television, radio, print, outdoor and even the Internet."

One of my mobile industry readers – also a radio vet – puts it like this:

“(The) broadcast might be the next Kodak film, Xerox, Polaroid, beeper, VCR business to just fade away. Really smartphones with 4G connectivity are changing the world. Broadcast radio might be at the end. Some tech friends think the wave after 4G … WiMax/Ultra Wide Band radio technologies … will bring video smartphones. In 3-5 years even TV broadcasting will be replaced by these fast, mobile, infinitely smarter digital networks”.

Advertisers are waiting for the right time to build their own direct connections with audiences.

It will happen and some of the advertisers now working secretly on this would blow your mind – many are traditional big spending radio advertisers.

There could be as many as 2 billion smart phones in the hands of consumers within just a few years – 4G networks are starting to show up now with more capability and speed built into them.

Meanwhile new radio competitors are beginning to show up. Among them:

Auto Hard Drives

My students used to love the Ford Focus. I couldn’t understand why until they told me that it has a built-in hard drive that they could use to dump music into. My God, their own "Amp" radio station!

I recently bought a new car that did not come with satellite radio (and an aftermarket installation would ruin the appearance) but it did come equipped with a 30 gig hard drive that allows me to download my iTunes library into the car. As a program director, I like my iTunes stations best. And they’re all on iTunes. No commercials. Greater variety. A better mix of music…you know.

Auto WiFi

General Motors is wisely offering an Internet router available as a dealer-installed WiFi option so occupants of a WiFi-equipped car can get the signal for 150 feet around the vehicle. The Internet access will be available only in GM's vans, SUVs, crossovers and trucks -- vehicles most likely to be used by families.

That means Internet stations are now viable competition for the old fashioned radio, CD and satellite.

The device costs $499 and $29 per month for service.

True, the service will cost several hundred dollars extra a year but that cost is likely to come down once auto WiFi proliferates.

Pandora in the car?

Spotify – if you want it or even need a paid streaming service.

Imagine being able to be on your laptop and be connected to the web while moving (not the driver please).

Video in cars

Sirius already offers backseat TV and other companies are stepping up. Video – television – will be available on mobile devices and if you don’t think consumers will watch a screen smaller than the smallest television set, observe how many college kids watch TV on their laptops.

Obviously, the cell phone is the major delivery system for the future.

Portability – previously radio’s greatest asset – can now exist on mobile devices, with texting, picture taking, and listening to music.

The need for radio to be 24/7 in the future is not as great in my opinion as the radio’s ability to create mobile content on a local level using technology and being respectful of our changing sociology.

Even as little as eight years ago, few could see so many mobile options that would compete with traditional media.

Eight years from now, imagine.

Radio owners seriously need to take their eyes off of their balance sheets for a few minutes and look to the future.

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